Lesley Karpiuk, the creator of Geek Soap and crotched Cthulhu goodies at The Pink Toque, was nice enough to take the time for an interview for Girl Gone Geek Blog. Read it below and find out her inspirations, geekiest thing she’s done, geek soap making process, her favorite video games, what she’d take on a deserted island and more!
Also a big congratulations to the three winners of the Geek Soap contest and thanks for everyone who entered! It was really tough for me and Lesley to decide on winners for each of the soaps there were so many great answers!
Jesus won the Donkey Kong Barrel Soap! Here’s what he’s going to do with it: “If I won the DK barrels, I would use them as a mean for self-defense against guys in red shirts. Finally, after a long day of climbing ladders and rafters, I would retreat to my cave, and use my barrels to lather the stress away.”
V. Nerdy won the Hearthstone soap from World of Warcraft, here’s what they will do with it: “I would use the Hearthstone soap to unwittingly send myself back to Org mid-shower. Hilarity would ensue… including a flash-mob of whispers asking if I want some intimate RP action on the second floor of the Inn.”
Mister Z won the NES cartridge soap, here’s what he will do with it: “If I were to get the video game cartridge I would take it with me to PAX East when it comes back around and get it signed by the team behind Guild Wars 2. (They throw the best open bar/beta parties btw)”
Interview with Lesley Karpiuk:
Hometown: Greenwood, IN, but I’ve lived in Calgary, AB Canada for several years and am now back in Indiana.
How did you get into crafting:
I don’t know when, but I was young. I have been making things my entire life; as far back as I can remember. I must’ve had an active imagination as a child; I would make castles out of cardboard for my toys or draw backdrops for my friends’ Barbie playsets. I’ve always loved making things, and over the years I’ve tried it all at least once.
What made you want to take your crafting to the next level and start selling it?
When I first moved to Canada in 2006, I was unable to work. I had to wait on immigration for nearly a year before I was legal to work, and so I spent most of my days knitting or sewing. (in addition to A LOT of World of Warcraft, lol.) I started a craft blog during that time in 2006 as I was learning how to knit and sew, and I started making things that people were interested in purchasing. I decided that since I couldn’t get a proper job in Canada yet I would try to sell some of my handmade creations online. Etsy was barely a year old and most people didn’t know what it was yet, and I opened a store there. My husband also built me a store website and I began selling my wares online by the fall of 2006.
Where do you get ideas for your soaps?
I get the ideas for my soaps from my own geeky interests. It started with Batman soap; in June 2009 the very first bar of GEEKSOAP was made, though at the time I didn’t know it yet. I designed some soap for my best friend’s birthday and it was a huge hit. I started considering doing more with geeky soap (I had made soap back in college, but really basic stuff.) but at the time, we were getting packed up to move back to the states and it was no time to start a business. Once we got settled in and got our own place state-side, fall was beginning to hit and I was making and selling the crochet Cthulhu hats that I designed online in preparation for the winter months. The idea came back to me to get into soapmaking again, and with Cthulhu as my inspiration, I created some Cthulhu soap and began selling it online. It was a big hit and I just started thinking of all of my other geeky interests – gaming especially – and began turning those themes into original soap designs. Making GEEKSOAP is so fun because I’m passionate about all of the geeky references personally.
I know you hand make each soap individually, how long on average does it take you to make one soap?
It depends on the soap, really. Some designs require a lot of time and are a two or three pour process depending on their complexity… others are a single color and may just need to be poured and allowed to set for an hour or two before it’s ready for final detailing. Most of the designs I’m known for I also made the molds for, and that process can take days or weeks to get them just right before the molds are ready for use. For example, I sat one day and carved a hearthstone by hand out of a block, which took hours. I was really picky about how it had to look. Then I had to patiently wait several hours to make sure the mold formed properly and hand carve out the curvy interior piece to complete the look. I’m really proud with how it turned out. After spending two days on one mold, I can now make a hearthstone soap in a couple of hours. So sometimes the soap itself doesn’t take long to make, but the process of making a mold you can’t buy at the store can take days. It’s part of the fun of making something new that didn’t exist before!
Any funny stories related to making and/or selling Geek Soap?
