Vanessa Cochran is a soap maker. She also runs her soap making business, Soap Farm. It’s a lovely line of soaps with variety… and that’s to say the very least. When you go to her website, you’ll see everything from Bay Rum to Sea Kelp. With something for everyone (really– she’s even got an option to customize her product for your event!), I was really excited to touch bases with Vanessa and see how she thinks. I know you’ll love her ultra focused, entrepreneurial mind too.
please introduce yourself.
I am Vanessa, creator, thinker, small business entrepreneur and supporter of all things unique. I was born in Seoul, Korea (adopted), flew on a one-way flight to Minneapolis at age three and grew up in Minnesota, Washington, D.C. suburbs and then New York City for film school. I started out as a fine arts major, attended Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore but transferred to fulfill my lifelong (lifelong at age 15) dream of living in the Big Apple.
what do you make or do?
I make handcrafted all natural soaps with the sole purpose of creating a solid, effective product that works wonders on sensitive skin. It’s called cold process; with some of the best results of any natural product for skin. I have literally created thousands of bars of glycerin soap, as well, over the years (the clear pretty stuff that slices and molds) but I consider cold process soap the “Cadillac” of soap. I have also made body scrubs and balms but my passion is about soap; weird I know. I also make videos and shoot photography. My entire “professional” career has been in broadcast news and documentaries covering, American history, war, politics, crime, world news as well as some dramatic stuff.
where can we find your creations?
how long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
Soap making obsession started around 14 years ago. Three years ago, I moved to L.A. with my husband for his work, decided to stop the production grind and 60+ hour work weeks to focus on Soap Farm.
when you’re not making things, what do you do?
According to my husband I am never NOT making things. I make my own greeting cards, jewelry (although I wear none) and do a lot of shooting.
is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you?
For individuals who are creators, it is in our DNA. It cannot be extracted nor segregated out. I use the example of whenever I’ve held a full-time “regular” job. At work, I would ALWAYS being doing side projects.
what obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?
Financial and emotional. Starting your own handmade business is a tough pill to swallow. You give up the comfort of a regular paycheck, all the company perks and starting out small with few resources like extra labor is really challenging. It has made me mentally really tough. If you want to live your art and passion, you must sacrifice – but also plan. It’s never been my goal to be a homeless artist.
did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
My parents realized early on art school was the necessary place for me. It probably took them a while to adjust to that idea since it’s not the norm but they have been very supportive of who I am my whole life. Some wise person along the way also said: “If you have a creative child, the last thing you want to do is put them in art school.” There is real truth to this and it makes me laugh. Also, my only sister is highly creative.
where do you find inspiration?
Other artists, other humans doing amazing things. The bar is always higher somewhere.
what would be your perfect day off?
Flying to some country on my bucket list and eating and drinking my way around a city.
what inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP. Don’t be stupid (see the “homeless” remark) but you alone must have faith in what you’re doing and trust your creative purpose because others can only support but they can’t really guide you. Your business will take time to evolve, even after years, and learn from your customers! They are your guide and greatest education. Also, a note to artists who are historically horrible business people, pick up a book and do your research on business, money, selling, wholesaling, marketing; all of that.
who are the makers that inspire you?
There’s so many…I do love Lisa Swerling’s glass cathedrals. When you look at her art, you are in her world which is how I think all creative work should function. It should make you feel, not think, and say “I want to be in that world.”