Beyond the soap dish: Outer Banks artisan specializes in realistic-looking faux food soaps, delightful combinations
Published 6:00 pm Sunday, July 30, 2023
Dawn Gibbs got her start in soapmaking, surprisingly, by making birthday cakes.
“When my daughters were little they wanted custom birthday cakes, like 3D Barbie cakes. Who can afford to go out and get somebody to make a custom cake when you have three girls?” she laughed. “So I learned cake decorating.”
She found that on the side of aesthetics, the crafts were not that different. She started out by making baby shower soap favors and “it just grew from there.”
For the last five years, she has run Classic Suds, making “unique, dessert, and faux food artisan soaps.” She sells her items on her website, on Etsy and at Salt Cave in Kitty Hawk.
To see a display of Gibbs’s soaps, you’d think you were attending high tea – cupcakes piled high with frosting, French macarons, petit fours, perfect pink doughnuts dipped in frosting, and multilayer slices of cakes are just some of the dozens of soaps she creates.
She makes mini and full-size cake soaps and pies like lemon meringue, pumpkin and raspberry vanilla. Most customers use them for decoration or slice them to pass out as gifts or party favors.
She’s expanded in recent years to include some savory-type soaps as well. These unique items have set her apart in the world of soap makers.
Her bacon and eggs soap, make from a silicone mold and hand painted using high quality cosmetic-grade mica, caught the attention of a woman at a market.
“One lady at a craft fair, she saw the bacon and eggs and she went nuts,” Gibbs recalled. “She told me, ‘For 50 years, I’ve made my husband two slices of bacon and an egg for breakfast. I’m going to unpackage that and put it on his plate.’ I never did hear how that went over,” she said with a laugh.
Other popular gag gift food and drink soaps include shots of Bourbon on the rocks, a hot dog with or without fries, a classic hamburger, a mug of “Sudweiser,” and a complete lifelike TV dinner made of steak, macaroni and cheese, sliced carrots and dessert – all made out of soap, of course!
She made the carrot molds herself using silicone and pressing a real frozen carrot into it until it hardened. Her daughter designed the vintage-style TV dinner wrapper.
“Things just pop into my head. I really have to curb my ideas because the possibilities are endless!” she said.
Gibbs makes T-bone steaks, some of which have been requested by customers to actually smell like beef. Most of her food soaps, however, are scented with fresh and pleasant fragrances.
Beyond the food soaps, Gibbs makes the ultra-popular whipped soaps, single use sea glass soaps sold in a mason jar, and some silly soaps like multicolored pickleballs. She also offers body lotions and bath bombs.
Her soaps are not only creative, but they are made with high quality ingredients, all natural butters and moisturizing oils. They feel luxurious on the skin and wash away completely, without leaving a residue.
Her decades of work experience as a nurse have helped her in her soapmaking endeavor. She has worked as director of a surgery center, and now works part time in IV therapy.
“With my medical and science background, attention to detail and quality is very important to me. Everything is clean and precise,” she said. “But you’ve got to have eye appeal, too. You’ve got to draw attention to it.”