Soaps and lotions are an essential part of many skin-care routines, and yet many people have no idea what ingredients are used in commercial bath products.
Holly Bator-Dziewit, owner and manufacturer of Northern Catskills Essentials, decided to make her own soap more than 20 years ago when she experienced handmade soap for the first time.
“I was at a large flea market in D.C. about 25 years ago and I bought some soap from a woman there who made it in these big blocks and she would cut a piece off for you,” Bator-Dziewit said. “The soap was so nice. It felt good on my skin and I really liked the idea of a natural soap — so I learned how to make my own soap.”
Bator-Dziewit uses organic, food grade additives such as organic cow’s milk, goat’s milk and yogurt; and plant-based oils. The primary ingredient for soap is sodium hydroxide — or potash. Bator-Dziewit has experimented with making her own potash and has participated in several Delaware County Historical Society demonstrations as a soap-maker.
“Back then they ran water through the ash until they had sodium hydroxide,” Bator-Dziewit said. “Then they would put it on the fire and stir and stir and stir, two days or so, keeping it at a low temperature.”
Bator-Dziewit lives in Stamford, but she sells her soaps and lotions all over the region. As a member of several artisans’ guilds, including the Oneonta Artisans’ Guild, Bator-Dziewit has met many people who have left a fulltime job to pursue a passion that grew out of a hobby.
“I started out like most people who make things to sell,” Bator-Dziewit said. “I started making soap, and I like what I made, so I gave it away to people as presents. My family and friends started asking me for the soap and offering to pay for it — so I started to package my soaps and lotions and started really thinking about making a good product. I started experimenting with different essential oils and different ways of making my soap. Sometimes I would have a volcano erupt on my stove.”