Interview with Darren Jorgensen

What motivated you to become a soap maker?
I've lived with psoriasis for the latter half of my life, and nothing worked. Nothing. Around the time the psoriasis was beginning, I was also becoming enthralled with home crafted soaps and their colours and scents and incredible beauty (when done right). Still, not all these home crafted soaps worked for me, but some of them did.

I took my first and only soap making class on a February afternoon with fading light in the sky, with the wind howling around the little store where the class was being held. I remember the wind really well. And I was hooked.

From that point on it was a thrilling ride through experimentation and testing different permutations. Eventually I discovered several means of dealing with psoriasis and a host of other skin ailments through the simple use of good quality soap.

My interests in soap making have grown beyond the search for a cure to an ailment. Now I soap for fun, for relaxation, for artistic expression. 3 good reasons to soap, don't you think?
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first fictional short story at age eleven. There was no turning back then. I wrote my first full-length short-ish novel at age twenty-four.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read mostly marketing books, such as those by Peep Laja and his contemporaries. I learn incredible amounts and they seem to pique my curiosity like no other subject really does. And I love Stephen King novels. One cannot get enough Stephen King. But I also read Margaret Atwood, Margaret Lawrence, Timothy Findlay, Alice Munro, Michael Ontdantje - a lot of Canadian authors that many of my American friends wouldn't have heard of or at least don't read. I like the unique and peculiar in my fictional reads, mostly.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is a soap making book, and there's not much of a story there. I'll try.

The story, I suppose, goes to how obsessive I am with anything I do. When I first began soap making, there were precious few soap making books available for purchase, and even less for download. But over the last few years, I've noticed a glut of mediocre to abysmally poor quality soap making books written and distributed on sites like Amazon. After getting angry often enough for having purchased yet another in a long list of bad books on soap making, I finally decided it was time to write my own.

I wanted the quality of my book to be superior to all those poorly written books out there, and so I worked hard to ensure that quality. Using the same approach of brevity and ruthless editing that I apply to all my fictional writing, I wrote Beyond Beginners to instruct, inform and encourage other soap makers in their art/craft.
How do you approach cover design?
I look for beauty, honesty and integrity in all covers. The cover's got to match the content of the book inside - but it's got to have those other qualities, too. A cover that speaks one truth while the book speaks another is a lie.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I live and love by my Kindle Paperwhite.
What are your five favorite soap making books, and why?
My first two favorite soap making books are by the same author, Anne L. Watson, who wrote "Smart Soapmaking," and "Milk Soapmaking". Both of these books are extremely well-researched, with common sense answers to tough questions. My other favorite soap making book is by the Soap Queen herself, and is titled "Soapcrafting". It's a beautifully presented book with great colour shots and wonderful details on how to performs the more complex of soaps.
Describe your desk
Messy. Then clean. Then messy. Then clean. Then messy... You get the picture?
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the backwoods of Alberta, Canada - where no one I knew read anything I liked. Searching for books in the school library was like a search and defeat exercise. Where my mother was enthralled by Harlequin Romances and my stepfather was smitten by Louis L'Amour, I had no one to turn to for advice on what to read. It wasn't until I moved out of home and lived as an adult in Toronto that I began to really expand my reading pleasures. How did all this affect my writing? Well, you write what you read (or like you read) and my greatest influences were the brilliant authors I was discovering later in life. They taught me the divinity of brevity and the beauty of ruthlessly editing - if only from afar. Brevity and Ruthless Editing - the mainstays of how I write.
What is the greatest joy of soapcrafting for you?
It's got to be the element of surprise. You know your recipe. You know your colourants. You know your additives. You know your technique. And yet something happens - often something magical - and your soap turns out more beautiful than you'd previously imagined.

