Cynthia Dalzell, owner of the Lake Superior Soap Company, shares her story.
How does an artist, gardener, and weaver turn into a soap-maker? It’s all part of how we make a living on remote Madeline Island in Lake Superior.
Almost twenty years ago, our family was camping through northern Wisconsin one summer. We tried many different campgrounds, but the kids kept asking to go back to one particular town; we were hooked on Bayfield. Tucked along the coast of Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay, Bayfield was a charming town, complete with cobblestone streets and lovely sandstone buildings.
You can’t spent much time in Bayfield without eventually finding yourself on the ferry to Madeline Island. So across the water we went one day and roamed the island. After exploring for just one season, we knew we wanted to return to this land of vast beaches, ancient forests, and wild waves. We enjoyed it so much that we ended up living here year-round.
We bought the old Madeline Island Dairy and moved our family of three children, four dogs, several cats, a handful of chickens, and a flock of sheep and goats up to the lake. It took over a year to renovate the hand-hewed log farmhouse, built in 1895, into a livable space.
In order to live on the farm during renovations, we remodeled the old ice house, which was once also the island butcher shop and blacksmith. It is now a lovely little guest house and also makes a nice soap-making studio. Over the years, we have renovated the chicken coop, turned the machine shop into the ram shed, and continue to renovate the traditional, red Wisconsin barn, originally built in the 1930s.
I have raised sheep for over twenty years, and they never cease to amaze me. They produce the most beautiful wool that we turn into rugs, hand-spun yarn, and other textiles sold at Woods Hall Craft Shop on the island!
And it was at Woods Hall that my adventure with soap-making started when another soap-maker stopped providing soap to the craft shop. Being adventurous, I decided to try my hand at it. But I didn’t want to make just any soap; it had to be as beautiful to look at as it was to use. I wanted a soap style that embraced the wonderful designs and painting techniques I had learned over the years. I also wanted the colors and fragrances to be as natural as all of the other items we produce on the farm.
After a few years of experimenting, we have created a line of soap we are proud of. We hope you find them as enjoyable to use as they are to make.