Interviewed by Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015
I’m happy to introduce of Irena Marchu of Ginger’s Garden. Irena is a very experienced soap maker from Rancho Mirage, California, who makes handmade artisan soap. Her array of handmade products include: wet shave soaps, lip balms, lotions [made to order], body wash, body scrub and shower gels containing local ingredients, liquid soap, natural aftershave and natural perfumes.
[Click images to enlarge].
What prompted you to start making soap and/or bath & body products?
My mother and grandmother made soaps, herb infused oils and balms. I am following in their footsteps.
What types of soap do you craft? What types of bath & body products do you craft?
I make many types of handmade artisan soaps. This includes cold process soaps, cream soaps and shaving soaps.
My lotions are made with natural oils and butters which are beneficial to the skin.
I also make lip balms, liquid soaps, bubbling bath salts, body scrub made with local dates, men’s aftershave, Zodiac natural perfumes and gift baskets for any occasion.
When did you decide to sell your product[s]?
I’ve made soaps since 1969 and helped my mother sell at local markets. I started to sell professionally in 1991.
Do you sell your products at crafts fairs/markets, bed & breakfasts, stores, etc.?
I sell mostly online and through wholesale accounts.
Do you sell online? If so, what are the advantages or disadvantages?
Yes, I sell online at http://www.gingersgarden.com The advantage of selling online is I don’t need to take my products from place to place.
What is your favorite fragrance or essential oil? What are your most popular scents?
I love well aged, iron distilled Patchouli oil. My most popular scents are my own blends like Suede, Enigma and Amerikesh.
What soap and/or other bath & body crafting books have you read and been inspired by?
I got to meet Alicia Grosso at one of the Soapmaking Conventions. She has a lot of knowledge and her Soapmaking book is one of my favorites.
Kevin Dunn’s Scientific Soapmaking book has information that is not available anywhere else.
I refer to Essential Oil Safety book by Robert Tisserand when I’m making natural perfume blends.
What soap and/or other bath & body videos have inspired you?
When I have the time, I look at swirling videos on Youtube. They give me ideas on how I can make my soaps different.
Where do you get your packaging ideas?
I prefer to keep my packaging simple. My soaps are in boxes to protect them from fingers and dust. I want my packaging to look clean and professional.
What advice would you give to newbies?
Anyone that’s just starting on their soapmaking journey needs to read and research, use a lye calculator, know what each oil and butter brings to the table and follow all the safety guidelines. When it comes to handmade artisan soaps, there is no shortcut to making it safely and letting the soaps cure properly.
Do you have any funny anecdotes about unusual customers?
At one of my markets, I had a boy take a bite out of one of my soaps as he thought it was cheese. His facial expression was priceless. One older man took a bite at one of my soap samples as he thought it was a brownie. He quickly realized it wasn’t.
How did you come up with your company’s name?
My middle name is Ginger and I love gardens. That’s how my business name of Ginger’s Garden came about.