We’re kicking off the interviews of soapmakers with one darling and innovative soaper that I adore, hailing from Ireland.
Hajni of Mianra Artisan Soaps is an inspiration to me, she has found what works for her company and capitalized on it to become a successful woman in both soapmaking and business.
I was delighted when she accepted by request to interview her for the first ever Suds Up with a Soapmaker interview right here on Modern Soapmaking. So, let’s get down to business:
MS: How were you introduced to handcrafted soapmaking?
I always loved trying my hands at different forms of crafts. I dabbled with quilts, stained glass, jewelry making and candles before I discovered soap making. My interest was fueled by a natural curiosity mingled with some stubbornness and greed!
Ok, ok, it isn’t that bad.
I came across handmade soaps in various markets when living in London. They were cutting the soaps off from huge big slabs and I was instantly taken by the experience. I just wanted to have it all! Years later when living in Holland I visited a shop where I saw a whole array of soaps beautifully displayed deli style. I also got a very mystified story of soap making from the shop assistant.
It kick-started my first week long research into the process and ingredients. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. I was drawn by the endless possibilities and to me, it combined all the things I loved already – art, cooking, and perfumery.
MS: Sounds all too familiar! Tell me about your first batch of soap.
My first batch of soap was a Lavender Peppermint hot process soap. I used a Pringles’ can for a mould and managed to do a swirl using ultramarine pigment.
MS: Wow, swirling in a vertical mold on the first batch. How about the biggest nightmare of a batch you ever made?
My biggest nightmare of a soap batch was in the early stages when I first encountered seizing. I used a gorgeous Freesia fragrance – I adore the flower! It seized instantly into a rock solid mess. Little ole me was all prepared for a 4 colour swirl! It became my first rebatch, needless to say.
MS: When it comes to soapmaking, what is your philosophy?
My philosophy when it comes to soap is simple: it needs to be good for the skin, have abundant lather, smell heavenly and be visually pleasing. I love a smooth finish on a bar and detest soft soap. That is it! Good soap should be a feast for the senses!
MS: And amazing soap it is, I remember being blown away by Bay Rum over two years ago when I first got my hands on your soap!
When it comes down to it, are you a by the book soaper or do you wing it?
When it comes to soap making, I am very precise with my formulation, but when designing a new soap, I like to wing it. Of course, when repeating a batch, I do need to be able to recreate it but I love the challenge!
MS: Let’s mix it up, if you could make soap alongside any soap maker in the world, who would it be?
Unfortunately, all the soap makers I admire live at various parts of the world. I would love to gang up for a soap session with Maria of Green Wavewho is my oldest soapy friend, Sharon from Platypus Dreams who would be a total scream to work with, and the gang from Prairie Soap Company – must be the coolest gang to hang out with. I would definitely invite Iban, too!
MS: Oh, gosh, we would love to have you! And I’m sure the other two ladies would be a hoot, too. (Massive love to Sharon, sounds like I need to meet Maria!) Soapmakers’ party sometime down the road, eh?
I have to ask… besides a stick blender, what is one soapmaking tool you could not live without?
It has to be my gazillion of silicone spatulas!
MS: Your business is thriving, how fierce is the competition in your area? How do you compete?
Quality, presentation, innovation, and competitive pricing.
MS: I think you’re knocking it out of the park! What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite part of being an entrepreneur is the possibility of making things happen. It takes endless hours of hard work and is, sometimes, a roller coaster ride. However, it is fantastic to see the output at the end of it all.
MS: If you could offer one piece of advice to a soapmaker starting their business, what would it be?
Research, research, and research.
MS: Ain’t that the truth! How about if you could hire out one aspect of your business, what would it be?
MS: Your photography is stunning, and your website is well thought out. Do you do it all yourself? If not, who does?
I maintain my own website using template based software. I also do my own product photography!
MS: Seriously stunning! Kudos to you, Hajni! And thank you for taking the time to chitter chatter with me! Keep up the amazing work, I can’t wait to see where Mianra Artisan Soaps takes you next!