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Liberate & Lather

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | April 7, 2022 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Soapmaker and candlemaker Angela Clay says that often times, scrubbing the dirt off our bodies is the easy part.

“A lot of times, we get into the bathtub, and we’ll have the bubbles and all that dirt goes down the drain, but often times our thoughts remain,” said Clay.

Each of the things Clay sells has a story behind it. Clay makes bar soap, cream soap, sugar scrub for some extra exfoliation, candles in cups and tins, special soaps with loofah sponges inside, even bath bombs with a Southern feel — lime and coconut, or peaches — all of which she sells in her new storefront and online at her website, liberateandlather.com. Clay, who started Liberate & Lather five years ago in her home to make soap, also wanted a drain for all those thoughts — troubling and comforting — to go, so she started journaling.

And pretty soon, Clay said she was teaching other people online to journal as well.

She also noted the candles she has poured into small, fine painted porcelain cups are the kind of things someone might have seen in a grandparent’s or great-grandparent’s house as a child, which can be comforting.

“See, that sparked a memory,” she said. “So if you were a journal writer, you may want to dig deeper into that thought and what it was like when you were a kid and seeing your great-grandmother’s teacups.”

Clay said she conceived of the teacup candles because it reminds her of growing up in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“My grandmother had a blue hutch and she had all this fine china in it. she said. “It reminds me of the South.”

The candles are something she said she only sells in the spring.

Clay said she has been journaling for more than 30 years and finds that she enjoys going back to see where she was in the past and what she was thinking and feeling at the time. That takes her back to those times and helps her recall her life and the ways she’s grown as an individual prior to opening up Libarate & Lather, one of five startups sharing the Downtown Moses Lake Association’s Obra Project storefront at 205 S. Division Street.

“I like storytelling. I like journaling. So that kind of all marries together,” Clay said. “You can tell your story and take a look at how far you’ve come or some things you still need to work on.”

One thing soap and candle making have in common is that they’re messy, Clay said, though making candles is the messier of the two.

“You need a good wax, a good wick, and a nice vessel to hold all the components together. And a lot of space because it’s messy,” she said.

It’s a little like life sometimes, Clay added, because what you’re making takes skill and time to craft and while the process is often somewhat messy, it’s the result that counts.

“And that is true as a journal prompt,” she added.

Clay said she finds making soap satisfying because it involves some chemistry, bringing oil together with lye to create something that can turn out a little mysterious.

“It’s really lovely to see those two interact together,” Clay said.

Clay said scents — and the smells of citrus and patchouli hang heavy in her shop — are also important, and one of the reasons she really wanted a physical storefront in Moses Lake. A storefront gives shoppers the overall experience when compared to an online shop, she said.

“When you are online, you can’t smell the scent,” she said.

And scents are what most frequently trigger memories and the telling of stories, she said.

Clay said she is grateful to the DMLA for the opportunity to set up shop in the Obra Project because it is important to her to have a real shop because customers who would come to her stalls at local farmers' markets wanted to know where they could buy her wares during the week. She also always felt a little odd shipping to customers in Moses Lake, she said.

“It pains me to have to ship locally. Like, you’re in Moses Lake, I know what street you live on,” she said. “So this opportunity allows locals to be able to come in and shop and I get to meet people.”

Clay said her eventual goal is to have her studio — where she does the messy work of making soap and candles — in the same place as her storefront. So maybe customers can see how the beauty comes into being.

“I grew out of my house and I’m actually probably going to grow out of my studio,” she said. “So the incubator is a way to help me see if I’ll be able to really scale up with it all together.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Soap and candle maker Angela Clay with some of her wares inside her new storefront, Liberate & Lather, one of five new businesses located in the Downtown Moses Lake Association’s new business incubator the Obra Project, which formally opened its doors last Saturday.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Some of Angela Clay’s scented candles, which have names like “Renewed Resolve,” “Marmalade on Toast” and “Departure and Arrival.”

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

A sample of a few of Angela Clay’s more minty scented soaps. While the process for making them can be a bit messy, the end result makes for a refreshing bath or shower.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Jars containing some of the loofah-centered soaps Angela Clay makes and sells at her store Liberate & Lather.

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