My favorite stories involve neat custom order requests. For example, I make soaps in the shape of N64 cartridges. I had someone contact me and ask if I would make a custom one for his (hopefully) soon-to-be-girlfriend, because playing a certain N64 game is how they met. (Their first date consisted of him asking her back to his place to play this game on the N64. When she accepted, he said he knew she was the one. Awww!) He wanted a custom label for the game and the girl’s name carved in the top, like the old school way we used to etch our names into cartridges so when we took them over to our friends’ house we’d remember who it belonged to in the craziness of a big gaming party. The result was so lifelike and realistic! It was presented to her to ask her out formally as a symbol of their first date and how he knew she was the one. It worked, and I got the sweetest letters from both of them.
What are some of your favorite geeky obsessions?
Gaming, for sure. I’ve played a lot of the well-known games over the years and blogged about it; some of those posts have ended up being featured on the front page of major MMO company sites, like Blizzard. I also geek out about making things and DIY; especially if I can involve my favorite things like gaming, Star Wars, or Cthulhu. I’m decorating my baby’s nursery right now, and besides the geeky dinosaur theme we’ve got going on that was promoted by ThinkGeek, I laughed at the contents of a shelf we just hung in his room – it’s filled with Star Wars stuffed animals, Cthulhu toys, and a set of Mario and Luigi plushes.
(I love Nintendo and all of the Mario games!) Go figure, right? I also geek out about technology, especially when it involves education. I’m a teacher who taught in the classroom for several years, and after years of creating walkthroughs in video games or tutorials on how to use creative digital scrapbooking software in my personal time, I’m now working my dream job – I teach teachers how to use their technology and create “walkthroughs” on how they can use their technology to engage student learning. Social media and web 2.0 tools are a geeky obsession of mine as I try to keep up and find more ways for teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms.
If you were on a deserted island what would video game would you bring? (this deserted island has electricity)
No question about it, I would need a Nintendo. It could be the old school NES machine, as long as I had my 8-bit favorites – all of the Mario games and Dragon Warrior. If there was a way to have all of the Nintendo consoles and all of the Mario games ever made for all of those consoles, I’d be in heaven.
What what was geekiest thing you’ve done?
This was a hard one, but I guess the geekiest thing I’ve done so far is to sell my geeky wares at a gaming convention and give Wil Wheaton a bar of my GEEKSOAP in person. Wil even autographed one of my game cartridge soaps for me! Selling behind the booth at Gen Con last year was a BLAST! I met so many other amazing geeks and networked with people all over the world that I have formed great relationships and friendships with, thanks to being a geek and our shared nerdy obsessions.
What’s next for Geek Soap and The Pink Toque?
Well, for now I’m getting ready to go on a little “maternity leave” – my son is due in a month. After I get back, I have some new ideas for both shops that I hope to release that will be new and exciting and never before seen elsewhere. Being that my whole world right now is preparing for my first geekling next month, I have a lot of ideas rolling around in my head for more kid-friendly geeky designs in both soap and fiber. I can’t wait!
Yes! Don’t be afraid to take a chance, go out on a limb, and let your creations be seen! Find your niche and do it well; be original and strive to create new things in everything you do. And most importantly, don’t forget to treat your customers like family instead of a number; communicate with them and be up front and honest with them always! It will go a long way in helping to support your success.
Where can we find you in the web?
Lots of places! (Have I mentioned another geeky obsession of mine is keeping up with all of my websites?) – my original craft blog from 2006 and crafting portfolio is located at http://www.thepinktoque.com. I show off the wide variety of things I make there and blog about what projects I’m working on and GEEKSOAP related stuff. I currently have two shops online to keep soap and fiber arts separated; GEEKSOAP is at http://www.geeksoap.net and my Cthulhu creations are at http://shop.thepinktoque.com. You can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thepinktoque and I keep a Tumblr of geeky things I find and want to share at http://geeksoap.tumblr.com. When it comes to personal stuff, I blog over at our family blog at http://www.thekarpiuks.com too. You’re probably not surprised to hear I have a couple of Twitter accounts to go with all of that; @geeksoap, @thepinktoque, and @thekarpiuks. My GEEKSOAP account is my main Twitter, though. I have a couple of other domains that I’m in the process of working on; they may be related to some of my geeky kid-friendly future plans so they’re not ready yet :)