Posted by Crystal
For our November Second Saturday Giveaway, we are featuring Alexandria's Soap Garden by Ali Misner! Ali was one of the crafters YOU asked to see featured in your comments to our September Second Saturday Giveaway!
Ali was also our fearless leader at the Flint Handmade Soapmaking Workshop we hosted back in November 2009, so it's fitting that we feature her again on our blog this November!
This is Ali in her dedicated soap lab! I asked her about her workspace:
"My workspace is in our furnace room and a small corner room in our basement. It doesn't sound so appealing at first but with some TLC, it's been nothing but fantastic! The furnace room is where I make my soap. With potential for spills and stains, this room has been the perfect spot to work in! There isn't too much demand for decor except for some paint on the wall to liven things up, some shelves to keep my ingredients organized (super important), and the occasional dusting.
The other corner, known as our "Craft Room," is extremely blue (blue walls with blue carpet!). I chose this color because it was so bright and lively! In this room I keep craft items handy and organized for sewing and any other craft project I can come up with.
Upstairs in our hallway is my "Curing Closet," where I cure my soaps and get them ready to sell!"
Well, Ali seems to be quite a bit like our Amy, our October Second Saturday Giveaway Crafter, in that both women have multiple workspaces on various floors of their homes!
I just had to see all of these workspaces! First, Ali showed me her Curing Closet:
The Curing Closet was a little slice of heaven for me...I am absolutely enchanted by like objects all lined up in lovely little rows. ;)
Ali has such a clever system to keep track of the different batches of her soap. She writes the scent and the date that the soaps will be done curing on a piece of paper for each shelf. Can't you just smell the Spearmint and Eucalyptus?
Of course, I also had to snap a picture of Ali in her Craft Room. She wasn't kidding when she said it was a VERY blue room!
A few things to notice in the above photo:
1) Sewing Machine - In addition to soap, Ali makes fabric heat packs filled with beans/rice/seeds that can be warmed in the microwave. They're great to use on sore muscles after a long day vending or shopping at a craft market! ;)
2) Fiskars Rotary Cutter Set - Ali was soooooo excited about her new craft tools! She told me she never even knew this stuff existed. It's going to be a lot easier for her to make those fabric heat packs now!
3) Owl Painting - Ali's friend Shelby painted these gorgeous owls:
I found the colors and texture of the owls just so amazing! Isn't it great when craft rooms feature inspiring original art?
Ali also has a colorful organizer full of craft supplies...
...and a couple bins of fabric for sewing projects in her Craft Room.
Since Ali is clearly into crafts and sewing as well as soapmaking, I had to asking her how she became so creative:
"I blame my mother for my crafting addiction. :-) When I was young, I would watch my mother sew. She would sew my sister's and I's clothes with holes or often times she would patch up my poor stuffed animals I would bring EVERYWHERE with me. Growing up my mom would always say, "Why buy it, when I can make it?!"
And that's when I would continue to fully grasp how crafty and creative my mom really was. An item once useless, now served as a functional or beautifully handcrafted work of art. To this day I hear my mother in the back of my head, telling me to think twice before making most purchases, and to ask myself: "Hmm, can I make this instead?"
Wanna know something else that Ali is good at making? MUSIC! Ali and her fiance, Alan, are the founding members of the band Arlow Xan. I've seen Arlow Xan in concert and I can guarantee that Ali's voice sounds as good as her soaps smell!
Ali had a guitar in her Craft Room, but just outside the Craft Room is a dedicated Music Room...
...with lots of guitars...
...and Alan on the computer!
As it turns out, Alan and a computer were very instrumental in helping Ali create her company name:
"I came up with my company name thanks to Alan. In the beginning I was absolutely clueless as to what to go by. I would Google any company name I could think of and they were all taken! One night, Al was brain storming with me and he said, "Why don't you just use your real name?"
At first I didn't really care for the idea, but he went on to explain to me how he felt like I never really used my full name, and how lovely he'd always thought my name was. He thought it was a good opportunity to incorporate it, and after such smooth talking, I finally agreed. The "garden" was included because of my passion for the environment. I do my best to use only natural, eco-friendly ingredients; therefore I wanted the name to portray that image, and so viola! Alexandria's Soap Garden came to be!"
I can attest that Ali uses as many natural ingredients as possible. So many of her ingredients are of food grade quality, that a couple of the shelves in her soap lab look like a kitchen pantry!
Ali has bags and bags of herbs and spices...
...as well as other items you would find in the grocery store!
And, Ali keeps excellent track of the ingredients she uses and how much they cost. This lady knows how to price her soap!
Of course, some things can't be made very easily, including Ali's favorite craft tools:
"I actually have two favorite craft tools because I couldn't seem to rank one better than the other. First, I absolutely love my hand mixer! When I first started soap making I would do the old fashioned stirring. Thanks to my future mother-in-law who bought the mixer as a gift (thanks Carla!), once I tried the mixer I didn't know why on earth I hadn't done it earlier! It made mixing time go by SO much faster and my arm never got tired!
My second item is my soap cutter which came with a slicer and a tray with grooves spaced an inch apart. Again the thought: "Why didn't I do this earlier?!?!" My soaps came out in clean, very precise cuts, presenting a more professional quality to them. These tools I just can't do without!!"
With all of her soapmaking, sewing and music making, it seems like Ali has enough projects to keep her busy for years, but I still have to ask what project she would like to work on in the future:
"A project I would absolutely LOVE to start is a website! Although I have an Etsy account, it's just been a matter of finding the time between full time classes at UM-Flint and Arlow Xan. Although for now I am happy with Alexandria's Soap Garden's current pace, perhaps once I graduate time will present itself and I can gladly join the internet world of the many passionate and crafty entrepreneurs!"
Well, we at Flint Handmade think Ali is already a passionate and crafty entrepreneur...and we are excited to have some of her lovely soap in a gorgeous gift basket for our November Second Saturday Giveaway!
Ali provided this fabulous description of the soap gift basket:
"This basket includes FOUR lovely handmade soaps! I use the cold process method with only essential oils, herbs, and other natural ingredients. These soaps are sure to replenish and soothe your skin, and they're perfect for lessening the burden of dry hands during the cold season! Did I also mention they're environmentally friendly? :-) Inside you'll find the popular minty and refreshing Spearmint Eucalyptus; the dirt and smelly-garlic-fingers-ridding Kitchen and Garden soap; the invigorating Peppermint, Ginger, Poppyseed; and last but not least, the warm and spicy Oatmeal, Milk and Honey facial bar."
For YOUR chance to win the Soap Gift Basket (valued at $25), just complete steps A and B:
A) Follow Flint Handmade via the blog, Twitter, Google Reader or whatever newfangled "following application" tickles your fancy. Or, if you don't do the whole following thing, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add you to our email list.
B) Leave us a comment in response to this blog post by 5pm on Saturday, November 20, 2010 answering the following 2 questions:
1) How do you follow us?
2) What scents and/or herbs would you like to see Ali use for a future batch of soap? We know soapmakers are always looking for new ideas!
Please be sure to answer BOTH questions to qualify for the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and posted on the blog within one week after the deadline. We hope to hear from YOU and we hope you enjoyed our November Second Saturday Giveaway!
And, join us at the Holiday Craft Market on Saturday, November 27, 2010 where you will find fabulous handcrafted goods from Alexandria's Soap Garden and 50+ more vendors!