Hi Amy & Jim! I’m very excited to find out more about you and your business. I adore your beautiful soaps, which I loved photographing. What’s your background and how did it lead you to making soaps?
Amy & Jim, founders of The Raw Soap Company (photo by by Irina and Silviu of Together & Sunspell)
Thanks so much for interviewing us. We are looking forward to sharing with you a little more about us and The Raw Soap Company.
We currently live in Bristol but grew up in East Sussex, (although for Jim he’s lived in France and very briefly in Berlin where he was born).
We studied together at University - Amy a veterinary scientist and Jim a chemical engineer. We are both very much still active scientists, avid makers, fixers, and constant project-keepers! It wasn’t until Amy’s family started keeping goats that we pursued soap :) We’ve been keeping Anglo-Nubians for eight years, we started with two (Puck and Nancy) and now have twenty-five!
One of Amy & Jim's pedigree Anglo-Nubians goats
An abundance of fresh milk led us to read about its excellent qualities for soap making. It immediately sparked an interest! Working towards self-sufficiency on our family smallholding and with an interest in the science behind soap making we started experimenting. This soon led us to critically evaluate pretty much every soap we came into contact with… but more precisely the ingredients and packaging. We set our challenge to create a soap using only British ingredients and bring back the bar of soap that has faded into plastic bottles.
Amy & Jim making their soaps (photo by by Irina and Silviu of Together & Sunspell)
Work in progress (photo by by Irina and Silviu of Together & Sunspell)
Describe your workshop and what does a typical day involve?
Our workshop is at the end of our garden. It’s a tiny, well organised and functional space – just for soap making. When it’s a small space everything has it’s place, and it’s havoc if disorganised! We have a long stainless steel workbench where we make our soap. When it’s ready to be un-moulded and cut it goes onto our curing rack for at around 12 weeks. There’s a little shelf which houses ingredients and tools and further storage for packaging. If there’s no soap making to be done then it’s wrapping, which is super therapeutic! Towards the end of the day we’ll be fulfilling any orders. If we’re up to date with soap making then we squeeze in some experimenting, it can take quite some time to get a product ready to sell because you need to keep experimenting and modifying accordingly.
Inside the studio (photo by by Irina and Silviu of Together & Sunspell)
Studio details (photo by by Irina and Silviu of Together & Sunspell)
Can you tell us more about your goats and where are they based?
Our goats are pedigree Anglo-Nubians. They live in East Sussex on our family smallholding, they are fed a pasture based diet, we drink their milk daily, make cheese, and importantly eat the billy’s too. They are so lovely. Each one has such a character and much chat is spent on the subject of goat business that day. It’s always interesting to see how friendships form each year with new kids, and who will try to knock the Queen (currently Nancy) from her spot; goats are matriarchal.
Pedigree Anglo-Nubians on their East Sussex family smallholding
Amy in East Sussex at the smallholding
What methods do you use for your soap making?
We use traditional cold-process methods. Our soaps are simple and contain as little as three final ingredients – sodium rapeseedate, goat milk and beeswaxate. The ‘ates’ come from saponification of oils (rapeseed oil and beeswax) to soap. This saponification is achieved through mixing an alkali (lye/sodium hydroxide) with oil(s). We work with frozen milk as the reaction is exothermic (releases heat). It’s very important at this step to not burn your milk.
Jim in the studio (photo by by Irina and Silviu of Together & Sunspell)
What ingredients go into your soaps and where do you source them?
Cold-pressed rapeseed oil, goat milk and beeswax form the basis of all our recipes.
To this we add a range of pure essential oils and botanicals. Of course, the goat milk is our own. All other ingredients are sourced exclusively from local small-scale farmers and producers. For example, our rapeseed oil comes from Frome (Somerset), from Hampshire we source all of our essential oils (two family farms) and beeswax from a collection of hives. Our dried flowers are grown organically in Somerset. We have so many wonderful farmers in the UK who are passionate about their produce, and it’s been great connecting with them for a truly farm-to-face product.
Soap ingredients (photo by by Irina and Silviu of Together & Sunspell)
Which part of the many processes involved in your work do you enjoy the most?
Sourcing our ingredients and challenging ourselves to work with what’s available locally has been really fun. We enjoy the creative process of developing new soaps, from the experimenting in our studio to the printing of the packaging. Printing has been very special because we have been able to employ litho and letterpress methods to print our packing in house, using the same Heidelberg platen that Amy’s grandfather used everyday.
Amy wrapping Mini Soaps
I love your branding! Who designed your packaging and what material do you use?
Thank you! Amy designed our packaging, it is an illustration of Nancy, first produced as a linocut but later refined as an illustration. Our friend Jake Tyler (a sign-painter) did the lettering for us. We print our packaging in-house lithographically on recycled paper, it has straw in it and you can throw it straight into your compost! :)
Amy & Jim and their beautiful branding (photo by by Irina and Silviu of Together & Sunspell)
What are your plans for the future?
Shampoo bars and extending our soap range.
What are your other passions and interests?
We are currently renovating a 1981 Toyota Hiace campervan, it’s tested our skills and patience in so many areas – we can’t wait to take it on adventures around the UK!
We can’t answer this question without mentioning our cat Kevin, he’s amazing, and so are our two ferrets Polly and Llewelyn! Being outside is when we’re most content. Foraging, cooking, gardening and of course being with our friends and family.
Finally, are you a coffee or tea person?
If there was only one it would be tea. We have quite the selection and have been experimenting with it on our allotment.
Thank you so much Amy & Jim! Your soaps and story is truly wonderful. Have a lovely week.
Dörte x (@lewesmap)