Karen Seiger first fell in love with New York City during a university semester program with the United Nations. Upon completing a graduate degree at Johns Hopkins, she worked for many years in international aid and development in Latin America and Africa. Karen moved to New York City to work in international marketing for American Express and later as a business consultant. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish, French, Flemish and Italian.
Karen lives in the West Village with her husband James, a cat they saved from the streets of Mozambique, and her collection of rescued orchids. She volunteers with the September 11th Families Association as a tour guide of the World Trade Center site. When she is home, you can find her at the Saturday morning Greenmarket at Abingdon Square.
Artisanal soaps are one of the most luxurious items I have found at the markets. A huge bang for the buck, a bar of handmade soap makes a wonderful gift (especially for yourself). I find myself looking forward to my morning showers like never before, and I linger in an evening bath a bit longer to enjoy the beautiful aromas from each different soap, not to mention my newly softened skin. Here are some of my favorite soap makers from the markets:
These bars look and smell lovely, and they make your skin feel and look wonderful. The lavender soaps are the first ones that caught my eye as I strolled by Dr. Bubble’s cheerful tables on Houston Street. Black Peony is another striking soap that smells like a garden peony and contains charcoal to draw out impurities from your skin. The Evergreen Organic Soap is a must have during the holiday season because it smells like balsam and soothes dry skin. I also love the Vanilla Ylang Ylang for its relaxing qualities in the evening, and the Pink Grapefruit and Aloe for its zingy scent in the morning.
Soap makers and artists Tara Pelletier and Jeffery Kurosaki create wonderful smelling vegan soaps. Their fragrances include such delicacies as Rosemary Mint Cornmeal; Fennel Orange Oats; Tea Tree Kelp Oats; and more. They have just launched a new liquid soap, a modern answer to Dr. Bronner’s ubiquitous product. I’ve been using the Cedar Sage Liquid Soap for a month; it smells wonderful, and my skin is noticeably softer. The Meow Meow Tweet Soap of the Month Club is the perfect gift for the person who has everything!
Using 100% vegan oils (coconut, sunflower, and shea butter), these soap makers focus on making great smelling products that also have aromatherapy and moisturizing benefits. The soaps themselves feature pulp fiction-style labels and names like Sea Mud…of Death! Or One Night with Rosemary Mint and, one of my favorites, The Black Soap of Horror, which truly drew the toxins from my system. I also have to give a shout out to Metropolis’ scent Aroma Obscura, which features “lush, exotic climates and forbidden adventures.” Alas, I had it for a few days until in mysteriously disappeared into my sister-in-law’s cosmetics bag.
Nordea Soaperie – At the Brooklyn Flea and many other market events:
Soap Artist Nordea McKoy has so many amazing soaps that it is difficult to choose a favorite. Her entire line shows such creativity, care, and talent for scent combinations that I try new bars every time I see her. My husband loves all of Nordea’s soaps, especially the Fig Line Between Love and Hate. We just finished up a bar of Kyoto Rose, a rose and amber combination, and we’re on to Honey Pie, which smells divine. Nordea also creates lavender sachets, as well as hand crocheted wash clothes and felted soaps, which are soap bars covered in wool felt, turning them into 2-in-1 soap and scrubbies. Even the more perfumed soaps smell natural and appeal to men and women alike.
Off the Mat – Mind.Body.Soul Holiday Market at the New York Open Center 12/9/10. Off the Mat soaps and scents are inspired by all things yoga. Founder and maker Josie Castañeda, who has a background in fine arts and the fashion industry, is also a yoga instructor herself. Her products reflect the teachings and values of this ancient practice. Off the Mat features six collections: Black, White, Padma, Red, Kama, and Mystical. You must try them for yourself, but I have become addicted to the Maha soap from the Red Collection – fig, tuberose, clove and black amber; and the Muladhara bar from the Chakra Collection – floral, musk, and violet infused with gold dust. Josie’s mission is to “bring a little luxury and pause time to everyone, a time to reflect on your heart’s desire or indulge in a deep breath.”
Soap Walla is a line of fine handmade soaps developed especially for people with extremely sensitive skin. Founder Rachel Winard created her bath products in her Brooklyn kitchen, and now she is selling her them in the markets and on Etsy.com. Her soaps, creams, and serums are made from organic, vegan, food-grade ingredients, including oils, clays, powders, botanicals, and essential oils. Scents include Lemongrass Green Tea, Citrus Mint, and Rosewood Cedar Clay. Soap Walla products are also perfect for people who love beautiful smelling soaps that transform even the tiniest New York bathroom into a spa.
These clever, fragrant, and carefully concocted soaps are indeed everyday luxuries that anyone can afford, and all can be found in the markets of New York City!