Originally published in Sequim Gazette
This story begins with a humble bar of soap—a relatively mundane item, one that (hopefully) we all use at least once a day. But when infused with passion, creativity, and commitment to a well-conceived supply chain, that simple item can turn into something extraordinary.
Katrina Robb, owner of Lather and Wicks, first embarked on her soapmaking journey in 2015 as homemade Christmas gifts. Fast forward to today, Lather and Wicks is a flourishing business, operating a booth at your friendly neighborhood Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market as well as a storefront up Hooker Road and even a farm.
“I became obsessed with soap,” said Robb. “It’s a great creative outlet.”
At the heart of Lather and Wicks’ artisan soap production lies their farm, where Robb sources goat’s milk directly from her herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats. These goats are renowned for their high butterfat milk production, a characteristic that profoundly influences the emollient and moisturizing qualities of the soap during production.
Robb initially began her soap-making journey with a modest herd of six goats, but her passion and dedication soon led her to expand her flock to an impressive 21. During the kidding season, a time of joy and anticipation at her store, a sign on the door informs customers that she might be temporarily absent as she assists in the birthing of new baby goats.
While goat’s milk forms the foundation of most of Lather and Wicks’ products, the brand offers a diverse range of product lines, including vegan options, ensuring that there’s something to suit everyone’s needs and lifestyle. Robb’s commitment to crafting high-quality, long-lasting products is evident throughout the entire production process.
“Soap is like fine wine. The older it is, the better it is,” said Robb.
With an eye for high-quality and local ingredients, the Lather and Wicks Natural Bar Soaps line is made using essential oils. The oils are sourced when possible from local Sequim farms or Liberty Naturals in Oregon. Botanicals and clays are used to bring vibrant, natural color into the soaps without the use of artificial dyes.
The journey of each soap bar doesn’t end with its creation. It continues with a curing process, allowing water to gradually evaporate from the soap. Unlike some business models that opt for shortcuts, Robb takes no chances with her curing time. Her soaps are allowed to cure for a minimum of 4-6 weeks, with some bars being given the luxury of curing for over a year.
“A longer cure makes the soap milder, harder, and longer lasting,” said Robb. “No one wants to buy an $8 bar of soap and have it immediately turn to mush.”
Using natural colorants brings additional creative challenges to the process. Science and artistry come into play when combining botanical dyes with lye, which can dramatically alter the color.
“You never know what you’re going to get at first till it’s finished,” said Robb. “It’s a mixture of chemistry and baking. When I was making soaps in the back room of my home, my husband would call it my lab and refer to me as the mad scientist.”
Creating and selling soap, Robb sums up as just like creating a meal in the kitchen. While she dislikes doing the dishes and cleaning up the mess, like a good meal, she enjoys sharing her work with others.
“Everybody’s got a story, everyone has a reason why they’re after what they’re after,” said Robb. “It’s fun to meet people, and to guide and suggest things.”
Lather and Wicks will be joining Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market, this Saturday on September 30th from 9 am-2 pm. You can also catch Katrina on October 14th and 28th or at the Lather and Wicks store in Sequim!