Photo by Morgan Browning
Junior co-presidents Ellie Westhoff and Isabella Kloster stand at the front of room 402 blasting music and pouring melted soap into star-shaped jello molds. About 15 noisy students gather in the room on Thurs. after school, watching the process intently before attempting it themselves.
After finding a box of solid soap base in her sister’s closet when she was in seventh grade, Westhoff began experimenting in making her own soap just for fun. About a year later, Westhoff bought a metal soap lab that stayed in her dining room for nearly two years until she expanded it in her basement. With the lab, she practices three different processes of making soap: cold process, hot process and the melt and pour method.
“I was always the type of person where if I found a craft I would have to do it immediately,” Westhoff said. “This is what led me to my hobbies of making soap and then also making coasters and baking and painting.”
Although Kloster doesn’t have the same passion for soap making as Westhoff, she thought that sharing her best friend’s hobby with others would be something new for them to do together.
“I don’t really have a background with soap, that’s more of Ellie’s forte,” Kloster said. “Though sometimes I would go over [to her house], and she’d teach me something new or help me make something when I was stressed out.”
At the end of the first semester, the two girls approached their previous chemistry teacher, Susan Hallstrom, with their idea. Kloster became close with the teacher this year and would come in early most mornings to hang out and talk in her classroom. Since they knew a science room would be the most logical spot for the club, their decision for a sponsor was easy.
At first, Hallstrom was skeptical about the idea and questioned whether or not the club would have enough members to stay afloat. However, after considering her own passion for science, she knew there would be students interested in the unique club.
“It sounded like a fun idea,” Hallstrom said. “Soap making has been part of human activity for a long time. Even though the science behind what we now know as saponification was not understood for centuries; making soap is an application of science.”
According to Kloster, since the club began on Jan. 5, an average of about 12 students have attended the club each week. The girls hope that number will continue growing as the year progresses.
During the first weeks at club, Kloster and Westhoff taught the members about the different soap processes and how to do them. In the upcoming meetings, they will be practicing the three processes and will be making their own bars of rainbow swirled and lavender scented soaps.
If their club succeeds, the girls can see themselves eventually creating some sort of business that would produce not only soap but other bath products as well.
“Ellie and I have been trying to get an Etsy going for ages,” Kloster said, “I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.”