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MARCH

55

DOWN TIME

What?

The Little Soap School is probably

the UK’s only private one-on-one,

international soap-making school.

Perhaps the only one in the world. It

offers the chance to meet the experts

and create your own shampoo, as well

as bespoke organic soap bars and eco-

friendly lotions and potions.

Where?

Birmingham University theology

graduate and former TV researcher for

Carol Vorderman, Emma Heathcote-

James’s unique saponification

establishment and institute of higher

hygiene learning is in Upper High

Street, Broadway in the Cotswolds,

Worcestershire. Her washing workshop

is a former port and sherry shop, dating

back to 1750.

It’s the place to be educated in the

manufacture of bar soap, creams and balms.

Kevin Pilley

makes his own suds and discovers

how a nation of shopkeepers has become a nation

of soap-makers

Why?

Little Soap is big business. Hand-cut,

hand-finished and hand-wrapped,

artisanal soaps are booming. There are

now over 300 independent soap makers

in the UK as hobbies have become jobs

and kitchen pastimes have become

professions.

Emma started the business 10 years

ago. Her products –

natural olive oil, rose

geranium, lavender

and avocado – are

stocked by

Waitrose,

Tesco,

Boots,

Booths,

Fetch and

Ocado.

She has just

launched a range

of hampers and

gift packs, to be joined soon by a new

grapefruit blend soap as well as organic

shower gel, conditioner and hand-and-

body lotion. She also produces a Little

Beast range of dog shampoos and a

spritz for fur and bedding.

“Soap was always in my blood,” says

Emma. “My grandmother used pure,

chemical-free French soap. When she

died we found stashes of bars in her

knicker drawer.

“Supermarket soap left my skin feeling

tight, unlike Granny’s soap. Buying some

hand-crafted bars at Bretforton fete in

Worcestershire where I used to live was

my Eureka light-bulb moment!

“I must be the only person to go from

TV into soap. Making soap was originally

a way to get me off my laptop. It’s so

meditative.”

Emma now employs a staff of four,

supplying all the top-end supermarkets

on a weekly basis.

“We have fun at the soap school. It’s

the educational arm of the business.

People arrive knowing exactly what

sort of soap they want to make. One

gentleman even produced a jam jar of

mink oil for his!

“An Icelander brought a sack of

volcanic ash, a Tanzanian farmer brought

avocados and a Portuguese student used

coffee granules to make an exfoliating

pet soap. Beekeepers bring their honey,

and we’ve used goat and buffalo milk.”

How?

Emma was very strict. “Listen carefully

to what I have to say, please. No open-

toed shoes! No pets allowed in class. And

long sleeves at all times.”

Emma (who I now thought of as

‘Miss’) then distributed the

‘school uniform’

– safety goggles,

heavy-duty rubber

gloves and aprons.

The topics

under discussion

in the lab that

morning, she

announced, would

be strong alkalis,

inorganic compounds,

mono-unsaturated fatty

acids, essential hydrosols,

Soap Star

CONCIERGE