Tacoma’s Soap and Clay is a Family Affair

DNA doesn’t normally come to mind when one thinks of character traits like integrity, creativity and passion, but when you get to know the family behind Soap and Clay on 6th Avenue in Tacoma, it’s difficult not to believe that these traits were passed on to the clan by Beryle Vance.

The new shop is owned and operated by Vance’s grandchildren Chantine McBain and her brother Fletcher Horton (who handles web development and graphic design), as well as their mother Virginia Svaldi (who will run the up-and-coming pottery component).

Soap and Clay
Soap and Clay’s studio is the perfect place to shop or take a unique class. Photo Courtesy: Soap and Clay

Soap and Clay, which currently carries a wide range of products including soaps, scrubs, bath bombs, face oils and masks, beard care essentials, and more, carries on Beryle’s artisanal spirit.

“We spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up, so my brother Fletcher and I were exposed to every medium she picked up,” says Chantine. “And she picked them all up—it’s just the kind of person she was. She’d find something that she was interested in, do her research, gather her materials and work at her craft until she had mastered it.”

Beryle was diagnosed with dementia, and it seemed that opening a shop in which Chantine, her brother and their mother could work through their loss by using the very traits instilled in them by Beryle, made perfect sense.

Soap and Clay, the family’s tribute to Beryle, carries a myriad of self-care items. Chantine says, “We have a full selection of products for men, women, kids and all-around general pampering in the name of self-care.”

She adds, “Mom will be rolling out pottery pieces soon. There’s always something new in the works.”

Soap and Clay Kidlet
Scout is a Soap & Clay “kidlet” who designed her own bath bomb—the Scout Bomb. Photo Courtesy: Soap and Clay

One of those things currently in the works is the pottery section of the store. Although the shop currently carries clay soaps, the plan is to have an on-site pottery and ceramics painting studio.

“The idea is you can come in, grab a coffee or tea from The Looking Glass, pick a piece of pottery to paint or take a class,” explains Chantine. “Mom heads that side up. We are hoping to have the clay studio running in the next few months and will be adding to our class offerings at that time. I think it’s going to be a blast—she’s likely going to find me slacking off and breaking her kiln on day one. Just kidding, Mom.”

Kiln-smashing fun aside, Chantine really enjoys the process of making soaps. She says, “Formulating recipes is time consuming, and tedious, and precise—and a lot of fun. First, I think about what I want the soap to do—is this a shower bar with a beautiful lather and big bright bubbles, is it a shave soap requiring a sustainable lather, is this a shampoo bar or a soap for kids and their gentle skin, is it meant to be moisturizing or detoxifying?”

She also avoids using ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, preservatives and carcinogens in her recipes. Although “soapers” may each have their own method and their own favorite ingredients, Chantine says she fell in love with clay after testing one batch of clay soap.

Soap and Clay Tacoma
This pop of color is a batch of freshly poured soap. Workshop participants make an equal size batch which amounts to four bars. Photo Courtesy: Soap and Clay

“Clay soaps are very cool—they’re moisturizing while still having a big lather, they detoxify the skin without drying, they’re hard bars with a longer shower life than other artisan soaps, and they balance the skin’s acid mantle beautifully. There’s lots of science behind why that is, but this is probably not the time to geek out on that,” she jokes.

It seems that soapers do indeed “geek out.” Chantine says she lives soap and so does every soaper she knows. She does a lot of research, attends classes, participates in a monthly soap challenge to stay abreast of new techniques, oils and pour techniques, and is heavily involved in the soaper community, sharing recipes and tricks of the trade.

In fact, soapers take their art so seriously that Chantine has a special name for those who use her products. They are not customers; they are “Sudsers.”

“My Sudsers are the greatest people on the planet and Soap and Clay would not exist without them,” explains Chantine. Her Sudsers were the people who tested products, supported her dream and helped spread her soapy dream.

Soap and Clay Beard Kit
Soap and Clay’s beard care kit: beard oil, beard balm, beard wash, hair pomade and beard comb. Photo Courtesy: Soap and Clay

“When I opened up the physical location,” says Chantine, who previously sold her products online, “I knew I would never be happy with a formal vendor and customer relationship; I love people and want to know more about them outside of their favorite scent. I celebrate their successes, I mourn their tough times, I do actual little happy dances when they send me a pic of their delighted toddler experiencing a bath bomb for the first time.”

Starting to get all bubbly over all this soap talk? Attend bath bomb, soap and lotion-making DIY workshops at Soap and Clay. Regularly scheduled workshops are for all ages and you even can schedule a private workshop for a special event or party. The shop has hosted ladies’ night, kids’ birthdays and office team-building workshops. Sudsy students make a product from scratch and customized to their liking. Also, classes are small to ensure everyone gets the attention they need.

“These classes are cool because everyone gets to play mad scientist, flex their creative muscles, and walk away with skin-loving products that are not only beautiful, but functional. My favorite kind of art, really,” she adds.

Also, when you shop and play at Soap and Clay, your money goes to a good cause. The shop donates a portion of its profits to a different charity every month. November 2017’s donation went to the Movember Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on men’s health-related research, programs and awareness. Sometimes the choice of charity is situational, for example, October 2017’s charity was the Las Vegas Victims Fund.

Soap and Clay Cure Rack
This is the rack where all good soaps go for the “cure.” Normal cure time is 4-6 weeks. Photo Courtesy: Soap and Clay

“Not exactly world changing, but I think if we all do our piece, we can strengthen our community and the world around it. This is my piece.”

Soap and Clay is new to Tacoma and so is Chantine, who grew up in Colorado and is new to the Pacific Northwest. Although she loves the majestic beauty of her home state, she feels very fortunate to call Tacoma home and loves the community of merchants.

“Tacoma is amazing. So much vibrance and culture and life here—I’ve met some amazing people. Soap & Clay is on 6th Avenue and I absolutely love everything about the area. The locals are awesome, the merchants are kind and supportive—it’s this little community of positive people, trying to make the world a little bit brighter every day.”

Just like Soap and Clay.

For more information about workshops visit Soap and Clay at 2712 6th Avenue in Tacoma, visit their website or call the shop at 206-549-2885.

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