How It’s Made: Inside a Soap Maker’s Sydney Studio
Fact: Hepzabeth Evans is the creative genius behind the prettiest soaps you’ve ever seen. With its rainbow pastel hues, metallic details, and unique shapes, the Cleanse by Hepzabeth collection looks almost too good to actually use.
After taking up soap making as a hobby in 2011, Evans discovered she had a true knack for creating skincare products from natural and plant based ingredients. Five years later, the self-confessed craft aficionado and Etsy seller turned her passion into a full-time gig. It’s from her quaint Bexley North studio in Sydney’s south that Evans hand makes her scent-inspired creations from natural ingredients for every skincare lover in the country.
On our wish-list? The multi-coloured, gold foiled-finished pyramid soap that looks like it should belong on a coffee table as decor rather than in the bathroom. Scroll on to take a peek inside Evans studio and find out how she turns a fragrant ingredient into one of the most beautiful useable products around.
MYDOMAINE: When did you launch your skincare company, Cleanse By Hepzabeth?
HEPZABETH EVANS: I launched Cleanse By Hepzabeth in 2013 (formerly known quite recently as Cleanse With Benefits). I was still a new arrival in Sydney from the UK and filled any spare time with sewing, knitting, and trying different crafts. I remembered my grandmother making soap back home in England and I found endless freedom and creativity in such an old traditional craft. I just felt the need and drive to want to continuously learn more and more about this art.
MD: How would you describe Cleanse By Hepzabeth?
HE: The Cleanse by Hepzabeth range brings the best of nature to your skin and home whilst being playful and creative. Every ingredient is carefully selected to ensure it smells, feels, and looks completely divine. I include elements you wouldn't normally see in soap making like gold and silver leaf.
MD: What is the inspiration behind your creations?
HE: I like to develop a new product by choosing a key ingredient or scent. This summer we have chosen fresh fruit and vegetables as the inspiration behind our new soap bars. We’ll be using fresh and local ingredients as much as possible—kiwi, apples, banana, carrot, beetroot, and raspberries will all feature in the new summer soap range.
Once the key ingredient has been selected I then choose an appropriate colour palette to work with, as most of our soaps are designed by layering soap upon soap. For example, our Lemon Meringue Soap starts with making a honey and oat soap base, a lemon middle (which includes freshly squeezed lemon juice and cold pressed lemon essential oil) finished with a coconut meringue soap top.
MD: What are your products made from?
HE: Every soap bar is made from what I like to call the 'base recipe' (oils which gets thrown into a big melter to be combined)—Australian olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter. From this base recipe, depending on which soap bar we are going to be creating, I then include additives like fresh puréed fruit, clays, essential oils and plant extracts to give each soap bars its own unique skin benefit.
MD: Are they designed and made in-house?
HE: All our products are made and designed from our Sydney soap studio in-house. We don't outsource the finished product. They are made with my hands and sold directly into yours.
MD: Where do you source your materials for the products?
HE: If I can buy local I will! I care a lot about the planet and its inhabitants so we never use chemicals nasties or palm oil, and we make sure every ingredient is sustainably sourced. We test our products on ourselves, not our furry friends, and we absolutely love to use local, Australian ingredients.
MD: What do you love most about creating soaps and skincare?
HE: I love playing with colour and the endless freedom I have to use the ingredients available to soap makers today. A hundred years ago soap makers would most likely only use three ingredients—lard, lye, and water. Today there are so many plant oils and butters available, endless varieties of essential oil and plant extracts, which means that soap making has become a creative art form instead of a necessity.
MD: Talk us through the process, from start to finish, of creating one of your soaps.
HE: This is a quick run down of how I have created and designed our Etsy Make For Good Confetti Soap: This year’s campaign brief was to design and create an item with the theme of creating a brighter future. Ideas that sprung to mind were the use colour, educational, fun and playful. At the time of the brief I was creating an order that gave my kilos and kilos of colourful soap offcuts. We recycled these off cuts by chopping them into teeny pieces of soap creating the confetti. Instead of creating a typical soap bar I wanted to use a shaped mould. The pyramid throughout history represents the sense of harmony and unity and I felt this was a suitable shape to use. I kept this recipe very simple as the soap confetti contains so many of the additives I have mentioned above. I wanted the soap confetti to stand out against a plain white background. The melted soap oils and butter are blended together with a water and lye solution along with a fragrance of pomegranate and the soap confetti is added. The mixture is then left to sit in the mould for 24 hours—this is where the process of saponification happens and soap is being formed. When I unmould this particular soap I have to take off a thin layer of soap, hand cutting each side of the pyramid so the soap confetti underneath shows. The pyramid soaps now go into a curing room for up to 6 weeks to let pH level neutralise and to let the water we used in the recipe evaporate creating a longer lasting and hard bar of soap. After the curing process is finalised I then delicately apply gold leaf to the top of the pyramid, the symbol of a brighter future.