When Wilton resident Catherine Romer’s two sons became independent teenagers, she didn’t know what to do with herself. No more driving the kids to the movies. No more taking them to after-school activities. No more caring for them hand and foot. But she wasn’t ready to wash her hands of responsibility just yet—she just needed to find something new to occupy her suddenly-free time.
Certainly, she didn’t think making soap would be the answer. But two years ago, this unlikely soap scientist found herself suds deep in simple chemistry for all-natural cleansers, which she sells from her homemade business, Nod Hill Soap.
The Wilton soap maker generally uses olive and coconut oils and Shea butter in her bars. Over time Romer experimented by adding scents to the three main ingredients and even now uses clay because of its added detoxifying benefits. Romer doesn’t add surfactants to make her soap like most grocery store manufacturer’s do; she lets the natural chemical reaction of saponification create her suds.
“All of my ingredients are all natural,” she said.
But finding her new passion and business may never have happened without her husband as inspiration and Google as a teacher.
“I was feeling this way because I didn’t have a direction,” said Romer, who describes this period as a “mid-life crisis” on her businesses’ web page.
“I was feeling at a crossroads in my life,” she said.
At first, nothing seemed to fit. She was restless. Then, while sitting at the table with her husband, Ed, who believes that the cure for frustration is to create something, popped out with: “Honey, you could just make something, like soap.”
Romer immediately dismissed her husband’s idea as crazy. She had no idea how to make soap. But the seed had been planted, and it struck a fancy. After all, she knew she liked soap.
“I liked soap. Every holiday I would get fancy soaps as gifts,” said Romer. “So I thought I’m just going to Google how to make soap and it opened up a whole world for me.”
The budding soap maker immersed herself in blogs and web pages for weeks reading all about the craft and watching how-to videos.
“I couldn’t believe how creative and simple it was,” she said.
In the end of July 2009, Romer decided it was time to try her hand at soap making. First it was a basic soap recipe, a generic grocery store-type soap that consisted of easy-to-get ingredients. In fact, most ingredients in soap are relatively simple to find, except lye, the catalyst to the chemical mixture of soap.
One would think finding a supplier of lye would be difficult at the least, but actually it’s not so hard, thanks to the internet.
“There is a lye guy,” chuckled Romer, who found The Lye Guy’s online business during her search.
Once she received her lye in solid form, Romer followed Rule 1 of the soap maker’s guide and donned rubber gloves and goggles before adding the crystals to distilled water. When lye hits water it can heat up to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It was safety first, and then the chemistry and artistry began. The maiden batch was a complete success.
“After I made it I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited, I just wanted to make more and more soap,” said Romer. “When I started on this path I never thought about what made soap, soap,” she said.
Hundreds of bars of soap and two years later, Romer is looking forward to her second year as a vendor at the and is also this year’s market manager.
Romer said that the creation of her soap making business fulfilled everything that she was searching for: it was creative, it was something new to learn, and most of all it made her happy.
Look for her at the 2011 Farmers Market, which is open from 2-6 p.m. every Wednesday in the s lot.