Waterville woman crafts soaps

Naoko Hinderer stands next to a display of her homemade soaps. (Karen Larsen photo)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Probably most of us in North Central Washington struggle with dry skin on certain parts of our bodies, or in certain seasons of the year. Naoko Hinderer, a Waterville farm wife and a transplant from Japan, has discovered her passion in creating products that help people maintain healthier skin.

Hinderer has developed quickly as a soapmaker since she took up the hobby about a year ago. She loves researching the various ingredients and their benefits, making creative combinations of ingredients and smelling the fragrances of the finished product.

Soap-making, like cheese-making or wine-making, is a slow process, involving about four weeks of curing. Hinderer said she relishes the chore of rotating each bar of soap as it cures. She loves the fragrance of the soap and the peacefulness of the chore. Her husband and three young children have come to know where to look for her when they don’t seem to find her anywhere else. “If they can’t find me in the house, I’m always in the soap room,” Hinderer said.

For Hinderer, soap-making has turned out to be an avenue for incorporating Japanese culture and wisdom into her life in Waterville. For many of her soaps, she has sought out ingredients traditionally used by Japanese in maintaining beautiful skin. These include yuzu, a Japanese citrus; bamboo charcoal; green tea; and rice bran. She also has given her soaps both Japanese and English names.

Foaming nets are another part of Japanese culture that Hinderer would like to introduce with her soap. The foaming net is a small handheld mesh net that is used to create a rich lather. Hinderer said she can’t quite imagine using soap without it.

In addition to helping Hinderer share parts of Japanese culture, soap-making has also been a way to embrace her current home. Each of Hinderer’s soap wrappers says, “Proudly made in Waterville, WA.” Not only does she make the soaps in Waterville, but she tries to source her ingredients locally when possible. So far, she has been able to obtain goat milk and flowers from Waterville, and honey produced in North Central Washington.

She also has tailored her soaps to the needs of local residents. When her husband Garth comes in from working on farm equipment, he needs something more than ordinary soap to get his hands clean. Hinderer has created “mechanic soap” that is able to handle this job. The soap includes coffee grounds and orange peel, which have the advantage of not only cutting through the grease, but also neutralizing odors. Like other soaps that Hinderer sells, this one has been extensively tested by her family. “Garth loved it,” Hinderer said. Hinderer also makes a soap specially formulated for gardeners.

Hinderer began selling her soaps last summer as a way to raise money for victims of the Chelan fires. Her business has grown from there as she has experimented with ways to make her soap bars more uniform and attractive, and has created packaging that provides the finishing touches. Hinderer named her soap-making venture Field Moon Handmade Soap after her maiden name — Nozuki, which means “field moon.” She finds it especially fitting as Waterville is a land of fields and a place where the moon can be easily seen.

Hinderer has two soaps that she plans to keep continually available: avocado and almond soap; and komenuka (rice bran) honey soap. She experiments with other soaps and has different ones available each month. Some of the soaps that she currently has available are goat milk and jojoba; milk and jojoba rose; charcoal honey; marigold and shea butter; and oat milk and honey. She is also selling lotion bars and shampoo bars.

Hinderer sold her soaps at the Federated Church bazaar and plans to sell them at Waterville Days. Her soaps may also be purchased on her website atfieldmoonsoap.com. Hinderer has done a lot of research into which soap ingredients are good for which skin types and she likes to help people find the soap that is right for them. She has a section of her website with contact information for those who would like to ask questions about the soaps.

Hinderer seems to have found a hobby that fits her artistic skills, her ability in making things, her interest in ingredients and her desire to help people protect their skin. She also has found that after using handmade soaps, she can’t imagine using anything else. “I can’t switch back to store bought,” Hinderer said. That works out fine because she wouldn’t give up the process of soap-making either. “I just love doing this,” she said.