2. listopadu 2016

Soapmakers of the World: Debi Olsen’s doing it herself (USA)

Dear all, my special guest this month is a very creative and hardworking soapmaker, who ranked within the top 10 for all her entries in Soap Challenge Club except two. She managed to place three times: first place for the Location Theme, 2nd place for Sculpted Layers and 3rd for Circling Taiwan Swirl. This wonderful person is also a writer (that is no surprise for those who are reading her blog because it is just impossible to stop to read her interesting posts), a farmer, a businesswoman and much more… but first of all she is an incredible mother and wife! 
Please be happy to read about Debi Olsen from Medoitmeself.com

Our daughter was diagnosed with cancer the first time when she was three-and-a-half and that became my only focus for several years after.

Tell us shortly about you and your family please. How do they like your soapmaking?
My family includes me, my husband, our 18 year old twins, a boy and a girl, three dogs, seven chickens, four alpacas, and a hive with several thousand bees. I am 47. My family is incredibly supportive of my new adventure and they especially enjoy testing all of my creations. They are overjoyed that I have found something that makes me so happy!


What is your profession? Where did you study and what? What are you?
Initially, I went to school to become an art teacher for special needs children. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I actually began helping out in a special needs classroom. I adored the children but became extremely frustrated after I learned of all the rules and regulations the school district placed on teachers, especially those teaching special education. Because of all the restrictions, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to be the teacher I wanted to be and changed my major. I ended up getting my degree in Psychology instead of Education. I had been working with adults with special needs while I was in school and when I graduated, I took over one of the programs there. A few years later, I was pregnant with our twins and ended up having to quit because of signs of early labor. I stayed home with our babies after they were born and after about two years, I began a business with my sister-in-law making gift baskets so I could work from home and be with our children as much as possible. Our daughter was diagnosed with cancer the first time when she was three-and-a-half and that became my only focus for several years after.

Since then, I have continued working from home doing a variety of different projects. My husband and I had started into the business of raising alpacas early on, but due to the time spent dealing with our daughter’s illness, we were never able to turn it into a business. We still have the alpacas and I spin their fleece and felt it to make different items and also use it to felt soap. Over the years, I have made and sold different crafts and also wrote and published a children’s book for a church project.
I have always been an avid do-it-yourself person and love to build, or re-purpose things, and find ways to make awesome things for less. My projects vary widely too, from building computers, chicken coops, garden planters, and even birdhouses, to making cheese and yogurt and canning foods!
I recently created a blog to document many of these projects and to share my Soap Challenge Club entries and other soaps, too. I am also currently working on getting everything set up to sell my soap. Within the next year or so, I also plan on offering bath and body making classes here in town.  

Can you please tell us what were those regulations in educational system you did not like? 
I certainly don’t want to imply that there is something wrong with the entire educational system in the USA, as if it were a completely flawed system for everyone. It was just flawed for me on a personal level at that particular time. I have always been a person who thrives on the ability to be creative, to follow my heart if you will. I like having the freedom to make adjustments to whatever I am doing if I feel the need to do so. When I finally had the chance to work in a school, I found that many of the teachers had very little flexibility, if any, in their teaching styles. The teachers seemed to be pressured to teach the students so that they did well on standardized tests. These tests were important to the district for many reasons but these restrictions seemed to offer few creative opportunities for the teachers to provide enriching and engaging school experiences for the children. Thankfully, today’s educational system is beginning to move away from standardized testing. Twenty years ago, much of the educational system seemed to have a one-size-fits-all approach when it came to teaching children. The trend now seems to focus more on educating children based on individual learning styles. In Colorado, children used to be required to attend specific schools based on what school districts their family lived in. We now have a law that allows children to attend the public school of their choice regardless of what school district they live in. 

