When Life Hands You a Lemon

By Judee Fong

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Laura Thompson, Moss Street Market's soap lady.

When life hands you a lemon, Moss Street Market's artistic soap lady Laura Thompson knows exactly what to do. Laura's "lemon" was a devastating case of dermatitis caused by her job.

“I was a nurse’s aide 32 years ago,” she says. “I began wearing latex gloves to protect my exposed hands, but discovered I was also allergic to latex, which was practically unheard of back then.”

Leaving her job, Laura pondered what to do next. She needed to find a soap gentle enough for her sensitized skin. “There wasn’t anything out there, so I decided to make my own,” she says matter-of-factly. It took six months of trial and error to produce her organic soap. Prominent among her soaps are lifelike fruits, veggies, seashells, rocks, plus the traditional bars of lavender, rose and mint soaps, Laura keeps a basket of lemons up front. "It's my best selling item," she says with a smile.

Mostly self-taught, Laura uses her natural talents for sculpting and painting to create her organic soaps. “I have this knack of looking at something and seeing it like a photograph in my mind,” she says. “I make my soaps the way I see them. I use natural ingredients for scents and colour: lemon zest, mint, lavender, cinnamon and ground parsley flakes, to name a few.”

Laura’s fruits and vegetables look so real that a few years ago, a food inspector and his clipboard included her “produce,” among the local organic farmers. At that time, Laura had baskets of green Anjou pears, miniature sacks of new potatoes and a heaping mound of button mushrooms as part of her display. Laughing, she recalls, “The Inspector had his clipboard and was checking off the mushrooms and the pears asking me if all my produce were organically grown. I just looked at him like, “You got to be joking?” When I told him they were all soaps, he looked sheepish and walked away!”

Laura doesn’t keep photos of the fruits or vegetables she has crafted as she finds it restricts her creativity. “What I made six months ago may not be what I make six months later. And if I do make it again, I’ll have a different version as I like my art to evolve. I like to sit and make things without any previous influence.”

A few years ago, Laura had crafted beautiful life-sized peaches and she still makes them today. “I make half peaches with a big pit in it,” she says. “I used to make what I call ‘free-stone peaches’ and whenever someone bought a peach, I would give them a free peach pit. If they’re having a bad day, they would get a ‘pit’ to signify their pit of a day. It cheers them up and I get a smile from them.”

Laura has had many challenging special requests that gave her additional opportunities to flex her artistic skills. “There was a basketball that went back to Japan; and I made a wooden crate of Brussel sprouts for a lady who had written a book called *Brussel Sprouts and Unicorns*; and I made 250 kiwis for a wedding in a kiwi orchard. I made the little wooden boxes and each held two halves of a kiwi. The star-shaped seeds were poppy seeds and embedded by hand. It was a fun project to do.”

Currently, Laura is busy creating soaps for the Moss Street Market Christmas Craft Fair held at the Fairfield Gonzales Community Hall, December 13th and 14th in the Garry Oak Room. Afterwards, Laura takes a well-deserved break for a month or two.

“By mid-January, I get real itchy to tackle my list of ideas, giving me a few months to build my stock for the start of market day in May 2015.”

Laura is reachable at 778-440-0550. For the first time, there will be an indoor Winter Market each Saturday from Noon to 2 p.m. from November 2014 to April 2015 in the Garry Oak Room of the Fairfield Gonzales Community Hall at 1330 Fairfield Road.
For more information on the Moss Street Market, visit: www.mossstreetmarket.com or call 250-361-1747.




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