This is the first in a series I will be doing spotlighting local artists, designers, and artisans. Let me introduce you to Theresa Hovish, a fine artist, art teacher, and extraordinary soap maker. Theresa says creating is in her blood, and the best thing about being an artist is “seeing the joy on other people’s faces when they look at or smell my soap. I love knowing that something I made triggers a scent memory or just brings joy to people. ” Read the interview and then check out her work!
Studio/Business Name: TandJ Handcrafted soaps
Artist/Owner’s Name: Theresa Hovish
Where is your studio based? Albany, NY
How long have you been creating? I have been creating as long as I can remember. My father was working on his MFA in painting when I was born so I have always had a pencil or paint brush in my hands. In our family we all had sketchbooks growing up. This is one of the single most important contributions to my creative life. I (T) am a part-time high school art teacher by day and soap maker by night. Besides making my wonderful cedar dishes, my partner (J) is currently building displays for local artists and crafters while focusing on promoting his own artwork and teaching sculpture classes at a local college.
Lately my medium of choice has been olive and coconut oil! I have been creating bath and body products, with a focus on cold process soaps for a little over a year. My obsession with them began when I was little; I don’t think you could have possibly met anyone with more bath and body products and perfumes than me.
Briefly describe what you make & your process. I make cold process soaps that smell wonderful, feel great, and look beautiful. Your skin will love you for using them! Handmade cold process soap is different from mass-market soap in that glycerin is not removed; producing a naturally moisturizing soap that is good for your skin, mild, and chemical free. I am able to choose my own ingredients so I can ensure the highest quality final product. I load my soaps with goodies like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado butter, shea butter, castor oil, and hempseed oil. My combination of oils creates hard, long-lasting, moisturizing bars that have a nice bubbly, creamy lather.
When I make soap, I first smell my essential and fragrance oils. Then, I visualize how the soap should look based on the scents. I think of all of the colors associated with that scent, such as pink honeysuckle. Next, I decide out how to use them in the soap. Do I want stripes, swirls, or solid color? For example; Bay Rum reminds me of green bay leaves, white rum and blue oceans. You can see even more examples of these color combinations in my etsy shop, along with some of my own handcrafted ceramic soap dishes.
Why do you create? It’s in my blood. I have three degrees in the visual arts. There’s a certain gratification in creating something with your own hands that you can’t get anywhere else. Anyone that knows me can tell you that I am constantly working on the next project. The reason I have so many soaps is that I LOVE to try new things.
What inspires you? I am inspired by texture, scent and color. If you compare my soap to my sculpture you will see similarities. Instead of trimming the tops of my soaps so they are a perfect rectangle, I deliberately craft them with different textures.
What are your long-term art goals? Besides my own business, I am also a part-time local high school art teacher. I would love to continue teaching art while I expand my own business into a small storefront. It is important for my students to see that I run my own successful art related business.
Do you sell your work, and if so, where? Yes, I have my own etsy shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/TandJsoaps. Also, I sell my soaps at many local arts and crafts shows. You can see my schedule here at http://soapexperience.blogspot.com/p/2011-craft-show-schedule.html.
I am also taking part in the Tight Knit Open Air Market this summer that coincides with the Troy Farmer’s market. This is a summer of firsts. I am looking forward to having a booth at Art on Lark in Albany, Troy’s River Street Festival, and Tight Knit!
Advice for other beginning artists/artisans?
Believe in what you do and believe that you can do it! It is a little overwhelming at first because you need to figure out every detail from taxes to packaging. Once you figure out all of that- it’s fun!
Also, remember you are your best marketing tool. What you say online, how you interact with your customers is central to any business to succeed. People don’t just want to buy your product, they want to buy an experience – so give that to them! I love being able to go to farmer’s markets, art shows, and craft shows and interact with the artist and crafters. It makes the whole process richer and the product more desirable.
Finally, find a group of crafters to meet with. New relationships are always fun. I was VERY lucky enough to find a group of local crafters with the same goals. We support each other. Some of us are in the same stages of growth, but others have more or less experience. Many crafters will love to mentor each other. It’s important to remember that the success of one of us is a success of all of us.