The popular e-commerce site, Etsy, is camp to, well, a lot of things. Customized jewelry, fandom-themed stationery, personalized clothing — just think it and it’s likely some artisan out there in the sprawling world wide web is selling it.
But when it comes to Amber House Soaps, the city and state listed below the shop’s title bears a name a little closer to home: Clovis, California. In fact, the brand itself was inspired by the local street where the house-based soap studio resides.
“My husband and I have been married for 20 years, and decided to move into Clovis seven years ago,” explained store owner, Amanda Albin.
They purchased a home that was a total disaster, she said. Amanda and Tom couldn’t live in it during renovations. We purchased a home that was a total disaster on Amber (Avenue), and completely renovated it so we couldn’t live in it ... “ ‘The Amber House’ became a nickname for our home.”
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Even after moving in, the moniker stuck.
Albin grew up in neighboring Sanger, studying her way through Sanger High School and both of Fresno State’s undergraduate and graduate communicative disorders programs.
She landed a full-time job in Clovis Unified School District, and worked as a speech therapist for four years until the birth of her first son, Nathan.
Spending more time at home with her growing family became a top priority, prompting the mother of three to transition into a position as a substitute for eight more years.
But amidst the changes in her professional and personal lives, Albin came to a realization: “I always had a creative drive,” she said. “I found speech therapy clinical, and not as rewarding as I’d hoped — it didn’t tap into my creativity as much as I wanted it to.”
See, the do-it-yourself lifestyle has always appealed to Albin, with her former scrapbooking days remaining as a fond memory. And after her second son, Eric, was diagnosed with severe food allergies at age 2, she became more vigilant with what he consumed and put on his body — and that meant thinking outside of the box.
Turns out, store-bought soaps and detergents irritated her son’s skin because of his nut allergy. So, undeterred, Albin looked to YouTube tutorials and books for inspiration.
“I started with just soaps, and would play with scents and colors; experiment,” she explained. “I’d come up with more and more ideas that I wanted to try, so I had so much soap that I either needed to sell it or stop.”
Albin decided on the former. She’d already been making soap for her family for several years when she asked Old Town Clovis’ The Foundry Collective if the merchant sold local, artisan products.
Interested, the business instructed the burgeoning entrepreneur to bring in samples of Albin’s newly developed bath bombs — they were a hit.
The Cold Process soap-making method Albin employs to create bars and Amber House Soaps’ latest, more innovative products require some sense of scientific know-how — as well as a heavy dose of trial and error. Albin uses vegetable-based and eco-friendly ingredients, infusing various oils, colors and fragrances to keep things fun and fresh.
One batch creates 12 bars at a time, and if Albin’s extra focused, she can produce six batches in a day’s time. She then sets the creamy, colorful concoction in a mold to harden overnight, anxious to see what will be awaiting her the next morning.
Bath bombs are a little more precise and cumbersome in their development, allowing just a small window for Albin to add fragrances and color before they’re poured into a mold. It takes between four and six weeks for the product to harden and be used.
“I typically do small batches so I can be more artistic — the integrity of the artistry is important to me,” she said. “I want the products to make a difference.”
Amber House Soaps offers about 15 different products year-round, rotating seasonal scents and inventive specials throughout. Its handmade bar soaps remain a popular go-to for returning Etsy shoppers and patrons of north Fresno’s La Peau Spa and French Twist Salon in Old Town Clovis. But the introduction of the shop’s bath bombs line has really created some fizz around the business.
Along with the ultra-moisturizing benefits, the bath bomb creates a bit of a show for bathers, too. This winter, Albin designed a bath bomb that, once fizzled out, presented a hidden toy inside.
New ideas that are currently on the developer’s brain include doughnut-shaped and waffle-shaped bath bombs that have interesting patterns as they fizz, as well as chocolate-scented bath truffles for Valentine’s Day.
Colors, scents, shapes — any factor that will offer an entirely unique presentation is on the table for Amber House Soaps.
“I’m always working on new stuff, researching and trying to make it more of an experience,” Albin explained.
“It is a luxury item; it’s not necessary. But I like making things that people buy to spoil themselves. They’re fun and a neat thing to create.”
Follow Amber House Soaps’ Facebook and Instagram pages or visit the Etsy shop to stay up to date with the latest products.