Rebecca and David Day combine their art backgrounds to blend a fresh, new soap product line called Soapgirl.
The Richardson husband-and-wife team is really onto something, with retailers knocking on their door wanting more soap. Their busy Cedars studio is delivering.
The soap making really just began as a hobby in 2010. Rebecca’s graphic design talents motivated her to play around with the packaging and branding. In 2012, she tested them online.
Maker’s Connect in Dallas, which supports local artists, then started carrying the line. Whole Foods picked up Soapgirl in the Dallas area and later began carrying the line in its southwestern stores. Posh Dr. Delphinium soaped up, too.
The business was solidifying like a big chunk of raw, room-temp cocoa butter. Urban Outfitters caught a whiff of the vibrant, textural soaps and asked for a few hundred bars for its stores. Not long after, the chain wanted 11,000 more.
A lot of preparation
David focuses on the soap base mixtures and pouring. Rebecca is in charge of blending essential oils, garnishing and packaging.
“A lot of soap making is preparation,” David says. “We make our own lye.”
They were cranking out more than 700 bars for Urban Outfitters this week.
Their son Jasper, 11, chills on a sofa playing a computer game while keeping an eye on all of the soap action. His dad points a remote temperature gun at a bucket of soap base and then starts mixing. Rebecca mixes the essential oils.
With protective gear on and surrounded by mounds of cocoa butter solids melting nearby, David blends and pours large buckets of fragrant, cantaloupe-colored soap. Rebecca sprinkles salt on the exposed ends of the soaps.
The soap medleys range from grapefruit and salt scents to more contemporary patchouli and black-lava salt concoctions.
When two artists collide, the result can be pretty dynamic. Rebecca earned an art degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and David has a ceramics degree from the University of Dallas.
In the late ’90s, Rebecca was introduced to David on a blind date through an art friend.
“David was a potter at Old City Park and I know, he was just so cute. I was a graphic designer at Greensheet. We just hit it off,” she says.
The like-minded artists merged and created some impressive things. Over the years, their building has shifted from a clay studio to the soap workshop it is today.
David had a garden-pots line at Redenta’s in Dallas for years. And La Madeleine tapped into the Days’ talents, too. From 1998, the memorable Quimper-faience-inspired tiles with primitive glazes and hand-painted images were made by the Days. They even made those oversize mugs with French sayings and translations.
“I was the painter and he was the potter, and it was a match made in heaven,” Rebecca says. “We just sort of became their artists-in-residence in 1998.”
Right in the middle
You can feel how artists are drawn to the edgy Cedars vibe. A stone’s throw away, the McKinney Avenue Contemporary is taking root and planning for major expansions. The Days enjoy being in the middle of it all.
“We love this place and hope to renovate and turn our place into a live-in and work studio,” Rebecca says.
A recurring theme with artists today is that they often have a war story about how they survived the economic hardships of 2008 and 2009. Creative industries were hit hard, and ingenuity and resilience got many artists through it.
“We had a kid and a mortgage and we couldn’t be goofing off in the clay studio,” Rebecca says.
In a bit of a detour from their respective art paths, David went into real estate and Rebecca studied architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington. She picked up a graphic design job.
“We’d worked together since 1997, then we had to put our kid in day care. He was just 3 and it was hard,” she says.
They even sublet parts of their studio to fellow artists, to hang on to their building.
When the soap concept arrived and flourished, there was the rush of collaboration again.
“It is wonderful for us to work on something together again,” Rebecca says.
Clare Miers is a Dallas freelance writer