If it is possible, can you tell us how you managed to cure your daughter and what worked the best for you? 
To say this was the most difficult thing I have ever had to go through is an understatement! I often say that once you have a child, you never truly understand how far the depths of your love can reach. I can now add that until you have gone through something like this with your child, you cannot even fathom the depths your pain can reach either.
We did end up using mostly conventional medical treatments, but to be honest, we fully believe there were a variety of other forces at play that helped cure her as well. We were very fortunate to have a very supportive group of friends, family, and even strangers that helped us get through it all, both mentally and physically. They held fundraisers, made food, helped clean and took care of our son when needed. They even helped create prayer chains that traveled all over the world and back!
We also made every attempt to keep things as normal as possible. When she wasn’t in the hospital we went about life as if nothing had changed. She went to school, we had family outings to parks and such, and we celebrated holidays just like we did before she was sick. When she was stuck in the hospital, we just made adjustments. One year, she ended up in the hospital for over two weeks because she had caught a cold and then spiked a fever. We had been in the middle of decorating our Christmas tree when we ended up having to rush her to the hospital. Since she wasn’t able to go home to finish decorating our tree, we strung up garland and lights around her hospital room and hung some ornaments from it. Another year I set up my sewing machine in her hospital room so I could sew their Halloween costumes from there. She Trick-or-Treated around to different rooms and the nurse’s station. One year, the “Easter Bunny” even came to the hospital and hid goodies around her room for the kids to find. The nurses always helped as much as they could and even jumped in on the fun when they could. The year we celebrated Easter in the hospital, the nurses helped the kids dye eggs and then stayed up with us late into the night to help fill plastic Easter eggs with candy! 
I think one of the biggest things that helped us get through it all was our insistence on keeping everything as positive as possible. Of course, the “what-ifs” would creep in occasionally but my husband and I never allowed them to consume us. We never allowed any negativity from other people to be around us either. When our daughter was diagnosed the first time, the doctors said she had a 98% chance of being fully cured. She underwent treatment for about four months and was cancer-free for a whole year. We then learned it had returned and it was in her lungs, but we were told she still had about an 80% chance of being fully cured. After she had undergone a full year of intense treatment and had been cancer free for about eight months, we found out she had leukemia caused from all the treatments she received during her first two bouts. This time the cure rate was much, much lower. My husband and I together decided that this time, we weren’t going to tell people what the cure rate was. We did not want people to be so focused on those numbers that it overshadowed their ability to focus on positive and healing thoughts for her. We have never revealed the numbers to anyone and we never will.
She ended up having a bone marrow transplant and received her twin brother’s cells. They were an absolute perfect match and she responded to the transplant better than any of her doctors could imagine. She was recovering at such a rapid speed, the doctors had trouble keeping up with where to send her for the next stage of her recovery. They would make plans for her to move to one place but by the time everything was set up, she would be ready for the stage beyond that! November 2nd of this year (today – AK) will mark her 12th year of being cancer free!

What you think, you become
I think your husband is a hero as well as you… What helped you both be strong?
My husband, Robert, is most definitely a hero; not just to us, but to so many people around him. Every relationship is unique and what makes the relationship work is different for everyone. What makes our relationship work so well is that we are strongly connected in everything we do; we’re a team.
I can’t speak for other people, but I know without a doubt, my husband has just as much of a connection to our children as I do. True, he didn’t carry them for nine months, but he has shared in every single part of their existence. There is very little our children have done in their lifetimes that both of us weren’t there to see or experience. If one of us wasn’t there for something it was only because we couldn’t be there, never because we didn’t want to be.
There were many outside factors that gave us both strength such as the love and support of family, friends, our church and the community. I think that the love and support from the outside definitely fueled each of us, but ultimately, I believe the strength we found within each other is what enabled us to get through each day. We always seemed to balance each other with our strengths and our weaknesses – if one of us was having a tough time and needed support, the other one was always there to offer it, and vice versa.  We are most certainly stronger together. Our support of each other and our faith and knowing that everything would be okay, is what brought us through it all.
As for what kind of a person he is, that description could take a whole new interview! He is the most amazing, kindest, faithful, loving, compassionate, charming, (the list can go on and on) man I have ever met in my life. He is more than I ever dreamed of for a husband and for a father to my children. He is my partner in everything we do and he is my best friend.

