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Interview: Suds Up with Evelina from Pieno Vonios

Evelina of Pieno Vonios
Evelina of Pieno Vonios

Time for another round of Suds Up with a Soapmaker interviews! I have been keeping my eyes on this lovely soapmaker, watching her soapmaking and her business evolve.

The immense amount of style and luxury evoked through her handcrafted soaps is seriously stunning. Every new batch of bubbly goodness she shares on her Facebook page leaves my jaw dragging on the floor.

Just like Hajni from Mianra, this awesome soap maker hails from a land far away, isn’t it lovely how the internet lets us connect globally?!

Let’s talk shop with the amazingly talented Evelina from Pieno Vonios:

MS: How were you introduced to handcrafted soapmaking?

Although I have never been a highly artistic type of person, I’ve always been searching for a creative outlet, a practical one, preferably. I came across a lonely book about soapmaking quite by accident in my local bookshop. Back then, no one knew about cold process soap in Lithuania, the “natural” alternative to commercial bar soap was considered the melt-and-pour soaps. So you can imagine how shocked I was to find this new craft, that I have never heard of before. I’ve read the book a hundred times and finally decided to try it.

MS: I’ve always wondered how popular cold process soap making is in other countries, that’s so interesting! Can you tell us about your first batch of soap?

I was both very excited and extremely scared! After reading a lot of warnings and safety precautions when working with lye, I thought that my lye solution will somehow jump out of the jug and eat me. The batch itself was a horrible recipe of 75% coconut oil and 25% cocoa butter with a 5% superfat, that I found in the soapmaking book. It sounded so creamy! I fragranced it with gardenia fragrance oil, hand stirred it and thought it a success in the end.

MS: Wow, a floral fragrance for a first time batch! Impressive! What was the biggest nightmare batch you ever made?

My first riced batch – I had this wonderful coconut cream fragrance oil and I thought it would be an amazing soap for summer. When it started ricing, I just stood there gaping at the whole mess and didn’t know what to do with it. I have never heard about ricing or rebatching, so I just threw it away. I went online to search for information, which led me to a couple of soapmaking forums. Something good out of a horrible situation!

pieno vonios line of soap
pieno vonios line of soap

MS: That’s similar to how I found the online soapmaking community, except it was about five years into my journey as a hobbyist. Oh, boy, memories! Do you know if there are any soapmakers in your family’s history?

My grandmother used to make soap and fragranced it with cheap cologne, since nothing else was available at the time.

MS: If you had to guess, how many pounds of soap have you made in your life?

I have made 213 batches of soap in four years, so I would guess about 500 pounds of soap.

MS: I love that you know that! Throughout your journey, have you developed a soap philosophy?

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci

Simplicity is what I strive for both in life and in my tiny business.  I’m not the biggest fan of long ingredient lists and insanely complicated designs. Simple, pretty, effective and honest soap is what works for me.

pieno vonios soapy tops
pieno vonios soapy tops

MS: You have mastered the art of simplicity in soapmaking, I promise. Is your soapmaking process as simple? Do you soap by the book?

I’m quite methodical about my soapmaking, I usually plan my soaps for the whole season. But once in a while I get these horribly persistent ideas and I just HAVE to try them, make that soap here and now. Usually, those turn out to be the best soaps I have ever made.

MS: Everyone always wants to know this one: if you could make soap alongside any soapmaker in the world, who would it be?

There are too many to name them all! I would love Tiggy from Future Primitive Soap Co., because she’s simply amazing. She’s been such an inspiration to me, I love her aesthetics, her philosophy and I still drool over every single soap she makes.

Also, Celine from I Am Handmade – the queen of rainbows and glitter.

And, of course, everyone from Prairie Soap Company. Who wouldn’t? You guys are the craziest and the most fun gang of soapers around.

MS: Ha! We’d love to have you – if you ever make it stateside, come whip up a batch with us. 😉 Now, I’ve got to know, what is one soapmaking tool you couldn’t live without?

A few weeks ago I’ve ordered my very own tank and I am pretty certain that it will be love at first sight.

pieno vonios soap
pieno vonios soap

MS: I love my tank, I would be inclined to agree! 😉 Is there anything that became a trend in artisan soap making that you just don’t get? Or that you tried and couldn’t get a hang of? 

I’ve tried almost everything except those crazy complicated and intricate 15-or-something color swirls. I won’t even try those, I bet they would end up like a horrible muddy mess. A nice 4 color swirl is challenging enough for me!

MS: While cold process soap is flying under the radar in Lithuania, how fierce is the competition in your area?

Cold process soap is still a rather new thing in my country, but it’s gaining popularity quite rapidly. At this point, I’m not very concerned about competition, my main goals are to perfect my own product lineup and brand in general.

MS: Very good plan! What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur? 

I love almost everything about it, but the most gratifying part of it is simply working for yourself, just to see your hard work turn into amazing feedback is the greatest feeling in the world.

MS: If you could offer one piece of advice to a soapmaker starting their business, what would it be?

Slow down! Do your research, gain more experience, develop your brand. Don’t dive in head first – there’s a lot to learn.

pieno vonios soap stamp
pieno vonios soap stamp

MS: If I could shout that advice from rooftops, I would!! What is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in business and how did you overcome it?

It wasn’t a mistake, but more of a challenge. Last year, I took up a full time job for family reasons and for additional income to help my tiny business grow. At first it was okay, but then the preparations for the holiday season started. It became harder and harder to keep up with both of my jobs. I got stressed out, tired and depressed. There were a few really dark moments when I was considering hanging up my stickblender. Thank goodness this madness passed and now I’m even more determined to continue and expand into a “real”, successful business.

MS: Every young business goes through that, it seems! Trust me, you are not alone in that one! If you could hire someone to handle one aspect of your business, what would it be?

Paperwork!

MS: Ha! There’s a running joke with us at Prairie Soap Company about paperwork making the world go ’round. It’s not my favorite part, either!

Thank you so much for the chat, Evelina! I hope 2014 brings wonderful things to Pieno vonios, as you truly deserve it. Here’s to hoping another crazy holiday season later this year WITHOUT the second job!

Do you know a soapmaker that I should totally catch up with? Send me your suggestions or leave a comment! I love sharing these savvy soapmakers with you, and hope you can learn a little from each and every one! 

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