Soap from the Freshwater Place // Becoming Ourselves Again


Last weekend I attended a meeting on food sovereignty initiatives at the Nipmuc Tribal office. During the meeting, our tribal leader talked a bit about how the tribe is working toward recovering lost pieces of our cultural heritage bit by bit. We do this through language reclamation projects, group workshops and other opportunities that allow all members of the tribe reacquaint themselves with traditional Nipmuc practices after having lost them through the processes of colonization and assimilation over hundreds of years. One thing she said during her remarks really resonated with me; That through this work we as a tribe are “becoming ourselves again.” We’re coming back to who we once were.

In so many was, I feel like that’s what I’m working toward, too. I’m doing this by seeking out ways that I can contribute my talents to my tribe, but also by finding and following my passion(s) in my personal and creative life.

In the last few years, I’ve undergone a period of re-discovery of my own. It’s not necessarily something I want to get into here, but the ups and downs I’ve had in recent months have shaped me tremendously. And now I’m working on coming back to the person I’m supposed to be.

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I’ve always been many things: Black, Native American, English, Polish; a librarian, architectural historian, cat mom, artist, daughter, friend. And I’ve always, always been a Maker. Creativity is my outlet. I find the most satisfaction in making things with my own two hands. Whether it’s artwork, cards, DIY wine racks, nail art projects, air plant walls or soap.

So, that brings me to what Freshwater Studio is becoming. On this blog, I like to share a lot of the projects I work on. Lately it’s been cards. When I first started it was DIY projects and nail art. Now, I’ve found a new passion in making soap, and I’m going to be sharing some of that here as well. But I’ll still be sharing lots of cards, too! I’ve actually added separate card and soap navigation pages to the site to make it easier for anyone who’s more interested in one or the other (but I hope you’ll be interested in both!).


And I have a plan for my Freshwater Studio Soaps – cold process soap that I make by hand in small batches. And, the name Freshwater Studio is homage to the place I come from – Nipmuc Country or, the Freshwater Place.

I’ve been plagued by weird skin allergies for years, so making my own soap and therefore controlling all ingredients appeals to me. I know what’s going in my soap and what’s going into my skin and to that end, there are no phthalates, parabens, sulfates, artificial glycols or other unsavory characters in my soaps. Only natural ingredients!

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Controlling the ingredients and making sure they are natural and come from sustainable sources means I can also highlight ingredients important to my ancestors, and source them locally when possible(!). I’m on a mission to learn about and use lots of beneficial botanicals, clays and natural colorants in my soaps. By doing this, I’m allowing myself a creative outlet that not only satisfies my need for natural and safe bath products, but also honors my ancestors, in turn helping me to become more me, again.

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If you’d like to come along with me on this soap-making journey, you can follow the @freshwaterstudio account on Instagram. You can also check out my Etsy store, where I’ll be stocking soaps and bath bombs as well as cards and gift tags.  And as always, keep checking back here for more, too!


DIY, Soap

Making Cold Process Soap for the First Time

About a month ago, I finally tried something I’ve been wanting to try for ages: making cold process soap! I think I’ve been drawn to soap making not only because of how beautiful artisan soaps can be, but also because they contain simple, real ingredients (and I’ve been known to have several mysterious skin allergies crop up from time-to-time).

Cold process soap making kit

So, I bought myself a beginner soap making kit from Bramble Berry. The kit came with everything you need to make your first batch of soap, including a recipe. The kit did not come with any colorants, however, so I purchased some of those separately to try (go big or go home, right?). The box the kit comes in even doubles as a soap mold, though if and when I do this again, I’ll purchase a proper silicone mold.

Other than the oils, lye, fragrance and other basic ingredients that come in the kit, you’ll have to supply a few things on your own like bowls, a stick blender or other mixing tool, gloves, eye protection, etc. Bowls and gloves I bought at the dollar store on the cheap, and they worked just fine!

Since I’ve been dying to try this and because this was my first time, I made sure to do a bit of research before diving in. I found some soap makers I like on social media and learned what I could from them. Bramble Berry’s blog is a great source for this kind of thing. Their youtube channel, Soap Queen TV, has a lot of great info and tutorials. I am also in love with just about every soap made by Tania of Soapish, and she’s got a great youtube channel and an even better instagram account.

Cold process soap

So, feeling mostly well informed, I got started (and soon learned that soap making is more about trial and error and less about feeling well informed from the get-go)… I mixed all my ingredients and then portioned things out into several bowls and mixed in my fragrance oil and mica colorants (Caribbean Blue and Aqua Pearl) – one bowl had fragrance oil but no colorant.

Cold process soap

I had to work pretty quickly because I got a little overzealous and I think over mixed my soap a bit. So, not much time for process photos here! But I did what I think is called a drop swirl, adding my base soap and then the colored soaps as well. I let the batch cure for about 24 hours and then cut up my bars with a sharp knife before letting them continue to cure for several weeks.

Cold process soap

Obviously there’s some room for improvement here, but I feel really good about the results of my first attempt. And the Cranberry Fig fragrance smells so delicious (though next time I think I’ll find some colors that “match” the fragrance a little better)! The soap lathers really nicely and has a smooth, creamy feel. I definitely see more soap making in my future.


This post is not sponsored and there are no affiliate links here – I just wanted to share my thoughts and experience :)

DIY, Soap

DIY Lavender Soap

DIY Lavender Soap

If you’re looking for a quick and easy homemade gift, soap is a great solution. I made these lavender soap for my bridesmaids to include in the gift bags I gave them the night before the wedding. It’s so easy to make, but makes an excellent gift because it’s home made, which I think always gives a gift a special touch.

You will need:

Goat’s Milk Soap Base (2lbs or more)

Soap Mold (any shape, I chose a simple rectangle)

Bunch Dried Lavender (mine came from my wedding florists’ shop!)

Lavender Essential Oil

Double Boiler (I don’t have an actual double boiler, I just created one by resting a bowl inside of a pot with very little water in it)

Soap Colorant (optional)

Lavender Soap Ingredients


Cut your soap into small cubes and melt it over medium-low heat in a double boiler. Once the soap has melted completely, remove from heat and stir in your colorant (optional), dried lavender (I used about a handful/maybe two tablespoons worth), and lavender essential oil (about 4 drops), and stir. Pour the soap mixture into your molds and let them cool completely. Once the soap has hardened completely in the mold,  just press the mold and the soap should come right out. *It is normal for the dried lavender to float to the top of the soap.

Lavender Soaps

I used the colorant for some of the bars, for others I did not (one I even did half and half). I also wrapped the bars tightly in plastic wrap to keep them fresh until I was ready to gift them. However, because of the organic ingredients (lavender) the soap won’t keep forever, so use or gift it sooner, rather than later.

Radar sniffing lavender soap

Sometimes I think if I could quit everything and make soap, I would (although I say that about a lot of crafty things). I don’t think Radar would mind.

Let me know if you try making your own soap!