My Little Soap Shop: Couple brings artisan soaps to new Jasper store

Some of the intricately decorated soaps at My Little Soap Shop in Southgate Shopping Center. Photos Matthew Crane.

The front of My Little Soap Shop is filled with opaque and crystalline forms, nymphs and fairies, cupcakes topped with berries, cakes sprinkled with glitter or painted with gold mica and much, much more; all immaculately crafted from soap by Tammy Huddleston.

Tammy and her husband, Joe, recently opened the new store in the Southgate Shopping Center in Jasper at 221 U.S. 231 where La Frontera was formerly located. Joe likes to joke that the couple is renting the space so they can move Tammy’s workshop from the basement of their Jasper Main Street home despite it being a leap they have been contemplating for a couple of years as Tammy has grown her business through the Jasper Farmers Market, craft shows and online sales at her Etsy.com store.

They officially opened the new shop last week, and Tammy’s work is on display everywhere. She plans on allowing visitors to watch her make cold-process soap in the front area as she becomes acclimated to the new space. For now though, the entire area is filled with seemingly thousands of soap masterpieces ready to be used as decorations, gifts (bacon soap anyone) and even for washing  — though it may be hard to actually wash with one of the intricately-made soap art pieces.

Tammy found her way to soap in 2010 while coping with her grief over the death of her father, Thomas Russell. “To settle myself, I just went through the house painting each room until I was done,” she explained. “I just thought about him the whole time, so when I was done, I knew I needed something else to do.”

She explored jewelry making, and while looking for information online, she found a tutor that also did soap. “I thought it was cheese,” Tammy joked about the first time she watched the tutor cut the soap into bars; cold-process soap resembles cheese after it cools into loaves.

Cold-process soaps fill the shelves.

It looked interesting, so Tammy kept watching the videos and got some books about the process. Eventually, she made her first batch. “It was really good,” she said. “It was coffee and mint, and I still have a bar. You always keep a bar from each batch so you can see how it ages.”

She began making soap regularly because she loved the process and the creativity involved. “It’s addicting,” Tammy said. “I’m addicted.”

Things she sees as she goes about doing life inspire her to create soap. Shapes, colors and flavors transfer to soap in her mind. “We were at Holiday World this past weekend, and I saw all the different fudge,” she said. “Yeah, I got ideas.”

These cupcakes are made from soap, a delicate process in which Tammy pipes the semisolid soap to create the icing.

The workshop in the back of the shop houses the molds for the many shapes found on the display shelves. The molds hang several inches deep on hooks, handy for her to pull down to pour and form glycerin-based decorative soaps. Those molds represent years of Tammy’s creative processes and experiments.

After the soap cools in the molds, Tammy will decorate them with body-safe paints and glitter. The intricate work is worth a look in the new shop.

When she decided to start a business on the side with the soaps, Tammy named her business Tammy Lane Soaps. Her middle name is Elaine, but her father would drop the “e” and run it together when she was in trouble, “TammyLane!”

Joe decided to start selling her soaps at the farmers market, but Tammy was too shy to make appearances until the very end of the market days. Then in 2011, Joe was asked to take on the responsibilities as the market master for the Jasper Farmers Market, and he insisted she run her booth.

It was hard. “She would sit at the back of the booth looking away from the market and customers,” Joe explained at how shy Tammy was.

Eventually, she began interacting with the strangers and new friends she made as they meandered through the market.

Tammy and her stand at the Jasper Farmers Market.

According to Joe, it helped her become bolder in public. “These days, she’ll strike up conversations with strangers in Walmart,” he joked.

A couple of years ago, the couple began considering a storefront in Jasper. They would walk down Main Street and around the square wondering where they could put the shop. When they began searching more earnestly earlier this year, they learned from another Jasper business owner that the location in Southgate would be opening soon.

They met with the manager and decided to take the leap of faith. A thorough cleaning and a new paint job later, they opened My Little Soap Shop featuring Tammy Lane Soaps last week.

In addition to soaps — which come in multiple varieties including natural — the store features Tammy’s homemade fizzy bath bombs, body butters and sugar scrubs as well as handmade jewelry and art pieces.

Tammy and Joe live in Jasper and have four children.

The store is open Fridays and Saturdays from 2 to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They have a website here and Facebook and Instagram pages.

Cover photo Emily Huddleston*

Colorful soaps cure on racks in the new business.

Joe displays a soap popsicle.

Seasonal soaps like apple cinnamon cure on the shelves.

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