Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Feature -
Natalee from Black Willow Soaps

Coffee Gift Basket
I love Etsy teams! They are a great way to connect with other sellers who share your same interests, values and philosophy. I recently joined a new team and was so excited to come across amazing shops, all new to me! I was especially taken with Natalee Wright's shop, Black Willow Soaps. She's been selling her original artwork since 2001. She opened her Etsy shop in January 2012 to expand her offerings to include a variety of handmade things from natural soaps and handpoured scented candles to homemade fudge. Natalee was kind enough to give me an interview so, here's the scoop! Read on to learn more about what inspires Natalee's creations!

Q: I love the name Black Willow Soaps. How did you come up with the name for your shop? 
Natalee: My husband and I bought our first house this past May and one of the things that I really, really wanted to plant in my yard was a Black Willow Tree. Unfortunately for me, I don’t live in the Everglades and a willow tree would not survive in my back yard. So, I thought that I would use Black Willow in my shop title so that everyday I could see the Black Willow in my items, even if it wasn’t growing in my backyard.

Q: What makes your items special? 
Natalee: My items are all handmade individually when you order them. Nothing is mass produced, and for that matter nothing is exactly the same as another item, even if they are the same color and fragrance. I enjoy making my products and am always elated when I hear that one of my customer’s day was brightened because of them.

Q: I know you've been offering your original art work since 2001 but how long have you been working in candle and soap making? 
Natalee: I have been making candles, soaps and bath salts for my family for Christmas since 2007. Right now, this is a side company. I am a social worker by day.

Q: How did you get involved with candle and soap making?
Natalee: As a teenager, I lined my bedroom in candles. I loved to look at them and to watch the flame dance and flicker. Candles always seemed to give off a warm and cozy glow that made me feel relaxed. Most of my inspirations for poetry and artwork in my teenage years came from candles.
 This led me to wonder if I could make candles. I remembered making a taper candle set at Pioneer Days in Elementary School, but had no idea if I could recreate that genius. So, I bought a kit and learned how to make candles. From candles came soaps, and from soaps...came, well, many other things, as you can see by my shop.
Lemongrass Seashell Candle

Q: What prompted you to start an Etsy shop? 
Natalee: My mother and her friend, Kurt, had been talking about selling handcrafted items at craft shows in our area. They asked me to join them and bring my soaps and candles. So, I made a bunch of soaps to go to the craft fair. Unfortunately, it never panned out and I was left with all of these soaps. Christmas had just passed, so I couldn’t really gift the items. I had sold on Etsy before with just original artwork and really couldn’t get it to work out. But, I figured why not try it again with my new products. So far, it has been a wonderful journey.

Beach Tea Light Holder

Q: What is your favorite item in your shop and why? 
Natalee: Everytime I create something new it becomes my favorite item. So right now, my favorite item is the beach themed tea light candle holder in my shop. My husband and I traveled to the beach to get the sand and shells the weekend that I made it. So, the item reminds me of time that I spent with my husband, which is always a wonderful feeling.

Q: What inspires you? 
Natalee: I gain inspiration from everything. Most of the time, you can tell what I have been looking at my new products! The beach themed tealight candle holder came from a trip to the beach with my husband. The rose candle holder came from the memory of the beautiful roses that my mother had in our yard when we lived in Indiana. My friends and family are a big inspiration and usually the last word on whether or not one of my products will be listed. Chances are if they like it, someone else will enjoy it as well.

Q: Tell us about a favorite moment or sense of accomplishment related to you work. 
Natalee: The major one was my first sale on Etsy that was not from a friend or family member. I knew then that I could really put myself into my shop and get good results. I have many favorite moments, most of them involve salvaging items with my mother or grandmother at flea markets or thrift stores and the trips to the different beaches for items with my husband and stepdaughter.

Q: What advice would you offer someone interested in getting involved with your area of interest? 
Natalee: Dive in! You never know what will happen until you try. I firmly believe that dreams never die, they just change a little over the years. So, I would say to anyone who wants to create their own business or exclusively work in the products that I work in, that they should go for it and see what is waiting at the other end. Life’s journey begins with a single step, right?

Vanilla Pear Scented Foot Scrub
Q: What other hobbies and interest keep you busy when you’re not working on your shop?
Natalee: During normal business hours, I am a case manager for senior citizens. I help provide services to senior citizens that allow them to stay in their home instead of going to a nursing home. If I am not at work, I am usually working on my shop. My hobbies kind of surround my shop. I like to paint, create, and grow herbs to put in my soaps. I spend time with my family whenever I can. Most of my family outings even seem to encompass my shop, like the beach, thrift stores, and the flea market. In a sense, I am always working…at least in my mind. My brain never stops thinking about what I could be creating or doing for my shop.

Be sure to connect with Black Willow Soaps at these online venues to keep up with Natalee's new offerings and her latest news!