For Valentine’s Day weekend, I’m pleased to feature one of my favorite artisans, Jo Cullumbine of Green Springs Body Works. She makes decadent, moisturizing soaps, spa salt bars (Twilight is amazing), perfumes, facial care products, body butters, scrubs, and baby bath products.
1) Can you tell us a little about your journey in becoming a soap maker? When did you create your first batch of soap that you really liked? What prompted you to open a shop?
I started making goat’s milk soap when my daughter began raising goats and we had lots of extra milk. I knew goat milk soap soothed eczema which runs in our family. During that time I also began making creams, lotions and salves using herbs and flowers that I grew and wild-crafted. Once the kids were grown I began selling at the Growers Markets and started an online store so that more people would find me.
2) What do you do when you are not making soap and other products?
I live in the mountains of Southern Oregon and love to hike, swim, mountain bike, ski and dogsled with our two huskies. I teach Physical Education at Southern Oregon University and have been doing that for over 25 years. I love to tend my garden. In the evenings we like to look at the sky through our telescope, read, and watch movies. My other passion is fiber art. To relax I spin, knit and weave and sell some of what I create at the market.
3) Describe your creative process. How do you usually get ideas for a new soap or product, and what is your process for creating and testing that product?
Because the Face Food has hydrosol as it’s base, I send a sample to the lab once a year to have it challenge tested. I have friends and family test my products. I get a lot of my inspiration from the natural world around me. For instance my two newest soaps were inspired by nature: Kilauea Volcano and Pink Sunset.
4) As you know, I have been shopping with you for almost 3 years now. What amazes me is that I have never tried a product of yours that I haven’t liked! In addition to your organic soaps, I particularly love your organic facial hydrosols/toners and Organic Face Food. Nothing works better for my skin when it really needs moisture. What prompted your creation of Organic Face Food? What makes it unique from other facial moisturizers?
Wow, time sure flies; I remember you were one of my first customers who wasn’t a friend or former customer. I think Face Food is unique because I infuse so many healing herbs to use in my formula. I created Face Food because I was using Dr. H’s Rose Cream and it was a good moisturizer but I didn’t like using peanut oil on my face. So I began experimenting and researching ingredients especially essential oils and extracts with natural preservative properties that also benefit the skin. I had already been using my infused oils on my face and loved the results so I started with that. Face Food is still a work in progress. Even though I think it’s the perfect moisturizer, I am always trying to make it even better. I recently discovered Organic Meadowfoam Seed Oil which grows here in Southern Oregon and has these benefits:
- Moisturizes the skin
- Ultra-violet protection (sunscreen applications)
- Non-greasy feeling, soaks into the skin easily
- Reduces wrinkles and signs of aging
- Blends well with other carrier oils
- Very stable, even under heat and air exposure
- Adheres well to the skin
- Binder, helps products retain their scent longer
- Stability extends product shelf life when combined with less stable ingredients
5) I appreciate that your products are mostly all organic, from your soaps, to your body butters, to your toners. Were you using only organic ingredients from the beginning? If so, why did you make that decision? If not, what prompted the change?
Yes, I have always used organic ingredients. We eat organic and I believe what you put on your skin should also be organic. I worry about all the chemicals and pesticides that are polluting our rivers and streams.
6) An especially important feature of your products is the herb-infused oils that you make and infuse for several weeks or months as bases for your creams, butters, soaps, and other products. Can you describe your process of gathering the herbs for your ingredients? You have mentioned that you pick herbs in the wild yourself. How did you learn to recognize the herbs you use, and how did you learn the peak times to pick them?
I have been studying herbs for over 25 years, so they are now very easy to recognize. But in the beginning, I always carried a wildflower guide and often went with an herbalist or as a group on an Herb Walk.
7) Can you describe the best feedback you’ve ever received, or describe an interaction that you had that made you feel good about your creations?
You’ve left me excellent feedback over the years that I so appreciate because it feeds my soul. It’s impossible for me to pick the best because it all brightens my day.
8. What plans do you have for your shop in 2011? What should we be looking out for?
I just purchased Photoshop, so look for better photos. I also have a few surprises up my sleeve in natural perfumes I’m working on.
9) Do you have any favorite crafters or artisans that you would like to share with us?
10) What advice would you give to budding soap makers or other crafters and artisans who are looking to present their wares to the public?
Take your time and come up with something you really believe in. Don’t expect a lot of sales in the beginning, it takes time to get known so don’t be discouraged. It took me at least a year to build up a customer base.
Thanks, Jo! And Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!