The New Year’s Resolution has been around for a long time. Purportedly, ancient Babylonians started the process 6,000 years ago with promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay off their debts.
Julius Caesar finessed the New Year’s Resolution when he renovated the calendar and created a January 1. And now we’re full fledged into it — for the first two weeks at any rate — with promises to eat better and exercise more. And while there’s no guarantee we’ll finish our year’s gym membership with the gusto with which we begin, Art and Brenda Hall of Azure Mountain Botanicals can ensure that we emerge clean and happy when the workout is over.
“Our main focus is cold process soap making,” Brenda, co-owner of the Dayton-based, artisan personal products store, says, “but we also make balms, butters, soaking salts, and bath bombs.” Soaking salts have been known through time to relieve pain, inflammation, and sore muscles, Brenda adds, and a little indulgence after hard work is never amiss.
Artisan Soap, New All Year Round
“We focus on small, local, and handmade,” Brenda says, explaining that smaller batches of soap, butters, balms, and salts ensures greater control over the quality. “We also locally source ingredients as much as possible. For instance, our Dumas soap is made with Dumas Station wine, and has grape pomace that is collected, dried, and ground.
“Apple Ale is made with Chief Springs Apple Ale that includes cider from Warren Orchards. Peachy Keen and Strawberry Cream Ale is made from Laht Neppur Ales.”
Making soap from beer, wine and spirits requires simmering the liquid until no alcohol remains, closely monitoring the mixture because high sugars intensify potential reactions. Other liquids the Halls have incorporated into their creations include tea, tisanes, honey and goat milk along with essential oils that add fragrance as well as skin nourishing properties.
Inspiration from Artists and Clients
With a soapmaking canvas that is “limitless,” the couple seeks inspiration — and gives credit to — customers and clients whose observations and requests spur a design: “Deer Slayer was inspired by a local young hunter,” Brenda says. “Anne’s Mystery Mountain Mint, Hippy Up, Sarah’s Earl Grey, Honey Hemp, and Winter Cocoa are all people-inspired soaps.”
Artisan bath products are not the only items that are locally inspired: the Hall’s shop, located in the historic Dantzscher building on Dayton’s Main Street, reflects the skill and work of regional artists, with the outside sign and inside shelving created from reclaimed wood by Dayton craftsman Yancy Yost, who also fashioned the bubble-emitting clawfoot bathtub set before the store’s entrance. The worktables, deliberately open to public view, were built by Leroy Cunningham of Waitsburg’s L Design Reclaimed, which specializes in repurposing vintage woods. The logo, as well as the color palette of the studio, are the brainchild of the couple’s daughter, artist Liz Whaley of Liz W Fine Art.
“We are quite proud of using local artists and resources at our studio,” Brenda says.
The Couple That Makes Soap Together
The couple has been making soap together for more than ten years, beginning in college when Art took an organic chemistry class from a professor who believed strongly in hands-on, practical experience.
“They made things like biobricks, biofuel, and soap,” Brenda remembers. “Art brought his soap class project home and wanted to make it again — I thought it was too plain and insisted that we add something to it, like lavender essential oil and ground rosemary.” Friends who enthused over the results encouraged the couple to show the soap at an event at Dayton’s historic train depot, and the response to that encouraged the couple to further explore fragrances, essential oils, natural additives like clay and oatmeal, and color.
Despite holding down “day jobs” — Art is a property Manager for General Services Administration in Richland and Brenda is a registered nurse — the couple opened the doors to their store in 2015, and in that short time their artisan products have found homes as far away as New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, and California. They are constantly experimenting with new blends (“Soaps that misbehave often still turn out nice”) and the major challenge the couple encounters has nothing to do with running out of ideas, but more with keeping up with them.
Year-round New Year’s Resolution
“Sometimes, there are so many soaps and other products I want to make that it is difficult for clients to choose from the selection — or, they buy something and tell us it is too pretty to use!”
But that’s a good problem, Brenda reflects, one that blends well with their business and life goals:
“We both have a strong work ethic, believe in customer service, and do our best to provide the finest product possible.”
That’s not a bad New Year’s Resolution, one to keep day in, day out, all year round.
Brenda and Art Hall of Azure Mountain Botanicals are the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from Tuesday, January 2, 2018, through Saturday, January 27, 2018.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.