Woman crafts botanical soaps with favorite fragrances
Amanda Decker poses with some of her handcrafted Wild Pear Soaps at the Juniper General Store on U.S. Highway 27 west of Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
The intoxicating floral fragrance of gardenia can remind you of a hug from your grandma, said soap maker Amanda Decker. Lemonade and watermelon smell like summer, she said. Aloe and lilies are how she defined the scent of Lake Weir.
“Nostalgia really goes hand in hand with scent,” explained Decker, who handcrafts her plant-based Wild Pear Soaps in a wide variety of scents designed to put people in their happy place.
“If you can connect a memory with a smell, that’s magic!” she said. “Then you can keep that memory going.”
It was four years ago, at Christmastime, that Decker first decided to try soap making.
“I wanted to do it just as gifts for my friends,” she said. “We’re very holistic. We like botanicals and natural body care. I tried to make it very personal for my friends – smells and herbs that they enjoy themselves. That’s really what I still share to this day. I like to give holistic good vibes. When you use my soap, I want you to know that you are loved, and somebody put love into this product.”
The name Wild Pear came from the giant sand pear tree on her mom’s property.
“It really connected our family because when it produces pears, it produces like 400 pounds of pears,” she said. “We make pear butter every year and send to our family and friends. So that one tree keeps our whole entire family connected. I wanted to be able to do something similar with my soaps. It’s like a representation of myself, and I can spread it around to my family and other people and share that abundance.”
Decker, who’s lived in Ocala since she was 5 years old, incorporates as many local botanicals as possible into the soaps she cooks up in her kitchen.
“I want things that grow here,” she said. “We have such a beauty right here of Florida-specific botanicals.”
She’s used loquats, hibiscus and gardenias from friends’ plants and trees and pine thistle from the Ocala National Forest. She said one of her most fun and recognizable scents is her soap that smells like Froot Loops cereal.
Inspiration usually strikes as a scent she wants to capture, a memory she wants to evoke or a look she wants to create.
“It starts with a spark, and then I create it step by step. When I have a theme, I can usually visualize shapes,” she said, adding that cold process soaps take six weeks to cure.
“Right now, I’m making a gumball soap, and I’m having to make these tiny little gumball toppers. I’m like, six weeks from now, this will be worth it. In the meantime, I have a whole tray of tiny little gumballs of soap.”
Decker sells her soaps at Juniper General Store in Ocala, the Island Grove Wine Company Tasting House in Island Grove and JEMs Originals in downtown Micanopy.
“I think it’s really important for people to have a connection with their elements, have a connection with their inner selves. And if you can find that through my soaps or something you like in my soap, then that is a gift.”