Where did you meet?
We met when I was going to college and he had just gotten out of the Navy. I was bartending at a small club in town and his DJ Company had been hired to play music for the club. We’d always talk when business was slow or when we would clean up at closing time. Unfortunately, we were both in relationships with other people at the time so while there was definitely sparks, nothing became of it. I do remember going home one evening and telling my roommate/best friend that I wished ----- (my boyfriend at the time) was more like Robert! Fast forward three years. A group of friends and I went to see another one of our friends’ band play at a new place in town. Robert was there checking the place out for a possible DJ gig. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend and he was single as well. All the sparks we had felt towards each other years before ignited and twenty years later, we are still madly in love! 

Tell us some more about the children’s book and the church it was done for.
As I mentioned before, it was something I made for a church project. It is written for children and has some pages in the back for the child to draw some of their own ideas about what God means to them. Our church has a very open-minded view of religion and focuses a lot on creating motivation for personal growth and global transformation, while honoring ALL paths to God, or a higher power. We also believe that the thoughts you think within yourself are very powerful. To us, living a successful life is to consciously choose positive and productive thoughts. Put another way, “What you think, you become.” If you put negative thoughts and ideas out into the world, that is what will come back to you. If you put out positive thoughts and ideas, that is also what comes back to you. I guess this all kind of answers more about why my husband and I choose to only think positively about our daughter's healing and also why I try to make positive comments on every entry into the SCC!

Does your family and all those beautiful animals live on farm?
I guess some might call it a farm but to us, it’s just a home with a huge yard that requires a lot more mowing and trimming, lol! We only have one acre, which is huge according to many standards, but it’s pretty dinky compared to true farms with lots and lots of acreage. We bought our house after it had been a rental for many, many years and it had been very neglected, so we don’t have many pictures to share yet. Fortunately, this provides me with plenty of opportunities for future blog posts of documenting our fixer-upper projects!

After making my first batch, I knew I found a passion I would be doing for the rest of my life!

When, why and how  did you begin soapmaking?
I made my first soap about a year-and-a-half ago, after several months of research. I have a passion for creating and/or building many different things and soap making is something I have wanted to try for a very long time. I am fascinated with the whole scientific process of making soap, but the artistic design aspect made the idea of making it even more exciting. After making my first batch, I knew I found a passion I would be doing for the rest of my life!
One of the biggest things that convinced me to finally begin making soap was actually health related. I often look for ways to find healthier alternatives for many of the products my family uses and wanted to find substitutes for some of the body care products we were using at the time. Everywhere you look, there seems to be a huge amount of information linking many of the world’s health issues to products that contain certain synthetic chemicals found in bath and body products. I wanted to find a way to eliminate some of the more dangerous ingredients and have more control over what ingredients went into making them. I know it is not uncommon for someone to want to give their family the healthiest things possible but my family has had some scares that make us want to be a little more cautious. My daughter had cancer three times as a child and although she is now 18 and a beautiful, feisty, and healthy young lady, I want to do everything I can to give my family healthier opportunities. 

How did you find out about Soap Challenge Club and why did you decide to take part?
I stumbled across the Soap Challenge Club when I first began exploring the endless ways one can make soap. At first, I purchased some of the techniques from past challenges just to learn the different designs. I subscribed to notifications for upcoming challenges and closely followed the current challenge every month. About six months after I made my first batch of soap, I got up enough courage to enter. Amy’s challenges have provided me with incredible learning opportunities and opened a door to the soap making community.

 You were at the top positions so many times, did you take part in every challenge?

For the Challenges, I ranked within the top 10 for all but the Tall & Skinny Shimmy and the Clyde Slide. I have participated in every challenge since my first entry except for the Piping Challenge. 


Most of us from SCC knows your very optimistic and funny way of commenting and writing, is it difficult to be optimistic every time? Do you ever have a bad mood?
Oh, you have no idea, lol! Just ask Claudia Carpenter (Om Nom Soap). She and I have become friends and she is quite often on the receiving end of one of my rants or pity parties! Seriously though, I try to be optimistic but just like everyone else, some days are better than others. When Claudia and I first began communicating, she offered me some tips for the SCC. One of them was to try to look at everyone’s entry and to make a comment on every one if I could. I started doing that and while it is not always easy to do, especially since there seem to be more entries every month, I have found I thoroughly enjoy it. I love to read how each entry was created and what the inspiration was behind it. Not only have I learned some amazing tips and techniques, but I have gotten to know some of the kindest, most caring and talented people all over the world. You are a perfect example! 

