Angela Bourbonnais - A&C Feature Artisan

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in St. Andrews, Ontario and came to Kingston for school with my boyfriend (now husband). We both fell in love with the area due to the fact that there are so many wonderful things to do, places to shop, camp, hike and canoe. We both obtained employment in the area and have not left the area since. Our journey led us further into the country into small villages near the Gananoque area until we purchased a beautiful lakeside cottage rental property on Charleston Lake. The Gananoque region was similar to the environment where we grew up and exactly the small and personable community we wanted to raise our children. We wanted to be close to nature, and wanted a more personable environment than city living would offer us.

Are you completely self taught? Did you go to school to make soap etc?

I'm definitely self taught. Since I've been making soap and skincare for over 20 years, I can tell you many, many books were read, and even more messes made! There was no YouTube in those days...

Can you explain the techniques used to make your products? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

All of my soap is handmade from scratch. When doing museum demonstrations, I make soap in a great big pot over an open fire with a wooden spoon. At home, I'm lucky enough to use a hand blender and stove top. While the former is a lot of fun - I can tell you modern conveniences sure make the job quicker and easier!I am a lover of history and nature. While I have learned over the years to ensure there is reasonable variety in my products that appeal to different people, I will always keep my products vegan and close to nature. My preference is to work with the wonderful ingredients that mother nature has provided. Making soap using old-school methods is therapeutic to me. I very much enjoy the process.

When was the first time you sold your stuff? How did it make you feel?

I first sold my soap about 20 years ago and continued for a few years until parenthood got the better of me and there simply wasn't enough time. I continued for family and friends, but stopped sales until we recently purchased our beloved retreat here on Charleston.

When did you decide or become a maker? How long have you been working as a maker? How did you find your calling?

A lot of heart and time go into researching the ingredients I choose to use in my products, growing ingredients from seed or foraging in the bush, product formulations, creation, and even packaging. When people purchase my products, it feels very nice to know that this is appreciated. Even more-so when they return for more!

My first bar of soap was made when our youngest son (now 21 years old) was experiencing horrible eczema. While I don't mind using medication where necessary, I did not like the fact that the long term solution seemed to be the use prescribed creams. I wanted to find the source of the problem. We began with his diet, which proved to be very difficult with a willful toddler.  I had read that the best thing to help his skin was to eliminate harsh chemicals and fragrances. When I couldn't find what I was looking for in the way of soap - I decided to make my own. His eczema went away, and I have been making it since. 

Do you have a favourite product? Why?

I'd have to say my favorite products are my Eco Shampoo Bar, Tingle Mint Soap and Woodland Herbal (Bug) Aroma Spray. The Eco Shampoo Bar lasts for up to 80 washings and replaces 3-4 bottles of plastic shampoo bottles. To top it off - it is so easy to use, and is great for long, short, and even color-treated hair. Tingle Mint Soap just smells sooo fresh and clean, and the use of clay in this bar makes it extra creamy and cleansing. The Bug spray has been in our family arsenal from the very start. Some things just shouldn't be messed with!

What projects are you working on right now?

Currently, I'm working hard on phasing our products that haven't been selling very well and introducing fun new items that I hope will go over well. One of these is my new single use travel soaps. Tiny little soap leaves packaged in a tin with a windowed lid. Absolutely adorable. (Well, at least I think so)! Another focus is to reduce plastic waste, so I am phasing out plastic containers and you may find your favorite products in new "clothes" very soon!

Why did you join Arts & Craft Collective? What's part of it do you find the most exciting?

The Arts & Craft Collective was a venture I wanted to be a part of because I feel as though my skincare products are an art. A lot of my personality and creativity go into their creation and I didn't want them offered for sale just anywhere. I wanted to make my product more exclusive to personal, unique shops that featured high quality artists and was more highly traveled than our shop here in the country. It's so exciting to receive each email from Tikvah telling me we are almost sold out again! It gives me license to soap my little heart out, and I love that people are enjoying my products and returning for more.

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