In 2005 Patricia and Patrick Livelsberger commissioned Patrick’s sister, Theresa Eline to make 100 bars of soap in memory of their son, J.J. who had passed away at age 23 of a life-long illness.
Eline has a special way of crafting the soaps in scent, shape and color so they reflect a person’s characteristics and personality. To share the vision of the soaps for J.J., Patricia and Patrick helped with the process, and were soon making soaps of their own.
After gleaning years of soap-making knowledge from his sister, Patrick designed his own base recipe, including skin-nourishing oils and butters. Different essential oils and natural ingredients are used for each batch making each batch and bar extremely unique.
The Livelsberger’s homemade soap business, Sentimental Soaps, continues to offer special batches of soaps to in memory or in honor of a loved one upon special request. They also offer custom gift baskets based around items, themes or price points, and even a line of soaps called “Fido’s Flea Flicker” marketed toward dogs.
Patch: How are the soaps made? What is the process?
Livelsberger: Soap making requires three ingredients; water, fat and lye. Each type of fat has a saponification value and there has to be a certain amount of fats to adhere to the water and lye molecules. Measurements must be exact for the chemical reaction to successfully take place. When that happens, you can literally see the three ingredients cease being themselves and becoming soap. This change is called saponification. Exact measurements and proportions are the key to making a successful batch of soap. If measurements and proportions are not exact, the soap can turn out to be greasy or drying. We adjust our recipes to have about five percent moisturizing oils left behind.
It takes about one to one and a half hours to stir the soap by hand, and once the stirring begins you cannot stop until it 'traces,' meaning the soap is firming up and a slick begins to appear on the top of the mixture.
The mixture is poured into a wooden mold and kept warm and undisturbed for three days. It is then removed from the mold, trimmed and cut into bars to sit for at least four weeks. The corners and sides are trimmed and each bar is wrapped as a gift.
Our product doesn’t have a quick recovery time, if we run out of a particular scent. It takes about five weeks from start to finish to make a batch of soap.
We use essential oils and natural colorings. Each ingredient is listed separately on every bar. We have 35 different scents and some of them are Almond, Holiday Spice, Cleopatra’s Cream, Patchouli Oakmoss, Lime in the Coconut, Lavender and Dad’s Walnut.
The bestseller for six years has been Spencer’s Spearmint and last year Luci’s Lace (Rose) tied with it for first place.
Patch: What inspires your craft?
Livelsberger: It is definitely people. One of our goals is to have people recall a wonderful memory from the soap smell. You can literally see their eyes light up when they find a particular bar that does that. We are very privileged to have people share their memories and tell their stories to us and we don’t take that lightly.
Patch: What do you enjoy about creating this type of art?
Livelsberger: We make soap for a variety of reasons. When making soap in a person’s memory, we interview a family member to understand what the person enjoyed so it is reflected in the scent and packaging. It can be very cathartic for a family when they see the finished product. J.J.’s soap was white, round and smelled like baby powder. It captured his essence perfectly.
Creating soap in honor of a person’s accomplishment is a similar process. Whether it is a celebrating a retirement, making a sports team, celebrating a wedding or welcoming a new baby, the process is similar.
When making regular batches of soap, Patrick is the creator. He likes to make swirled patterns in the soap with natural ingredients, such as parsley, calendula flowers or cinnamon. I enjoy picking out the wrapping that coordinates color and style with the scent.
Patch: What are your other roles/hobbies?
Both of us have full-time jobs. I (Patricia) work at McDaniel College and Patrick works at Flowserve Corp. We’ve been married 30 years and live in Westminster. We have 2 grandchildren. We enjoy traveling, playing volleyball , biking and working in the yard.
Sentimental Soaps are featured in Westminster at the Carroll County Historical Society’s Shop at Cockey’s and Leister’s Store: Pleasant Valley’s Memory Museum. You may find more information about their soaps on their facebook page. While they do not plan on developing a website due to the lack of personal interaction, you may see their soaps and meet them in person at the Carroll County Ag Center every Saturday from November 19th through December 17th.