I met these guys last fall at Patchwork Oakland. I walked past their booth, and then came back. They had a beautiful display of soaps setting out, just asking to be smelled. I’m a smeller. I love the scent of things. I have so many smell memories that my husband gets sick of me saying “this reminds me of…” or “did you smell that? It’s totally like…” I’ve got a sensitive sniffer I guess? Anyways, their soaps were beautiful. They were smooth on some sides, and rough on others. They had texture unlike a lot of other soaps I’d seen. We started talking, and when I finally noticed the label I realized that they were made with tea! That about put me over the edge. Such a cool idea! Meet Rusty and Yosiell and learn all about Tassology Soap Co.
Please introduce yourself.
We are Rusty Harris-Bishop and Yosiell Lorenzo, the creators behind Tassology Soap Co. and live in Oakland, CA. Rusty is a military brat, born in Las Vegas, NV and raised by southern parents in Germany, New Mexico, and North Carolina where he graduated from college (go Wolfpack!). He moved to Southern California after graduation, then to the Bay Area where his day job is as a government environmentalist. He was named “Russell” after the former Governor and Senator from Georgia, Richard Russell, but was born with shocking red hair as demanded by his grandmother. She insisted on a redheaded grandchild and he was the only one out of 10 grandkids.
Yosiell is originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut and is a sculptor, painter, and graphic artist. He taught himself to sculpt, create molds, and pour resin to create his world of the Sicklings which are collected around the world. He could have grown up a Jose, like any other decent Puerto Rican kid. However, his mom saw something unique in her bundle of joy and blessed him with one of the hardest to spell/pronounce names ever. Let’s say it together. . . “Joe-See-Ell.” Moms rule.
What do you make or do?
At Tassology Soap Co, we make traditional cold-process soaps with a modern sensibility. Using tea as our liquid for mixing lye (a necessary requirement for making real soap), we combine organic base oils like coconut, palm, olive, castor, and sunflower with the lye solution to create our handmade soaps. We use natural colorants like walnut hulls, cocoa powder, activated charcoal, indigo, oxides, alkanet and madder root, and spirulina for our pallete, and essential oils for our scents. Many of our soaps have tea in them as an exfoliant, too, for a little extra scrubby fun.
Where can we find your creations?
Our soaps are sold on our website, www.tassologysoap.com, and at the Oakland Patchwork Shows. A limited number of our soaps are also available at the Storenvy Pop Up Shop at the Crocker Galleria, 50 Post Street, in San Francisco, and we hope to be in additional retail spaces in 2015.
Is there an interesting story behind the name of your business? How did the name come about?
Our name, Tassology, comes from the art of divination through reading tea leaves. Because we use tea in all our soaps, and include the leaves in some of them, we imagine that people can gaze into the patterns of the leaves in a bar while bathing and try and discern their future.
Who are the makers that inspire you?
We never talked about soap or soapmaking, but at a local craft fair a couple years ago, we discovered that we were both drawn to the handmade soaps, and marveled at the variety and distinctive scents the different booths offered. Rusty remembered that he’d bought a book on soapmaking years earlier, and that his grandmother (not the one that requested the redheaded grandchild) had also made “lye soap” in her front yard in the hills of Virginia, but hadn’t ever thought to try it himself. Yosiell also knew an artist that called herself Squeaky Queen that made soaps. We continued to notice the beautiful assortment of soaps, and at the Renegade Craft Fair, met Alana Rivera, the creator of Etta+Billie. We loved her soaps, and told her that we were interested in learning how to make it. She was very encouraging, told us where to take a class to get started, and even offered technical assistance as we made our first batches, helping us troubleshoot as we learned our craft. We’ve since met many other soapers in the area, and everyone has been incredibly supportive, encouraging, and friendly. The ladies at Juniper Tree Supplies in Berkeley, in particular, have provided us with great ideas for scents, and have been nothing but uplifting in their positive support of us.
What’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
We are continuing to expand our soap variety, introducing two seasonal scents for the holidays last year, and for the spring, making our first unscented, oatmeal and honey soap. This came as a request from two customers; one needed an unscented product to take to a retreat center, and the other needed oatmeal soap for sensitive skin. Also due to customer requests, we’ll be expanding into beard grooming products. We are making our first beard oils and beard balms, and will soon have a shaving soap too! Eventually we will also have a hair bar and a pet shampoo bar we’re going to call “Soap on a Leash” that you can keep ahold of as you’re bathing your furry friend.
When you’re not making things, what do you do?
When we’re not working or making soap, we love riding our bikes around Oakland, exploring different neighborhoods, trying new breakfast joints, and checking out the scene. We’re so lucky to live in the Bay Area, and Oakland is a great city to bike around. Just this past weekend we saw two beautiful turkey vultures flying overhead, and ground squirrels running around the bike path. There is so much to see when on a bike and it’s easy to stop, have a bite or a drink, then move on to the next adventure!