There will always be something new to learn in the world of soap making; whether you have been making it for five months or 50 years, the learning opportunities will be there as long as you want them!
 What do you like in soapmaking most of all?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have always had an innate desire to build and create things. I love learning as much as I can about how things work, like disassembling objects to see how they are made. One of my biggest traits is a huge desire to problem solve. As you can see from many of my Challenge Club entries, I often find elaborate ways to accomplish something, or to clear any hurdles that may be hindering my ideas!
When I see something that interests me, my first thoughts are often to immediately begin figuring out ways I can make it myself. This way of thinking has led me in many different directions. I’ve taught myself how to fix computers and to build them from scratch; install a hot water heater or a dishwasher, even how to make cheese! Making soap speaks to me on all of these levels. Not only do I have endless opportunities to create beautiful things, I can also strategize and come up with new ideas to help make those beautiful things possible. The ability to learn new things never ends, either. There will always be something new to learn in the world of soap making; whether you have been making it for five months or 50 years, the learning opportunities will be there as long as you want them!
Where do you get your soap inspirations?
As all truly addicted soap makers will say, soap inspiration is EVERYWHERE! I don’t think a day goes by where I haven’t seen something that inspires an idea for soap. Sometimes it is an ingredient or something I see that could make a possible mold. Sometimes it’s a scent or a color. Sometimes it is even in the landscape around me – the mountains, or lakes, or the beauty of the autumn leaves.  I honestly think I look at just about anything and figure out a way to incorporate it in soap, in some way or another. I have also had dreams about designs for soap or a soap technique!
Is there a soapmaker that make you make soap?
I can think of countless people who have inspired me to make soap, but I don’t think of one person has inspired me more than another. Every single soap maker I have seen has inspired me for different reasons and in different ways. That being said, there is only one soap maker’s soap I have tried to re-create exactly. When I was first learning to make soap, I saw a design Kevin Devine (from Devinely Designed) won third place for in the October 2013 SCC, the Dandelion Zebra Swirl Challenge. I had only made three batches of soap at that time, both HP and CP but all were very plain, so I wanted to try my hand at an advanced technique. I fell in love with his design and because he had a very detailed video on how to do it, I gave it a try. It didn’t end up exactly like his of course, but the thrill of being able to make such an amazing and artistic creation from ingredients I chose, profoundly moved me! I knew, without a doubt, I had found my calling. I have been obsessed ever since. And yes, oh my goodness, yes, there have been many soap designs that have made me so obsessed that I can’t sleep - or clean, or make dinner, or eat or even shower - until I make it! Amy’s challenges have caused that to happen many times, in fact!

Will there be a "Debi Olsen’s soap company" some day?
I am very close to launching my soap business and though I am pretty certain about what name I am going to use, I haven’t made the final decision just yet. I have spent quite a bit of time conceptualizing what I truly want my business to be – for me, for my family, and for my customers. One thing I feel absolutely certain about is that I don’t ever want soap making to become something I dread or something that becomes a chore, or worse, something I don’t have time to do because I am too busy trying to run a business selling soap. I know I definitely want to have the experience of selling my soap, but a longer range goal has begun forming. Perhaps my original dream of becoming a teacher is beginning to surface because I am realizing now that I would truly love to teach others to make soap. With this realization in mind, my plans to start selling soap - with the eventuality of opening a soap making studio/classroom - are becoming a reality. We have designated an area in our huge barn that will become an entire soaping area for me and we are almost ready to begin putting up the walls. Now that my future goals are clear, we have also begun looking at plans to build a separate structure for me to conduct classes in the near future!

Thank you very much, Debi, for that wonderful interview and being so open person.
You can find Debi on
Or email her on

2 komentáře:

  1. Anastasia:
    What a wonderful Blog - again!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful interview! I enjoyed it immensely!

  2. Anastasia:
    Thank you for such a wonderful Blog! I enjoyed it immensely!