I first made soap over 20 years ago, when I lived in the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park. I lived in an ancient Grade 1 listed house, where I intentionally chose not to have electricity in some of the rooms and did as much as I could traditionally. So when I was researching old Still Room techniques I decided to try making soap as they would have when the house was in its heyday – dripping water through wood ash and then mixing the resulting liquid (lye) with tallow. With a fairly disgusting and sludgy, though admittedly ‘soapy’, outcome in my initial attempts, I soon moved on to experimenting with cold process soap recipes, eventually coming up with my own.
With my small new company called ‘Naturiol’ (Welsh for Naturally) and producing traditional still-room products including soap, I was successful in supplying outlets throughout the UK, including Cadw’s historic buildings in Wales and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London (plus traditional laundry soap for washing their costumes).
In 2002 I moved to Pembrokeshire and had a very long break from soap-making. Now I live in the smallest city in Great Britain, St Davids, which sits within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, a spectacular, spiritual and inspirational place to live and work.
I always wanted return to soap making and in 2016 I began again. Everything was entirely different to when I made soap originally. I used to be able to experiment with any combination of ingredients and sell them. Now there are strict regulations in place, as in the food world, and anyone who produces soap and cosmetics has to have them tested by a cosmetic chemist.
We have been running our educational foraging business www.wildaboutpembrokeshire.co.uk here for years around the hedgerows, seashore and estuaries and wanted to include local wild plants and seaweeds in our new soaps. John and I have become increasingly aware and amazed over the last few years of the health and well-being properties contained within this humble algae. We eat seaweed every day, bathe with seaweed, wash our hair with seaweed and have created skin enhancing seaweed cosmetics for everyone to use. We even call our wacky dog “Seaweed”. He has now become the star of our Manky Mutt Shampoo Bar for dogs. He has appeared on television a number of times and has his own blog page – click on his name.