Beth in Brazil: “My commitment to 100% natural soap”

I bumped into Beth Bacchini’s website while few weeks ago I was surfing the Net in search for soapers stories to tell you here, in our new blog. I just felt in love with her delicious soaps and with the gorgeous vintage packaging she had wrapped them in at the very time I saw them. Then the next step was to ask for permission of using one of her fabulous pics as the head image for this space but we ended up also talking about soapmaking and the idea of letting her story to be my very first soap-interview turn out just perfect. So here it is!

Beth Bacchini was born and lives in San Paulo do Brasil, “a huge, chaotic, grey and cruel city but it has its own beauty, if only you could look at it” she says. “When I was a child I dreamed about being a vet. I was so really fond in pets that I had a dog, a cat, birds, rabbits and even ducklings and hens all together under the same time. My family home had a huge courtyard so my furry and feathered friends had plenty of space to live happily in”. But veterinary medicine was a dream that never came true in Beth’s grown-up life. “I graduated as an architect instead and I worked nearly twenty years in that field as a landscape architect. I did suit my aesthetical side, I think, because I am also a watercolourist…”

So how and when did natural soap come into the picture? “One day I went into a Lush shop and I was hooked: It was truly love and magic and passion at the very first sight!” And that passion became a job. “Yes, it did. I started my soap atelier, Santo Sabão, in 2004 because of this enormous interest in natural soapmaking, packaging design and essential oils. Moreover I was so tired of having that smelly lard soap around in my bathroom! I wanted a 100% vegetable, natural soap, perfumed with truly essences from nature. I really aimed to create a genuine soap, with a true story behind it. So, at the end, leaving twenty years in architecture behind my shoulders was not that hard. The very first time I saw the natural soapmaking process and I understood that it was possible to get a 100% natural bar, I just knew I had found my way to go”. Since then Beth’s commitment at Santo Sabão has been to produce as natural as possible soap, without any chemical additive or animal fats in it and deliciously perfumed with essential oils. “I love essences that enhance emotions, balance, calm. I think nothing can beat the magical experience of turning water, oils and lye into something that smells so gorgeously and that is so gentle with our skin and with the Planet at the same time”.

Beth’s favourite soapmaking method is Cold Process, even if she produces some of her soaprange with Hot Process too. “Which are the ingredients I prefer? Brazilian butters and oils at first choice and then olive oil and essential oils. I use to buy organic certified palm and palm kernel oil in Brazil but I have also olive oil suppliers in Portugal, Italy and Spain. In Brazil we have plenty of delicious vegetable butters but you have to be careful in order to get reliable certification from the suppliers. I often write about palm oil and other soapmaking ingredients in my blog”. Beth has also decided to share one of her Brazilian butters recipe here in our blog and I am very grateful with it.

Beth is a real soap enthusiast that never tires of experimenting. “I like every single step in the process of making soap: choosing the oils, elaborating the recipe, checking up the ingredients ratio, triggering the saponification process, pouring the fresh soap into the moulds… But the most exciting moment is when I unmould my bars and I can touch them, feel them for the very first time. I have always to resist temptation of giving them a try before the usual 30-days curing time!”

According to Beth’s experience, getting into the soap business has not been that difficult in Brazil as it would have been for instance in the European countries. Brazilian law seems not having any particular restrictions for soap production. Beth sells her soaps mostly at charity markets but also through her e-shop. She also teaches soap classes and occasionally works as a consultant for those who are interested in the soapmaking process.

I asked Beth to describe her attitude to soapmaking with three words and passion, fascination and commitment where those that came out first. “I love doing soap, I am still fascinated by the process and I am totally committed to produce as natural as possible bars”.

There are many people that have inspired Beth along these years. “Too many to be named here, I should write pages and pages with names…. When I started there were no Google, YouTube or Amazon but in 2006 from the distant Australia came my first soapmaking book, since then I have kept buying inspiring books in Italian or English. All those volumes and their authors – yes Marina and you are among them! – have provided me with plenty of inspiration and knowledge. I have such a huge gratitude towards those who have given me feed back, courage, reward, trust…”

My very last question was about soapmaking traditions, something I am really interested in. “The most common soap in Brazil was sabão de coada that was produced with animal fats and ashes. It is still used by farmers in the inner country and you can find a description, in Portuguese, at this website”.

Some of the wonderful soaps Beth produces are shown here in the blog – thanks again Beth for giving me the permission to use your pictures! – but you can discover more about her and her business at Santo Sabão website, Santo Sabão blog or at the Flickr page.

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