My name is Michele Maldonado Milner. I grew up in Brooklyn, raised my kids in Manhattan, and I am now happily residing in a kooky old farmhouse in White Lake, New York.
What is your professional background?
I worked for many years as a retail manager. I've sold clothes for preteen girls, books for college kids, and chocolate to anybody with a sweet tooth.
What led you to your current craft?
After developing fibromyalgia, I had to leave my job. I needed some way to help support my family, and I also needed a way to bond with my son. Making soap seemed like a great way to achieve both of these goals, at least until the boy turned into a smelly teenager. Now he tests the products instead of helping to make them.
How do you feed your creativity?
I draw on a combination of my personal tastes, scents that are commonly enjoyed, and scents that are interesting or unexpected. Everyone has different tastes, so I try to have a wide variety of soaps to suit every skin. My daughter wants to smell like a chocolate chip cookie, but some people would rather smell like red tea, or cucumbers, or ginger ale. The great thing about soap is that it can accommodate almost any scent imaginable, so there's no end to how creative you can be.
How do you work deal with a creative block?
I ask around. Everyone has scents that they enjoy, and combinations that they think are extra delicious. My friends and family can be a wonderful source of ideas when the muse won't come to me.
Describe your work area.
Surrounded by cats. I work in my “soap room”, which is an outgrowth of the kitchen, and it's often invaded by Seamus, Delilah, Stella, and Diego. They must like the smell of soap!
Favorite time of day to work? I usually like to work in the mornings, after I've had my cup of coffee, but before I lose my creative steam.
How did you end up on Etsy?
Before I started making soap and selling it online, I used Etsy to buy amazing products all the time. It was only natural that once I had my own line of soap, I should start marketing it where I did so much of my own shopping.
Other than your supplies & materials, what do you want with you on a stranded island?
Pasta , wine and my MP3 player. Oh and George Clooney .
Any guilty pleasures?
American Idol. I've been watching it since Kelly Clarkson beat Justin Guarini, and I will keep watching until they cancel the show.
Words of wisdom for aspiring artists?
It takes 10,000 hours of concentrated work to truly master something, so if you're not rockin' it out on the first go, it's okay. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, so don't get upset, just keep trying, and one day, you'll get the hang of it and make something fabulous.