Marie Gardeski is a 29-year-old maker of soap shaped like hands. The handsoaps are weird, but cute, and have caught the attention of brides and celebrities and other people who are looking for something unusual but useful to give as presents, or to display in the bathroom. The hands are keeping her busy.
How long have you been making the handsoaps?
I first made soap in the shape of a doll hand about 5 years ago when I was in graduate school at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. I made an artwork consisting of over 2500 little soap hands. After the piece was exhibited several times, I had to think of something to do with all those hands. Since they were functional as soap, I decided to leave them here and there, on friend's sinks, in public restrooms, etc. Seeing these bunches of little hands on random sinks made me see them as a potential product, not just the remains of an artwork.
I didn't actually start to make and sell Handsoap right away. It wasn't until 2007 that I opened an online shop and made my soapy product available to the public. They took off pretty quickly and have kept me busy ever since.
Where do you make them? Are you still making them out of the tiny spare bedroom in your apartment?
We (my husband David and I) make handsoap in a small room and attached bathroom located at the end of our long, old apartment. It doesn't seem like a bedroom at all… more of a soap studio. Every day I commute to work by passing through the dining room, technology room and the art studio. What a haul.
Where do you live?
On the fourth floor of an old apartment building in Fort Wayne, Indiana
How many different kinds of hand soaps do you make?
We make handsoap sets and pairs. Each pair (a left & a right) is the same since they are made from molds of the same 2 doll hands. The sets on the other hand, include at least 10 different hands and each set is different. We have collected and made molds from over 70 doll hands.
People who visit our soap studio are impressed/weirded-out by the wall display of our collection of hands (arranged by size, of course). We definitely have our favorites by now, so we usually use the same 50 over and over again. People who buy handsoap sets often buy two.
Are you surprised by the sorts of people who buy them? (Actually, WHO buys them?)
We've had a couple orders from famous folk, which is always fun and amusing, but I think it's more interesting to think about our customer's take on handsoap. Almost everyone who encounters the hands has a definite opinion: they are either CREEPY or CUTE.
I've noticed that more of the 30 years and under crowd think that handsoap is creepy or disturbing. People over 30 are more likely to see the adorable side. (I think the soaps are cute with a side of strange.) Customers who think the soaps are creepy might purchase them for a gag gift, while those who lean towards cuteness might think of handsoap for a baby shower, or a way to get kids to want to wash their hands. Either way I find that many customers like to display their assortment on the bathroom counter to see how visitors react.
Have you ever considered making feet soap? Or head soap? Or ear or nose soap?
We do like to try out different shapes, but not usually other body parts (except for the occasional doll head for our personal soap dish). Hands just seem to work the best… the way they stand up in the soap dish… the punny-ness of 'Handsoap'. We have started making 'cat soap' (a wonderfully odd kitty with vacant, staring eyes) and we've tested other figures in soap such as a squirrel and a bust of Beethoven. We'd really like to do Abraham Lincoln soap.
Are the hands popular? How many would you say you've sold since you started making them?
They've continued to be pretty popular. We sell them wholesale and retail to shops and individuals all over the world. How many hands? I've lost count. Let's just say a lot.
Are you always on the lookout for unusual doll hands?
Oh yes. Every time I go to a second-hand store I check out the dolls. I'm not sure what the employees think when they see me closely examining each doll's fingers.
Are the hands scented? (if so, what do they smell like?)
The hands have a very very light scent. It's not flowery or sweet. Just a faint, clean sent.
How does it feel being known as the hand soap girl?
Well, I never really thought about it. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that the hands would become so popular. I suppose it's really quite nice, to be known for something I invented and make. Yeah, it feels pretty good.
Soaps are available for purchase at Marie Gardeski's site www.plasticfoliage.com
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