Janet Franklin’s handmade soaps are luxuriously simple. Besides a slim label hugging each bar, they are free of packaging and slightly rough around the edges. Their lack of over-commercialization is instantly appealing. Franklin uses a back-to-basics approach to her new business, Seashell Soaps, headquartered in the kitchen of her Buhl home.

“I want to have enough variety of products that look interesting,” she says. “I like the bar, the way it isn’t entirely closed up in a package. It’s inviting to pick up, feel and smell. The bar is kind of rough to the touch; it doesn’t look like it came out of a machine.”

Photo © Jason Lugo

Janet Franklin

With scents like Lavender Bud, Fresh Cucumber, Orange-Eucalyptus and Rosy Cocoa Butter, these bars are definitely not intended for washing out one’s mouth.

A tote on Franklin’s kitchen counter contains all the ingredients necessary to whip up a batch of Kitchen Bar. It’s a relatively simple recipe: shortening, almond and olive oil, a dash of fresh coffee grounds and some lye product.

As two metal pans quickly come to a simmer on the stove, a luxurious, light and fresh aroma fills the air. Soon, the mix will be ready to be poured into a square plastic mold and then cut into bars. In the meantime, this new empty nester explains what brought her to concocting soaps from scratch.

“I’ve only been in business since this summer,” Franklin says. “Really, I was just trying to do something I could manage on my own that would replace what I was making part-time. All of my kids are grown and moved out and I needed something to do. I’m fortunate enough that it is not a necessity to work outside of the home, so I’ve had the opportunity to fiddle with the soaps.”

As the leader of a 4-H club years ago, Franklin assisted with her children’s projects. When her daughter, Chelsea, was looking for a self-determined project to start in 1999, the pair stumbled across a book on how to make soap.

They soon discovered how the handmade soap felt better on their skin. One feature of handmade soap is the presence of glycerin, a byproduct of the saponification process – when the lye and oil become soap. Manufacturers often sell glycerin for other purposes.

“The glycerin makes your skin feel so soft and smooth; it’s not as drying as other soaps. Another perk to making the soap is knowing exactly what is in it,” Franklin says.

Her technique is award-winning, and the handmade creations grew in popularity.

Photo © Jason Lugo“Every year our 4-H club would have a big Christmas bazaar in Caldwell and we sold the soap there. It was a really good seller and we were really surprised,” Franklin recalls. “We couldn’t believe something so simple and basic would attract so many people. I even entered a few bars into the Western Idaho Fair and won Best of Class. Chelsea won with it, too; she got a blue ribbon.”

Creating bars of soap became a favorite creative outlet for Franklin and a healthier alternative for people who purchase her product.

“I always love to share whatever I make, sew or knit,” she says. “I love to bake, but it’s just my husband and I now, so I needed to replace all the baking. In making soap, I can still tap into the creativity and turn out something good that people will like.”

So far, her business is really cleaning up.

Seashell Soaps are available at Rudy’s in Twin Falls, Black Rock Clothiers in Buhl, Selectable Collectibles in McCall and Boise Co-Op in Boise. You can also order online at www.seashellsoaps.com, or email, janet@seashellsoaps.com.