Date of Birth: 12/07/1983
Where do you live: Gzira
Star Sign: Cancer
Occupation: Soap Maker
Charlene Mercieca’s career in soap making started thirteen years ago and evolved from the study of herbalism and using herbs and natural ingredients for treatments. She then went on to transform these concoctions into objects, such as bars of soap, which are common in every household.
Back when she started, she found that many people were willing to support her. However, there were also those who did not understand what she was doing or even worse, those who tried to shut her down for good.
It was certainly a bumpy ride to get to where she is now but one which she does not regret taking as she gets a lot of satisfaction from what she does. Her shop, ‘Soap Café’, has been visited by aroma therapists and master perfumers from around the globe, including one person who designed perfumes for Guerlain.
Throughout the years, she has always enjoyed the support of her clients who believe in her products and with whom she shares experiences.
We all need role models to motivate and inspire us. Who do you admire most?
That is a bit complicated since I have a number of role models, or people who inspire me. There is Tesla, who was born in the 18th century. He is your typical mad scientist who came up with what we now refer to as air-conditioners. And then there are a few other people. Celebrities never really inspire me to be a better person. My mother inspires me, certain friends and everyday people tend to inspire me in a variety of ways.
We know that you are excellent at preparing soaps, but are you any good at cooking? Do you have any signature dishes?
Yes, I am actually a very good cook. Basically, I am not the typical person who cooks just because they follow a recipe. I tend to cook depending on what’s available at the time. Somehow, I always come up with some really good stuff. Just like cooking, soap making is effectively combining a bunch of chemicals.
Even though most people might not see it as a science lab, I treat them as chemicals and when I smell certain scents, certain ingredients, they make sense to me. And even though most people would not combine an ingredient with another, I have an intuition on how a dish will turn out. And again, this is just the same when it comes to soap-making. I use everyday ingredients such as milk and honey in my soaps as well. It is almost like cooking in a way.
St. Augustine said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”. How do you feel about travel?
I love travelling. It is something that I miss because since I have opened my shop, my travelling has decreased substantially. The responsibility of owning a shop is more than what most people would think. It is something which I always have on my agenda. I already have plans on how to travel the world and do what I love, that is, make soaps.
Have you ever been in an embarrassing situation? Can you tell us about it?
I tend to get into very embarrassing situations. This happened quite a few years ago. I needed to catch a bus and as it happens, I was dressed all in white, trousers, top and all. When the bus arrived at my destination, it didn’t really stop, it just slowed down. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I fell, flat on my face hitting the ground. My trousers and top ended up totally grey and I had to go back home to change. It was embarrassing because I had to go home on foot, a 20-minute walk, in the state I was in. Once I had changed, I then had to go back out to catch another bus.
If you could be doing anything else professionally, what would that be?
Probably, it would actually be cooking. I also love television. I would love to have my own programme, someday. It could possibly be a combination of the two.
The artisan beauty industry in Malta. What is your take on the subject?
In all truth, it is basically non-existent in Malta. Most people, do not realise that in this type of work, it is not just a matter of how well you make a bar of soap, it is essentially realising how much detail goes into making it. If not used properly, the natural ingredients it contains may cause an allergic reaction.
Many people think that natural products would not have any adverse effects. In fact, certain natural products can cause severe problems and if not used properly, can actually be harmful. So it is not just a matter of creating a bar of soap, lotion, cream or make-up, but to actually create them using a combination of skills. To be able to do this, I had to obtain certain certifications which include beauty therapy and aroma therapy. I have also been trained as a skin specialist and a herbalist.
There is therefore, a lot of study behind each and every bar of soap. Although it is getting quite trendy for people to make their own soap at home, most people should realise that more knowledge and expertise goes into the making of these products than one might initially imagine.
Malta’s artisan beauty industry has a long way to go. There is still the tendency for people to opt for big brands. It is quite hard to change that mentality and create products which are just as good as those brands as well as being much more natural.