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Artisans: Heart of Traditional Wetshaving

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Artisan Products

While going through vendor links in the 5th edition of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving to make sure they were still working, I began reflecting on the vendors now gone. It struck home particularly with the loss of one artisanal soap vendor this past year (Susan Moore, of Saint Charles Shave, whose daughter Wendy is continuing the operation) and recent illnesses of two others (Krissy of and Sue of and Mama Bear’s loss of her home and all its contents in a fire.

I got to thinking about it: many fine products for us traditional wetshavers are made by one- or two-person operations. These little companies, so vulnerable to vicissitudes of daily life, have a cherry-blossom quality: they bloom for a while and then, inevitably, are gone.

It’s a sobering reflection, but no less sobering is the realization that the same is true about ourselves: we get a brief time in the sun, and then must make way for others to have their turn. How do we deal with that?

The most constructive response, it seems to me, is to enjoy our lives as much as we can. Most of us quickly grasp that riotous, undisciplined living soon requires long stretches of time—not enjoyable at all, and in fact quite the opposite—to try to regain and restore one’s finances, health, relationships, employment, and so on. We understand that it’s better (and easier and cheaper) to find and exploit the many small sources of joy that arise in the course our daily lives. For example, we must eat, so it makes sense to find a way to convert that necessity into a source of enjoyment: in planning, in preparing, and in consuming. Eating merely to take on food as fuel foregoes some enjoyment you could have had in your life.

The connection to shaving is obvious, and I subtitled the book Shaving Made Enjoyable to emphasize the idea: if you must shave, then it’s important to figure out a way to make the task a source of enjoyment.

Artisanal products, which enable you to feel a connection with the artisan, can increase the enjoyment and—oddly—at prices that generally are less than those charged by commercial products in which the “artisan” is a corporation.

For example, using a handmade shaving brush, in which you know something of the maker, can be a daily joy. Rod Neep’s brushes, for example, have a distinctive look, and you can order them with a coin in the base, the year specified by you. (Full disclosure: I have already bought brushes for my two grandsons, each getting a coin from the year of his birth.) Peter Hyde uses more traditional English designs for his New Forest brushes. But in either case, when you pick up the brush, you know the story that goes with it.

For razors, you can get fine work from Bob’s Razor Works and Elite Razors—and iKon Razors seems very much an artisanal shop.
With shaving soaps and creams, aftershaves and balms, you have many choices—for example:

• Al’s Shaving
Em’s Place
Ginger’s Garden
Honeybee Soaps
Kell’s Original
Mama Bear
Nanny’s Silly Soap Company (in the UK)
Prairie Creations
Queen Charlotte Soaps
Saint Charles Shave
The Shave Den

Try using some shaving products that are associated with a person and that have a story. It will make your shave more enjoyable—and that’s the goal.


Michael Ham, author of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way, is retired and follows his interests in shaving and shaving products, cooking and creating recipes, reading books and watching movies. His blog,, reflects those interests. He can be found on Mastodon at [email protected].View Author posts

9 thoughts on “Artisans: Heart of Traditional Wetshaving”

  1. Ah, yes, another article linked to from Facebook that I eventually realize is archival. 😛
    The reason I bring this up is that several of the links to artisan websites at the end of the article are dead. A couple of the artisans seem to be out of business (which is an especially bitter irony given the topic of the article), but it also looks like Mama Bear’s web address has changed (assuming that is, in fact, the same company). The specific links to Ginger’s Garden and Nanny’s Silly Soap Company lead to 404 pages as well. (The same goes also goes for QED’s link, but a visitor can at least tell, as-is, that the website is still there.)
    Just figured it was worth a mention, since many of these artisans are still around (thankfully!). 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment. As I note in the article, these artisan endeavors have a cherry-blossom quality: they often live only for a few years—so their vanishing is not so much an irony as an example of what I was talking about.
      Prairie Creations, for example, is now gone, and QED’s soapmaker retired. (Though QED has a new soapmaker, the soaps are not the same). Queen Charlotte Soap is no longer in business.
      I note that I was working on the 5th edition of my guide to DE shaving. The current edition is the 7th.
      Ginger’s Garden:
      Mama Bear Soaps:
      Nanny’s Silly Soap Company:
      Hope this helps.

  2. Michael,
    Thanks to your book I discovered some of the small businesses listed above and have had the pleasure of doing business with them.
    Sometimes there is an advantage in doing business with the “small guy”.
    Thanks to all,

    1. What’s particularly nice is that small vendors are open to new ideas. I got to make a Fresh Lemon shave soap that I continue to enjoy, and now it’s part of the product line. (Recommended by me. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the pointer—I just ordered 3 pucks of the soap. Very pleased that I can specify round pucks. I have trouble finding square bowls or mugs. 🙂
      Looks like good stuff. I’m eager to try.

  3. This, in a nutshell, is why I love straight razors–especially the Japanese ones. For example, the Iwasaki razor in the pictures I put with my article…I know the hands that produced it, I visited the workshop where it was hammered out, I have seen the steel used to make it.
    It makes the entire experience so much more than just a simple shave.

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