(PHOTO: Jacqueline and Warren Hik aka “Mr. & Mrs. Soap” of French Country Soaps. Photo by Barry Gray.)
Walking into the Fringewood home of Jacqueline and Warren Hik, a rich, delectable smell is the first thing you notice. You’ve entered the headquarters of their company, French Country Soaps.
Your eyes will soon feast on one of the prettiest collections of designer handmade soaps you have ever seen. You can’t help but be taken in by the friendliness that emanates from “Mr. and Mrs. Soap” themselves. Together, they make a great team.
“She’s the creative genius and I’m the business side,” says Warren.
The foray into soaps started in 2014 when Stittsville native Jacqueline (nee Mercer) together with her mom and sister were curious to try soap making.
“We are an artistic family,” says Jacqueline. Further explaining that she and her sister were both very interested in skin care and in all-natural products.
The initial soap making went so well that they became the handcrafted favours for Jacqueline and Warren’s wedding.
And with that, French Country Soaps (named to reflect the French heritage of Jacqueline’s mother) was born.
A friend encouraged them to sell their soaps, which landed them at Christmas Craft Show in the Glebe four years ago. The craft show led to customers asking which stores carried the soaps.
“It made us start thinking,” says Warren. “Where would we want our soaps to be? You have to love our soaps if you want to carry them.”
Today, French Country Soaps continues to focus on sourcing high quality, all natural ingredients.
“We try and use as many Canadian products as possible,” says Warren. “It’s important that it is all natural.”
Jacqueline is the soap maker, researching how to make the soaps look beautiful, be nourishing for the skin and also smell incredible.
“I just want them to look pretty,” says Jacqueline. “I’m serious about them, I also have so much fun. The feedback [from customers] really encourages us.”
In addition to all of their custom orders, Jacqueline makes seven orders a week, so the soap is always fresh.
“Soap doesn’t go bad but there are no preservatives in our soaps,” says Jacqueline. “Commercial soaps use preservatives to make the fragrances to last longer. “
There is a lot more that goes into soap making then having them look pretty.
“Two things to consider in the soap making,” says Warren. “First, what’s best for you – essential oils versus fragrance oils, which aren’t as good for your skin, and second, what smells good”.
Their favourite bars combine those elements. Warren’s two favourites are Coral Reef, which has olive and conconut oils along with aloe vera and vitamin E; and Earth Drops with shea butter, olive oil and a host of essential oils.
Jacqueline’s favourite is Activated Charcoal, a black bar full of essential oils that are very good for your skin.
The pair would love for people to find their own favourites.
“We really like the bars and people should try them,” says Warren. “We want them to see the product that is beautiful and that quality ingredients are there too.”
THE SOAP MAKING PROCESS
1. Create your plan for what you want to make
Consider how you want to the soap to look, smell and feel. And determine if there is a special use for the soap, such as to treat dry skin.
2. Source high quality ingredients
This includes soap base, essential oils and butters.
3. Heat the soap base to melting
Use dedicated containers and utensils.
4. Combine soap base with the other ingredients
This is the part where you add all of those high quality ingredients to customize your soap.
5. Pour soap into molds and let dry
Silicone molds work well and you can use pretty much any shape you want.
6. Allow the soap to settle for about a week
Try and resist the temptation to use the soap!
7. Cut and use
High quality bars of soap, like the ones French Country Soaps make, last for about a month.