It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it really energizes you and reminds you why you do what you do. I love that feeling. It's like a high for me, and I'm thrilled when it happens.
Who are your favorite authors?
Michael Ontdatje, Margaret Lawrence, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findlay - and many other Canadian authors. And too many American authors to count.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Taking my dogs for a pee. Really, it gets me out of bed each morning. When you've got a black lab kissing you on the nose because she's got to do her stuff, it tends to wake you up, you know what I mean?

What inspires me to stay awake and keep on going each day? My love of what I do keeps me going. And I do a lot. I write. I sell stuff on eBay. I'm working towards greater goals with my soapmaking business. You can find my soapmaking site on Facebook, you know.

http://www.facebook.com/soapsandlather

You can get a pretty good idea of what I'm up to by following the fanpage on Facebook, since I'm always posting stuff on there about what I'm up to with the business.

I've got to say, after all this, that what really gets me out of bed and moving through this thing called life is my belief that things will only get better...
When you're not soapmaking, how do you spend your time?
Running a business takes up a lot of time. Beginning a second business takes even more time. I spend a lot of time running businesses, I suppose. And reading and watching movies. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and I've seen the films countless times (seriously, countless times). So I watch a lot of Harry Potter films in my spare time in the evenings. They have this strange way of just chilling me out and relaxing my mind.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I DO remember the first story I ever wrote. It was a terrible tale of a murder investigation with the woman's best friend, and lover of the primary cop on the case, as the primary suspect. Sounds good on paper, right? I was eleven years old. Does that tell you how bad it was?
What is your writing process?
I write in the early mornings. I wake at about 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. and begin writing after taking the dogs out and fixing myself a coffee. I will write straight for about 4 hours, then have coffee with Betty when she arrives. After about an hour of coffee-time-with-Betty, then I'll get straight to soapmaking, usually taking up about the next 5 or 6 hours in my day. Time to eat late lunch, possibly a nap, then back to writing until it's time for a film at night. Betty sometimes watches the film with me, or sometimes plays games online. It's a wonderful life!
What motivated you to become a soapmaker?
I remember a hot, humid evening walking along the Plateau region in Montreal and coming across a handmade soap shop. The window was filled with colour and incredible designs in every single soap, and wafting out of the door were the most incredible smells - smells that both made my mouth water and nose tingle. I was drawn to that store, and inside I went. The rest of my evening was a blur after that. All I could think about were the soaps, and all else I could think about was that I wanted to learn how to do that, make those soaps, express my artistic creation in ways beyond my usual wordsmithing.

It would be years before I would take my first and only soapmaking class, in another city at another time. But it didn't slow me down any. I took to it like a mouse to peanut butter, and soon I was scouring YouTube for videos of soap design techniques.

By this time, I already had already completed most of an MFA and was poised on the edge of nothing. I mean, there wasn't much in the way of artistic expression in my life, and I had no medium that I could safely call my own. Soapmaking became that for me - an entry into a new art form using materials that were abundantly expressive in their combinations and permutations. And its an art form I've never looked back on.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on some aspects with my soapmaking business, primarily working on the website to get it up and running (www.soapsandlather.com). I'm also working on some very big production plans with the company. When I find time I'm planning on working on a book of soapmaking techniques. This one won't be so much about processes and ingredients and theory, but rather the artistic elements that are used to create specific designs in the soap. Such as The Drop Swirl, The Butterfly Swirl, The Layered Cake, The Funnel Pour and the like. A similar book has been written once already, but I've got an idea for a different swing on these techniques - and I'd like to get that across to my reading public.
Published 2015-11-04.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Beyond Beginners: Advanced Soapmaking for the Rest of Us - Books One & Two
Price: $3.49 USD. Words: 47,040. Language: English. Published: November 20, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Crafts - General
In Beyond Beginners: Advanced Soapmaking for the Rest of Us, author Darren Jorgensen imparts his considerable soapmaking knowledge that will take you from novice or beginner soapmaker to advanced soapmaker. Using all kinds of additives and alternative liquids in his "exercises" Jorgensen will teach you all sorts of advanced techniques. His ruminations on producing and selling soap are invaluable.