daufuskie island artisan

Daufuskie Peach

When Jan Crosby started experimenting with home-made soaps, she had no idea that she would eventually become the number one provider of bath and body products for Daufuskie Island. With an impressive variety of scents and products, “Daufuskie Peach” pleases the taste and style of anyone who comes through her door. Her soaps are made and sold in-house, which invites customers directly to her back porch.

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Oddly enough, the roots of Daufuskie Peach began with a dinner party. A handful of Jan’s friends attended John C. Campbell Folk School, where students can choose to learn about a variety of hand-made crafts (wood-turning, pottery, blacksmithing, spinning, etc). These friends came together for dinner and showed off what they learned during their attendance of the folk school, from French Bistro cooking to doll-making. “I came away from that dinner so inspired,” Jan explains, “I thought, ‘I want to do something crafty and creative too!’”. While checking out the folk school catalog, the category of soap making jumped off the page at her, and she was immediately hooked. Jan started doing research and became more interested with the more she learned. She started playing around with soap bases and essential oils to get a feel for the creative process. Eventually she realized her desire to make the soaps from scratch, which is a much more intensive process than using a soap base. “I experimented for a better part of a year on and off before I actually sold anything,” Jan says.

After about one year, Jan was convinced to showcase her soaps at a fundraising event for the Daufuskie Island Community Farm and Artisan Village. “I sold a fair amount considering I’ve never sold before,” she recalls, “People thought it was great, and I thought ‘I need to start a business!’” Daufuskie Peach was formed, and Jan had success initially by selling her soaps at the local farmers’ market.

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At first, Daufuskie Peach was based around 8-10 soap scents. “I then realized that I really needed products that compliment the soap,” she explains. She thought about what she, as a customer, would hope to find at a bath and body store. Jan knew right away that pump lotion was to be added to her list, and over time richer products such as body butters and scrubs entered the mix. Lotion sticks were later added for convenience sake. “I carry one with me always, in my purse,” Jan says, “It’s just so handy.” Her newest addition is a bath bomb, which hit the market last month.

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In addition to soaps, Daufuskie Peach offers lotion bars, pump lotion, body butter, and scrubs.

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Bath bombs are the newest addition

“I had to start [Daufuskie Peach] part time at first,” Jan explains. She had a full-time job and two children along with her soap-making. “You hit a crossroads sometimes where you have to make the decision – what’s it going to be?” Jan left the financially security of her full-time job in 2015 to commit completely to Daufuskie Peach. Would she change anything if she had the chance? “No regrets,” Jan says with a smile.

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the soaps offer a scent for everyone

Jan has over 30 scents including peppermint, honeysuckle, lavender, and a “camp fuskie” bug-off bar. Common curiosity wonders what Jan’s favorite scent is. Her top three:

  • Black Raspberry “The first time I smelled it out of the bottle… it was one of those ones that I immediately had to make.”
  • Islander “It’s the combo of the coconut lime with a little extra coconut in it… I knew it would sell great.”
  • Lemongrass “I love the exfoliation of the poppy seeds. It’s so fresh and citrusy but earthy at the same time.”

Even though Jan creates a number of additional bath and body products, the original is number one. “Soap is still my favorite.”

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Daufuskie Peach products make a great gift!

Jan draws inspiration from the island for her scents, and she is lucky enough to call Daufuskie her home. What does she love most about living on Daufuskie? 

“Something I realized very early on was that there is such a strong sense of community here… It’s such a great place to raise kids. You can really control the pace at which life hits these kids here. Because it’s such a slower pace, they grow up to be more conscientious and observant about the community, the environment and the people they are around.”

 

Check out Jan’s online store at www.daufuskiepeach.com!

“Daufuskie Blues”, the indigo artisans

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Leanne Coulter and Rhonda Davis have hit the Daufuskie artisan scene with their new endeavor, Daufuskie Blues. These ladies use organic indigo to create eye-catching dye patterns on scarves, cloths, and other fabrics. Indigo is culturally significant to this area of the South, and Daufuskie Blues is honored to be carrying on the tradition with this unique and tricky dye.

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a selection of Daufuskie Blues’ indigo-dyed fabrics

Before the synthetic age in the late 1800s, using the indigo flower was the only way to obtain blue dye.  Interestingly, the first successful cultivation of indigo in America was done by a 16-year-old girl named Eliza Lucas.  After her success, indigo quickly became one of the colonies’ largest exports.  Indigo was economically important because blue dyes were so rare, and it represented a status of wealth. Civilizations were shaped by their choice and ability to produce indigo dye, and South Carolina was no exception.

Rhonda and Leanne started Daufuskie Blues after taking an Organic Indigo Vat workshop together.  “We spent the next two years on our front porch. We’ve had an indigo vat going almost consistently ever since we took that class two years ago,” explains Leanne.

The “Blues girls” create an indigo vat by combining organic indigo powder with a fructose source, such as bananas, honey, henna, or any non-acidic fruit. Indigo itself is non-soluble in water, so you must break it down in the reduction vat. Leanne compares the vat to a kiln, in which you need to remove oxygen for the process to occur.

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the indigo vat

Once the dye is prepared, you can simply dip a material in the vat and pull it out. Interestingly, the color starts off as a light green. Only when it oxidizes with the air does it change to the indigo blue color. “It’s magical. It’s just so magical,” says Leanne. By adding folds, twists, or stitching, the Blues girls create a variety of interesting patterns of color in their fabric. Lately Rhonda has been experimenting with nautical shapes, such as turtles or starfish.

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When applied to fabric, the indigo dye is initially a light-green color.

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Rhonda Davis uses stitching to create nautical shapes

Why do the Blues girls love working with indigo? “Indigo is so different from any other natural dye,” says Rhonda, “…The culture, the history, the mystique surrounding it, the amazing way it physically works, and the process of maintaining the vat of dye”. Indigo vats must be given attention; it needs stirred daily and requires to be fed fructose to keep the dye active. “I mean, it’s like you’re caring for a little living thing, you know?”

Leanne is also drawn to the unique qualities of indigo and appreciates the complicated process it takes to create the dye. “Other dyes are so easy to use. You either cut the plant, get the root or whatever the dye material is, cook it up, strain it, and that’s your dye product.” Not so the case for indigo! The traditional way to extract the indica (dye property of the plant) is to place the indigo in a large vat of water, beat the indigo many times to allow the sediment to come out, drain the water, and repeat the process over again. “And that’s the process that was used in South Carolina,” adds Rhonda.

As Rhonda mentions, mystique and lure surround the indigo vat. Many believe that the vat must be kept “happy”, which means keeping it away from certain people. This includes pregnant or menstruating women, people who are depressed or suffering, unpredictable children, etc.

While indigo is the Blues girls’ staple dye, they have been expanding and experimenting with other natural dyes.  Can you guess what creates this natural pink dye that the ladies use?

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The answer might surprise you: it’s a bug!  Cochineal is an insect native to South America, Mexico, and Arizona.  The insect is crushed and dehydrated into a powder, which the Blues girls then use to create the dye.

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Daufuskie Blues is currently located in the historic Maryfield School.   Future plans including growing their own indigo to harvest their own dye, and providing education to visitors about the dye extraction process.  Stop by to learn more!