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When resourceful cattle farmer, Vicki found herself without an off-farm income after her husband sustained a head injury, she taught herself the art of soap making and grew another business making products from tallow and other ingredients she could grow or forage from their Central QLD property.

1 July 2022

Designer Spotlight: Soaping in the Shed

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Cattle Farmer & Artisan Soaper, Vicki: ‘I taught myself how to make beautiful soaps using tallow from our local beef industry'

Hello, I am Vicki, a farmer in Central Qld where I live with my husband, Michael. 12 years ago, he had an injury when unloading cattle as part of his cattle carrying business, and suffered a head injury. The long recovery period meant our off-farm income ceased. What better time to start a small business working from home?

A collection of Vicki’s creations; hand crafted artisan soaps, natural firestarters, and crochet washers

I started potting up succulents to sell at the local markets and added a few vegetables. Over the years I added more and more to my stall and I was attending a few markets each month. I taught myself how to make beautiful soaps using tallow from our local beef industry, and then passed that knowledge onto many locals who attended my workshops.

A selection of Vicki’s handmade washers, artisan soaps and body care products and her natural fire starters on display at a local market; ‘In regional Queensland the distance to a local market is no less than 50 kilometers’

I was spending a lot of time packing and unpacking the car for local markets, not to mention all of the traveling. As we live in regional Queensland, the distance to a local market is no less than 50 kilometres. I relished the thought of staying home and working, and I quickly realised that I needed a selling platform to sell my handmade soaps online. I was recommended Madeit as the fees were very reasonable. I found it quite easy to use which is a bonus as I am not very savvy with technology.

A selection of Vicki’s natural firestarters with leaves, flowers, gumnuts and other ingredients grown or foraged from her cattle property in Central Queensland

A couple of years ago, I was starting our wood stove and struggled with damp wood. I decided to use some old candles to make a primitive fire starter without the use of a petroleum product. From there, I have perfected the fire starter using dried herbs and flowers from our garden, eucalyptus leaves, pinecones and gum nuts from the farm. The demand has been overwhelming and my online store with Madeit a huge success.

Vicki in her happy place, at work on her creations in the shed; ‘The shed is my happy place where I can leave the beds unmade, dishes on the sink, and escape’

We have a lovely farm shed which I rearranged, added benches, a few extra tables, a sink with running water and made my workplace. The Shed is my happy place where I can leave the beds unmade, dishes on the sink, and escape to make my fire starters.

A selection of 4 floral artisan soaps from Soaping in the Shed

My love of the natural beauty of the bush and flowers were my inspiration to create a pretty, but functional fire starter. My interest in gardening and growing herbs and flowers, has meant I have a ready supply of dried lavender, bay leaves, rosemary and more to use in the fire starters.

Just some of the home-grown and locally foraged ingredients that go into Vicki’s firestarters: ‘All the plant material is gathered from our farm’

I am proud of The Original Fire Starters, as they are as natural as I can make them, and all the plant material is gathered from our farm. With Michael’s help in gathering the plant material used, I am able to make quite a few hundred every week to list in the Madeit store.

Work in progress, silicone moulds, locally found leaves, flowers, seeds and bark, jars of wax all laid out on Vicki’s workbench in her farm shed-turned-soapery.

Buying bulk vegetable wax was the first step I took when I realised that the Fire Starters were selling so well. I use a couple of Queensland suppliers who are reliable and efficient to order from.

Leaves, nuts and flowers in silicone moulds awaiting a pour of hot wax to become organic firestarters; ‘I change ingredients around to suit what is available to me on the day I am making them

I change ingredients around to suit what is available to me on the day I am making them. If I have orange peel, I will add that to the mix. When the few cotton bushes have been stripped bare of cotton, I raid the farm supply of cotton seed that we use for cattle feed.

Vicki and the farm cat busy working on a new batch of natural handmade fire starters in the shed.

If I receive a request for pink fire starters for wedding favours, I have a selection of skin safe micas to choose from. Everyone wants a choice, so I have four different sizes for customers to choose from and I have a variety of packs available.

A glass bowl of naturally scented leaves, pinecones and spices that form Vicki’s natural moth repellant mix; ‘There is no greater sense of fulfilment than creating an item that everyone immediately loves'

I have always wanted to be able to offer affordable products to everyone. While we all love the idea of boutique shopping, not many families have the budget to enable them to do so. I work hard at keeping prices reasonable by basic packaging, printing my own business cards and postage labels. While my products are not designer styled, they are a good product, made carefully and tested thoroughly before going into my store.

When resourceful cattle farmer, Vicki found herself without an off-farm income after her husband sustained a head injury, she taught herself the art of soap making and grew another business making products from tallow and other ingredients she could grow or forage from their Central QLD property.

We all like to think we have that little creative bone in our body and there is no greater sense of fulfilment than creating an item that everyone immediately loves, wants and is prepared to pay for. Creating and producing an environmentally friendly article just adds to that sense of achievement.

Vicki is offering Madeit’s community newsletter subscribers 10% off at Soaping in the Shed for a limited time. Subscribe below to get the coupon, plus weekly handmade shopping guides, designer spotlight stories and discounts:



Visit Soaping in the Shed to find natural handmade firestarters, soaps and more: Coolibah13

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