Hello! We are Patrick Groghan and Yu Zhang, the crafter and designer behind Hart + Hawthorn. We make cold-processed soaps, candles, men’s care products and our own packaging out of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Yu and I started making soaps about a year ago, at home in the kitchen. We were inspired by a bar of bay rum and sandalwood soap we purchased on Etsy; it put the shower gels we had been using to shame. I was fascinated with the chemical process that lye and oil undergo to create soap, and Yu, who is a design student, was eager for the opportunity to design labels and create a brand. We jumped in with both feet and opened our Etsy shop six months later.
We love the way that natural soap is reminiscent of both the old and modern worlds. We are constantly inspired by vintage chemistry, old dictionary pages, alchemy symbols, antique science and botanical ingredients. For us, the process usually starts with a word or a feeling. We try to recreate that sense and soul through smell, color and texture. The scent is always the trickiest part to get right; sometimes you only need a single essential oil, and other times you need a blend. It’s not just the smell, however – the look has to be right, too. We have found that natural ingredients such as clays and plant powders create the best colors and textures.
For us, the creative process doesn’t end when the soap is cut or the candle is poured. Each bar, jar and bottle is carefully wrapped, and the label and branding is the finishing touch. We want our products to amaze you when you open your order and to feel like they already belong in your home. Our house feels empty without our creations, and we want you to feel the same way.
Etsy is important to us for so many reasons – it’s where we started, and is now part of our everyday lives. Being able to build a business has done so much to make completing school possible, and the experience has brought us to a generous community that has helped us solve problems and feel encouraged thanks to great feedback and support. It has also connected us with people from Dubai to Hong Kong, which is very exciting.
Yu and I are still making soap out of our kitchen and holding photo shoots in our living room, but we have come a long way. Opening our shop was our first step to living more locally and sustainably, and since then we’ve started gardening, composting and sourcing our materials locally whenever possible. We plan on selling at farmer’s markets around our community this summer, but our biggest goal is to grow this business to the point where we could open a storefront. Having a beautiful shop in a quaint downtown area with other small businesses would be a dream come true.
All photographs by Hart + Hawthorn.