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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Literature-inspired soaps jump off the page

    Rebecca Noble
    Rebecca Noble / Arizona Summer Wildcat Leighton Jeffy, co-founder of Sapient Soap and Sundries sets up his herbal merchandize at the farmer’s market on the corner of 4th Ave. and 4th St. on Friday, June 27th. Jeffy and his wife wrap their bars of soap in pages of books the couple finds literary significance in.

    If you check out any of the local farmers’ markets, you are bound to find the exotic wares of Sapient Soap and Sundries. Founded by two UA alumni, Sapient Soap’s line of body care products are made entirely from scratch using raw herbs, fruits and vegetables.

    Sapient Soap started in 2011 by husband and wife team Leighton Jeffy and Betsy Mahaffey. Jeffy and Mahaffey were teaching at BASIS Tucson after graduating from the UA.

    “I was teaching literature and poetry, and my wife was teaching Latin and we needed a new hobby,” Jeffy said. “Quite literally we were bored.”

    The fruits of their hobby project were originally distributed among their friends and family as they perfected their initial recipes. After a sabbatical in Cambodia, Jeffy and Mahaffey had to choose where to steer their focus.

    “Our friends and family fell in love with our soap,” Jeffy said. “When we came back [from Cambodia] they kept asking us if we had any stashed away because they had ran out.”

    Last November, Sapient Soap became their full-time endeavor and they began to scale up production. In December, they began selling at their first farmers’ market and in January, they became regulars at the University of Arizona Medical Center Farmers’ Market.

    Today, Sapient Soap and Sundries’ handcrafted merchandise can be found at many of Tucson’s local farmers’ markets, online and through many brick-and-mortar stores. Sapient Soap sells a wide variety of products including hard soaps, body butters, facial toners, lip balms and facial creams. Each of these products takes at least two months of planning and experimentation to perfect and anywhere between two to nine days to create. Jeffy and Mahaffey add no artificial oils or scents to their products. Instead they infuse their soaps with raw ingredients in their homemade lab. After all of that planning and hard work, the resulting product is nourishing and safe for the skin.

    “What we do is half chemistry and half poetry,” Jeffy said. “We quite literally make food for the skin.”

    Mahaffey and Jeffy take both halves of that equation seriously. Each one of their finely-crafted soaps is influenced by Mahaffey’s background in classics and Jeffy’s background in literature. Each soap is named after an important author such as Tolstoy’s Turmeric, Kafka’s Coffee and Creme and Steinbeck’s Cedar. Sapient Soap wants you to love those authors as much as they do. That is why they wrap every soap with a page from one of the authors’ works.

    “We like to pass on a little bit of light reading to our customers,” Jeffy said, “even if it’s just a small passage, we hope that people will find it unique and like the author enough to pick up their work.”

    Mahaffey and Jeffy’s educational backgrounds are not the only factors in Sapient Soap’s success. Their travels across the world have helped inspire their recipes. One of their first creations, Heidegger’s Health Soap, is created using frankincense and myrrh tears because of Jeffy’s observations of the Bedouin tribes of southern Egypt. Other soaps were influenced by Mahaffey and Jeffy’s experience meeting an artisan soap maker in Cambodia.

    Jeffy and Mahaffey’s formula of raw ingredients mixed with experimentation, hard work and a little bit of exotic flair has allowed them to build a devoted following.

    “A vast majority of our business is returning customers,” Jeffy said. “Once people know that we focus on what it does for your skin, they fall in love with it and become lifelong customers.”

    You can find Sapient Soap and Sundries’ calendar of events on their online store. All orders placed online come with free hand delivery for anyone in the Tucson area.

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