Today’s post is by reader Evie Cotton, whom many of you know through her Reader’s Perspective posts or as the maker of Pride & Prejudice themed soaps. Today she tells us about her new project with her P&P soaps. Welcome back, Evie! News flash: Evie has added a special pledge level for Austen Variations readers. Pledge $25 to her Kickstarter and receive 2 exclusive Lizzy and Darcy soap sets!
I have a confession to make… Pride and Prejudice was not always my favorite novel; in fact, my favorite wasn’t even a Jane Austen story. I was a die hard Jane Eyre fan since the seventh grade. I skimmed through the JA novels periodically but had the impression that her work was much better on the big screen than the small page. Boy was I wrong!
The first time I heard about Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, I was getting ready for my morning, eating a quick breakfast in front of the news. When the newscaster brought out a copy of PP&Z using words like “phenomenon”, “craze” and “disturbingly fun” to describe it, I knew that I had to get my hands on a copy. To my surprise PP&Z had such a long waiting list at the library there was no chance that I would be able to check it out anytime in the next six months. Soooo, off to Amazon I went.
After devouring PP&Z, I checked out my recommendations and to my blissful surprise found that the Pride & Prejudice stories were not finished yet! Thus, my obsession began. Next on my list was “The Phantom of Pemberley” by Regina Jeffers (Readers, if you are looking for a ghost story, do not get this book. If you are looking for an exceptional read with twists and turns and surprise endings, this is the one for you!). After that I read “The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice” by Abigail Reynolds, and I found a completely different, modern tale of Pride and Prejudice. It was lusty and delicious, filled with heartache and passion and at the end a happily ever after.
Since that time, I have read over 300 different variations of Pride and Prejudice. Not only are these variations a great diversion, but the Jane Austen community is as strong and diverse as the characters in Jane Austen’s novels. While Jane Austen wrote personalities and character traits so perfectly, she did also leave a little to the imagination. The 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice created Colin Firth devotees the world over but did Mr. Darcy really look like Colin? What about that other Darcy? You know, the one who played opposite Keira Knightly (I’m sure you can guess where my loyalties lie). Whoever your ideal Mr. Darcy is, one thing is certain; while reading our novels we want to be enveloped in the experience.
Through my hand-made soaps, I’ve developed a way for you to experience your beloved characters in a new way. We all know that Lizzy’s signature scent is lavender and Jane’s is rose, but what did Colonel Fitzwilliam smell like? I have an idea. What we know is that he was a military man. He lived with his men, sometimes in a tent on the battlefield. He would have been surrounded with tobacco smoke and English tea but because of his family’s status in the world he would have also had access to some more exotic teas. He is the essence of masculinity. What about Georgie? She wants so much to emulate Elizabeth but she is also a young playful girl so a combination of lavender and citrus seems fitting for her.
I compiled all of the descriptions of Pride and Prejudice’s personalities and created a soap for each character, including Austen Variations’s Theo Darcy. You now have the ability to read your novels and smell Fitzwilliam Darcy in the room with you (in case you were wondering, he smells of sandalwood and lemongrass).
My line of Pride and Prejudice inspired soaps is slowly starting to gain in popularity. They have found their way to England, Switzerland, Canada, Brazil and the US. I have sold them at several conferences and craft fairs as well as maintaining a booth at White’s Farm in Brookville, IN. You can purchase these soaps off of my Etsy page and they’ll be for sale at the JASNA AGM in October (Check out the Edmonton Region’s booth). Next year, I hope to take them to the 8th annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY. Or you can get them by donating to my Kickstarter.
Now I have a special opportunity to turn this into a real business. I’ve been invited to sell my soaps at the Johnny Appleseed Festival in Ft. Wayne, IN this September. This is an exciting prospect which will provide me with the ability to reach a larger audience and may even provide me with enough income to sustain a permanent store front in my own community. Although it eliminates much of my travel expenses while enabling me to better provide for my family (as Jane herself said in Mansfield Park, “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of”) it requires more up front money than I currently have on hand.
At the suggestion of several friends and family members, I decided to try a crowdfunding experience with Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a company that allows people to donate to various projects with the understanding that if the funding goal is not reached within a small amount of time, no money will change hands. This puts me in a tenuous position; I’m running on faith that the wonderful people in my community will come together to help me on my way. We only have 24 days to raise the funds, so the urgency is very real. Please Please give to my kickstarter. Donors will receive my soaps as well as my thanks!
For more information about me, how I got started making soap, my kickstarter goals and to donate, please visit my Kickstarter page. You can visit the webpage for my business Shirley’s Handicrafts (named after my grandmother) here.