Designer Interviews: Sonya Budge of Simply Sublime Soaps

We are excited to soon have a restock of soaps and lip balms by the lovely Sonya Budge of Simply Sublime Soaps. Scents on order include Tomato Tea Tree, Lemon Rosewood, Carrot Tangerine and more!

In anticipation of the restock, we asked Sonya a few questions about the soap making process, how she got started, and the ingredients that she uses in her products. 

How did you get into soap making?

About 9 years ago, I became hooked on natural, handmade soaps.  I was buying them all the time and decided to try my hand at making them.  I’ve always been crafty and hands-on (my whole family is), so it seemed like a fun and practical thing to do.

Where did you learn to make soap?                                                                      

I didn’t know any soap makers when I first started out so I taught myself how to make soap in my kitchen.  I did tons of research first; I must have read at least 20 books on soap making before I started.  I also spent many hours researching on the internet.  There are great soap making forums out there that are really helpful for beginners.

Describe the soap making process?                                                                                   

I make soap using the traditional cold-process method.  Soap making is basic chemistry: you combine acids (fatty acid chains from oils) with a base (sodium hydroxide) and you get a salt (soap) plus water.  I’ve formulated lots of recipes over the years, but there are 4 or 5 that I use most of the time.  In all of these, a minimum of 8% of the oils remain unsaponified to ensure the soap is gentle and moisturizing. 

I start out with a combination of nourishing plant oils and butters.  Each oil lends its own benefits to soap, so I tend to combine many different ones in a bar.  Careful measurement is key so I use a very accurate scale to weigh out all my ingredients.  After the oils are measured and solid oils and butters are melted and at a suitable temperature, I add the sodium hydroxide.  Sometimes it is dissolved in water and other times I use milks, teas or juices.  After stirring by hand, I use an immersion blender until the mixture begins to ‘trace’ or thicken and turn to soap.  At this point, I add essential oils for scent, as well any herbs and clays and blend a little more before pouring into lined molds. I wrap the molds in towels and leave them for 2 days.  Then I unmold and cut the soap into bars.  I tend to make 10 pounds of soap at a time, or about 30 bars.  The bars are placed on racks to cure for 6 weeks (or 4 months for castille bars) until they are ready to use or sell.

How do you choose your scents?                                                                            

For scents, I use only pure essential oils.  I listen to my customers when they request certain scents, and I also look online from time to time to see what people are looking for.  Mostly, though, I just make what smells good to me.  I love combining essential oils to see what I can come up with.  My Rootbeer soap is a combination of vanilla, sweet birch, cinnamon and anise and it smells so good! 

Where do you get your scents?                                                                              

I purchase essential oils from a number of different Canadian companies.  Some of the essential oils are from plants grown here in Canada; others are imported from across the world.

Are there any particular types of scents that you are drawn to?                                   

I love citrus oils as well as anything spicy.  Actually, I kind of like everything.

What kinds of ingredients do you use?                             

Some of my favourite soaping oils are olive, coconut, sustainable palm, castor, rice bran, hemp, avocado, shea butter and cocoa butter.  I love using clays in soap (French pink clay is lovely), as well as salts and Dead Sea mud.  Natural colourants are lots of fun too.  I especially like alkanet root, annatto seed, spirulina, madder root, red sandalwood and nettle leaf.

Where do you get your ingredients?                                                                     

I get what I can locally (my beeswax comes from a N.S. beekeeper and I use N.S honey), but I order most ingredients from Ontario and B.C.