Joanne Hsieh (MissyChiao)
手作者專訪｜Art in Life: The RAW By Jess 紐西蘭純天然藝術手工皂 Made in New Zealand
Updated: May 13, 2022
THE RAW by Jess: Organic Artisan Soap
採訪 Interview｜謝蕎安 Joanne Hsieh
圖 Image Courtesy｜Jessica Tsai
譯 Translated by Joanne Hsieh
來自台灣、現居紐西蘭的手工皂達人 Jessica Tsai，在紐西蘭奧克蘭創立純天然保養品牌『The RAW』，除了產品講求原料天然精純，手工皂的精美度是『THE RAW』的最大賣點。每塊肥皂的造型就像是藝術品般令人驚艷。（在她的 IG上可見到每塊肥皂出品都像是可愛精巧的蛋糕，可能一不小心就會被當作真的蛋糕吃下口）。瞧瞧藝術邀請到 Jessica 和大家分享品牌識別以及在紐西蘭創辦品牌的經驗。
Originally from Taiwan, Jessica Tsai runs a independent shop "THE RAW" that makes 100% natural artisan soaps and wellness products. Aside from the apparent attractiveness of the products being organic, what's really eye catching is how the soaps are "designed" to look like real works of art. Read on for an exclusive interview with Jessica for ChiaoxArt.
Tell us about your experience as an designer/entrepreneur from Taiwan living in New Zealand.
Jessica：「大家好！我目前居住在紐西蘭的奧克蘭 (Aukland）。在海外創業最容易遇到的問題應該是語言和文化吧！我不是土生土長的 Kiwi，加上亞洲人的形象，有時候會讓人覺得有隔閡，相較於外來者具有侵略性的身份，我喜歡把自己視爲客人，就像到對方家做客，尊重主人的文化，用試著理解、學習的心態，明白就算被拒絕也要能夠自行消化，有一些這樣的心理建設還是比較好的。幸好紐西蘭是個善良且有愛的國家，99% 的人都很和善有禮貌。他們就像魔戒中的哈比人，所以最好的相處模式就是把自己也變成哈比人，用哈比人的方式和他們相處，喜歡單純直接，不需要太多心機。」
Hi everyone, I'm originally from Taiwan and currently based in Aukland, New Zealand. The main challenge with a start-up business in a foreign country for me is language. As an Asian and Non-kiwi, sometimes I do struggle a bit due to language barrier and cultural differences, but I see myself as a guest in someone's home, be respectful and try to learn and understand the local culture. In truth 99% of the people from New Zealand are very friendly, kind and polite, they're like the Hobbits, really.
How was “THE RAW" started? How did you get into soap making?
Taiwan was the supply center of soap to Japan during Japanese Occupation, (among many other services to the Japanese.) Soap making has a long history in Taiwan, it's not something novel. There is even a technique called "Taiwanese Drawloom" in the trendy cold process handmade soap culture today. my soap making business was more accidental than planned- my sister called me one day from Taiwan, saying that they ran out of the soap I made from before, they really liked it and asked if there was more. So I started searching for ingredients and suppliers- especially herbs that are locally sourced, to make soap using traditional Asian cold process techniques. At first I only made them for family, then friends started buying them from me, I started selling in markets and fairs, everything fell in place naturally.
What’s your brand philosophy?
Our brand philosophy is to make products that are fun, convenient and portable. Aside from our limited seasonal flavors, the staple items are made in small batches to ensure the freshness and best quality for our customers. Every item is "carry-on" inflight friendly. In terms of the ingredients, we've been working with local suppliers, and planning on working with more independent farmers. For example we use beeswax from a local bee keeper, and organic coconut oil from Fiji.
Can you tell us a bit about your educational background and art/design related experiences?
After graduating from the China Medical University in Taiwan, I came to New Zealand to study film. I now am able to combine the two seemingly non-related professions. In college I studied management, as well as the basics of medicine, both of my parents are medical prescriptionists so that gives me confidence to R&D skincare formulas. I look to my parents for ideas and suggestions too. Studying film made me become immensely interested in design and branding, the good thing is I can shoot and film my own products and it saves me a lot of money.
What are the obstacles since launching your brand? Jessica：「每塊手工皂都要歷經6周的時間自然熟成，其實有點像藝術創作，每條手工皂切開都呈現各自不同的紋路與樣貌，可以説是這世界上沒有兩塊一模一樣的手工皂了。但是製作期間可能由於外部的氣溫，濕度變化而導致失敗，以前每遇到這樣的情況，只能把整條手工皂下架自己使用，所以有陣子家裏積了一堆手工皂，根本用不完。」
Every soap bar needs to cure for 6 weeks, it is like making art, when I cut the bar open, each piece will have different patterns- each is unique and there will never be two of the same in the world. Factors like humidity or air temperature could result in the failure of a product, so I used to have a lot of soap that didn't make the cut just laying around in my house.
What is your work / studio situation?
My studio is full of bottles and jars, kind of like a painter's studio or a science lab. There are jars for essential oils, herbs and dried flowers, I store them in these carts that come with drawers to avoid oxidation from sunlight. But things always get messy again after I make a new batch. When I'm working, I put on gloves, a face mask and my apron and a shower cap, while listening to music.
What inspire your aesthetic choices for the soap? They look awfully like desserts.
I usually start with colors, you can create different hues with different combinations of ratio of natural herbs and minerals, kind of like mixing watercolors.
After choosing the color scheme, I make a sketch of the "looks" for each soap bar, I have a sketchbook full of recipes and designs, I'm now on my second sketchbook.
As to why they look like cake or dessert, it's probably because most of the ingredients are food- the brown is from cocoa powder, the sprinkles are coffee beans and the green from organic spinach powder. So I feel like I'm baking when I'm creating the soap. The whole process is probably 90% planning and 10% improvisation.
Ｑ：孩提時代最喜歡做什麼？ What were your favorite activities as a child?
My mom said I really liked science projects when I was little, even begged her to build a lab for me at home. She didn't let me for the fear of blowing up our house. Guess I still ended up with a lab in my house now.
Who inspire you?
I'm really inspired by the Japanese actress and activist Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, her book "Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window" was one of my favorite as a child. I love how she is so kind and always so true to herself.
Favorite film, music and places?
Jessica：「最喜歡的電影是About Time。最喜歡的音樂是Coldplay 的Something Just Like This。最喜歡的地方是紐西蘭的 Lake Tekapo。那是一個美的像大型佈景的地方，地上鋪滿的松果，湖邊的松樹和魯冰花，Tiffany藍的湖水，遠方的雪山，佇立湖邊的小教堂，白天湛藍的天空，晚上滿天的星斗，每當我置身其中都有一種超現實的感覺，覺得這裏美的不像地球。」
My favorite film is About Time. Favorite song is Something Just Like This by Coldplay. My favorite place is Lake Tekapo, It is like a theater backdrop. The ground is covered with pinecones, the water is a TIffany blue with pine trees and frost flowers by the shore, The snowed tipped mountains in the background and the church by the lake, crystal clear sky during the day and thousands of stars at night. I feel like I'm in another dimension every time I visit.
How would you describe your style and life philosophy?
I like going with the flow. As I get older I realize things are not always in our control, just do your best, and don't worry about what others say.
What are some goals for 2020?
『The RAW』 is an open source brand, I'm open to collaborations with different brands. Whatever you're working towards, don't forget why you started it, just be kind and have fun!
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