This S’porean turns soap bars into functional pieces of art


When Miya Chong took a business trip abroad in 2017, she stumbled upon a soap making shop and was immediately fascinated by the fragrances and designs.

As a person who has been working in the beauty and wellness industry for four years, I felt I had a grateful recognition for the art and science behind the craft.

She was also forced to turn the mundane practice of showering into something more “conscious and holistic.” In addition, she had just given birth to her first child and was looking for a new hobby to enjoy.

“I bought a mini soap-making kit and started exploring there when I came back to Singapore,” said Miya, who is now a mother of three.

“It was with this kit that I began to self-experiment and explore with this medium, inspired by Pinterest and other soap makers. I was fascinated (even) by the customizable (maybe) soap: it was instant magic creating these usable pieces of art ”.

A month later, he created an Instagram page (@saltwateratelier) to document their soap creations and share the soap making process. Today, the page has garnered nearly 5,000 followers.

The struggles to make soap

In Miya it is very important to show the person behind the play and be in touch with the audience. In addition, by sharing the thought process and ideas, it serves as a way to gather feedback to improve.

“By establishing that personal brand relationship with your audience, the product naturally relates to them,” he said.

Just two months after creating his Instagram page, he received an order for his first commissioned work.

“It was for a wedding of 200 people and it suited their budget of $ 3.80 S per piece. It is always a very rewarding experience to work with couples and companies designed to help them personalize unique gifts according to their theme. and budget, ”Miya said.

The 30-year-old had invested $ 500 to acquire all the basic materials and quickly broke with his first commissioned job, just two months after getting into this soap-making business.

Some of Saltwater Atelier’s soap creations / Image Credit: Saltwater Atelier

Despite the rapid equilibrium rate, Miya stressed that soap making requires a lot of labor, which involves many nights and hours of work. In addition, it is not easy to pick up, as it is difficult to achieve the correct techniques and consistency in the initial stages.

“I burned a lot of soap bars before I got the designs I make today. In addition, at the same time, I was juggling motherhood and my daily work while trying to keep up with more designs and content on my Instagram page, ”said Miya.

He currently works full-time for an American cruise company that develops regional business, marketing and public relations.

Since this is a boat that requires a lot of planning, unfortunately it has had to turn down opportunities with large orders in the early days.

As a sole proprietorship, it is very important to prioritize and schedule your work. I’ve also learned that it’s very important to say “no” to certain business opportunities that don’t justify your time and effort.

It may seem bad from a business standpoint, but with limited resources, it’s just right to avoid exhaustion. Especially when it comes to a craft business that moves with passion.

– Miya Chong, founder of Saltwater Atelier

It can take up to six weeks

salt water workshop soaps
Soap Making Process / Image Credit: Saltwater Atelier

Depending on the design and techniques used, the soap making process can take up to two hours, or up to six weeks.

“Different techniques have different formulation, aesthetics and curing / drying times,” he explained.

For example, the hot process, as well as the melting and pouring technique, dries in two to four hours. The latter is widely used in soap making, but both techniques have the highest translucency, suitable for glass-looking soap designs.

On the other hand, the cold process technique takes six weeks to heal and becomes softer as it “ages” and has a creamy finish.

Saltwater Atelier bar soaps are priced between $ 12 and $ 18. Its most expensive product so far, however, is the limited release of Everyday Day Oil (which can be used for the face, body and hair), which is priced at US $ 22 per bottle.

salt water workshop soaps
Reiki Soap Bars Collection / Image Credit: Saltwater Atelier

All (my) designs are unique in their own way as they require different techniques and processes to look certain. However, compared to the usual soap bars, I would say that the most unique collection should be the Reiki Soap Bars as it includes real crystals inside the soap.

Users can keep this piece of glass as a keepsake item, making it a meaningful gift for a friend. Also, each piece of crystal is different and no two crystals look alike.

– Miya Chong, founder of Saltwater Atelier

In addition to selling her soaps online, Miya also conducts glass soap making workshops. Many “influencers” who joined his workshops shared it in their Instagram stories, which helped fuel interest.

Although it is believed that Covid-19 decreased the participation rate of its workshops, Miya said that on the contrary, there was a demand as there was an influx of people taking new skills and joining the workshops. in the midst of the pandemic.

Despite Covid-19’s restrictions on the number of people, it has allowed it to hold smaller group sessions in order to better guide them.

Handmade soaps versus commercial soaps

Most Singaporean households use commercial liquid soaps, why should customers change their shopping habits to opt for handmade soaps?

For all handmade soaps, the manufacturer has crafted and planned the ingredients and designs in small batches. It includes the work of the artist’s love for health, well-being and the eco-sustainable life.

Therefore, soap makers will opt for better ingredients like oils, clays and botanicals (no synthetic chemicals), which are widely used in commercial soaps for their affordability.

– Miya Chong, founder of Saltwater Atelier

Bar soaps also reduce the need for plastic bottles. According to Miya, the carbon footprint of a bar soap is 25% smaller than liquid soap.

“In a typical wash, we use almost seven times more liquid soap (2.3 g) than bar soap (0.35 g). Bar soap also requires less energy in terms of packaging and disposal.

salt water workshop soaps
Unique Soap Bar Designs / Image Credit: Saltwater Atelier

What makes Saltwater Atelier soap bars stand out from other existing brands are their unique designs.

“I think we’re all visual creatures, and if we have to convey a message or initiative, the first approach is to capture attention through design.”

Over the years, Saltwater Atelier has received much media coverage in local and international publications, such as the New York Times Singapore and Harper’s Bazaar, which helped raise awareness of the brand. Lifestyle stores like LUMINE have also shipped their products to their store.

To date, Miya has also sold her work in Oman, Australia, the United States and France, as well as teaching more than 200 students.

Commenting on future business plans, Miya said she wants to “spread the magic of soap making” with more people through workshops. He also hopes to encourage more soap makers locally and overseas, and stressed that there is no better time to start than now.

“The mantra I’ve always lived is this:‘ The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time to start is now. It’s never too late to start something. “

Featured Image Credit: Miya Chong / Saltwater Atelier

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