"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

An artisan creating comforts for body and soul

By on November 24, 2020 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Shawna’s work area could be mistaken for a kitchen with pots and bowls and shelves full of ingredients.

Story by Marlene Farrell

Photos by Kevin Farrell

As autumn days grow darker and colder, many of us pine for summer, just like Shawna Villalvazo. 

“A couple years ago I stood in my shop wishing I could be out by the river in summer,” she said. “I wanted the warmth, so I went to my soap pot and mixed up all the scents I remembered.”

The result was Naked by the River, one of the most popular soaps sold in Shawna’s shop, The Bubblery, in Leavenworth. 

Shawna holds a molded soap ready to be cut into bars.

Speckled with clay and sea salt, this turquoise soap has a sweet but earthy bouquet from a combination of apple, sweet grass and mint.

Each of the body care products in The Bubblery, from Moonflower and Sunset in Bali to Drunken Pear and Wild Pumpkin Fig, may entice a customer by fulfilling a sensory and nostalgic longing. 

Inventing new soaps, lotions and bath fizzers is Shawna’s favorite part of her work. “My research includes walking outdoors, looking at the sky and foliage on the ground or craving a particular dessert and then finding how these items can be made into a soap or body care product.”

Her work area is full of dozens of bottles and jars, containing kitchen ingredients such as turmeric, rosemary, ground ginger and coconut sugar, and lots of herbs like calendula and rose petals and lavender, as well as a variety of essential oils. 

The final step for this Moonflower bath fizzer is a sprinkle of gold dust.

“It’s always been important to me to use high quality ingredients and keep products affordable so everyone can have a little self-care when they need it and not have to break the bank. I make sure we are ethically sourcing and not using ingredients harmful to the planet or us.”

Shawna’s passion for the business is rooted in how the creative process has helped her heal from tough times in the past. Growing up in Idaho, Shawna was always experimenting in the kitchen and dabbling in the arts. She sold her bath and body care items at markets and events, and then opened a small workspace with a friend, having their young children with them in the shop most days. 

Things took a turn after her family relocated to Seattle. Shawna lost her mother to cancer and went through a divorce, bringing financial and emotional hardship. Eventually she remarried and relocated to Leavenworth. “Due to the encouragement of friends, family and my husband, I decided to get back into what I truly enjoy.”

Shawna gives all of herself to her business. “A typical day for me is working from the time I get up to when I go to sleep. The only thing I don’t enjoy is the paperwork.”

The Birchwood Bath Fizzer blends charcoal, calendula flowers, safflower, juniper essential oils, dark amber and birchwood.

Her generosity of spirit is revealed in many ways. She shared the name “The Bubblery” with friends who worked alongside her and moved away. Now there’s a shop in Nashville and Pittsburgh. “We operate our own businesses. I think we should all do what we love. It’s not about competition.”

In honor of her mother, Shawna has always given to charities affiliated with cancer research and breast cancer awareness. 

“I would raise money and send it out of state. Then it occurred to me that if I took the money across the street to Cascade Medical it could have a more direct impact.” 

From Shawna’s brainstorm, Think Pink, an annual campaign, was born. Through collaboration between the hospital, The Bubblery and other local businesses, thousands of dollars have been raised for free mammograms for uninsured and underinsured women during the month of October.

COVID-19 meant closing her doors for a few months last spring and going totally online. 

Sunset in Bali soap: A vacation for your imagination, this is made with sandalwood powder, mandarin and myrrh, and decorated with gold mica for some extra sunshine.

“During this time, we worked with the doors locked. The lights were off in the main shopping area. Looking back, it was symbolic of how we were feeling at that time, that there is good in this world despite the bad. We packed boxes with the intent of spreading joy. Everyone ordering was keeping us afloat.”

Moving forward, Shawna is guided by a trifecta of values: creativity, sustainability and gratitude. These are incorporated in her product, Milk Bath, a skin softening soak. 

“This season I’ve revived Milk Bath, because we so need time out and renewing, and I feel this does it on a whole different level. After a long day, this is the most nourishing for me personally.”

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