by: Rita A. Leonard, Lori Basson, owner of Camamu Soaps, displays some of the handmade natural soaps that she fabricates and sells in her studio/showroom in Southeast Portland.

Brooklyn owner Lori Basson has been operating her new business, 'Camamu Soap Factory', for a year now, at 2021 S.E Clinton Street.

The 'green' soap firm provides a fragrant variety of handmade soaps, bar shampoo, and shaving soaps from all-natural materials. Basson makes the soaps from scratch using a basic recipe of olive, coconut, and palm oils, enhanced with natural botanicals and essential oils. Various gourmet food-grade oils are added to enhance the soaps' 'nourishing, moisturizing and healing' qualities.

Lori says that her bar shampoos are fully biodegradable, and are great for taking along on a camping trip. All her soaps contain no animal products, parabens, or synthetic fragrances, she reports.

Basson has practiced soap making professionally for six years. She loves biochemistry, and also has a degree in Nursing. 'I really like alchemical processes, and always wanted to make cheese and soap,' she explains. 'I studied cheese-making in Britain, but found that in order to do it the way I wanted to, I'd need my own farm.

'Instead, a friend and I experimented with making soap at home. We wanted a completely natural product, using all natural food and plant materials. Eventually, we ended up with a fair amount of soap, and decided to sell it.'

The idea was intended as an 'anti-corporate' statement, Basson admits. 'I think people these days are seduced too much by technology. We're losing much of the basic human knowledge that everybody used to know. For 'Camamu', I try to grow my own plant materials, and purchase all-natural products from other small businesses, as they also support me. I buy only from local suppliers.

'There's a nice synchronicity there. I sell soaps at People's Co-Op, Limbo's, Mirador, and New Seasons, among others. I buy their products, and they carry mine.'

Camamu Soap Factory, which is named after an idyllic small town in northeast Brazil, sells soaps by the bar and in bulk. 'Some of my soaps have seasonal popularity,' says

Basson, 'especially gardening soaps for the growing months, and heart-shaped bars for Valentine's Day and Mothers Day.'

The product lineup includes soaps for calming (Rose Geranium), removing cooking odors (Coffee Kitchen Soap), washing dogs (Primpin' Pooch Pet Shampoo), treating dry skin (Calendula Sunshine), sensuous healing (Cocoa Swirl), and lifting the spirits (Jasmine and Vetiver).

Soaps targeted to gardeners' needs (Atlas Scrubbed and Get Dirty Gardening Bar) include ground oatmeal and cornmeal for skin conditioning and scrubbing. Basson is pleased to have a fully operating kitchen in her soap 'factory'. 'I use wooden molds, and allow the soap to set for about 24 hours,' she says. 'Next I use a wooden soap-cutting frame, cutting or molding the soap by hand. Then I let it air-cure for about a month. Bulk soap is cheaper per pound than individual bars, since it requires less handling and packaging.'

Lori develops pleasing color combinations from natural ingredients. She adds such highlights as calendula and rose petals, ground rosemary powder, lavender buds and ground spices for fragrance and texture. Some of her soaps also include French green clay or walnut hull powder for cleansing, lime essential oil for deodorizing, and natural Vitamin E oils for healing. Many fragrances are based on principles of aromatherapy.

Basson continues to experiment with new soap formulas, enjoying the best of both worlds of retail and creative expression. Her natural cleansing products enhance Portland's love affair with 'green' products, promoting holistic, natural health.

Camamu's studio/showroom provides both work and display areas. In her showroom, Basson has hosted exhibitions of friends' paintings and glass art, and hopes to do a photography show soon. If you have further ideas for exhibitions there, or wish to purchase her products by mail, contact her at 503/901-7419.

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