Quai Des Bulles in the village of Kamouraska in Quebec Maritime.
Soapmaker Wendy Bretz discusses the cleaning of the senses.
MRV: The Buzz, Your Outdoor Lifestyle Insider
Opening The Senses: QUAI DES bulles soapmaker
Chemist/Former Geologist in Quebec Maritime Village Of Kamouraska Discusses Aspects Of Her Science & Love Of The Outdoors
In the small town of Kamouraska in Quebec Maritime, life moves a little smoother...a little slower. For many people that brings a sense of calm but also inspiration. For Wendy Bretz who is a soapmaker at Quai Des Bulles, it is almost like meditation. With a background and training in geology,the transition with mixes and the preciseness require a similar mind. Bretz spoke with MRV: The Buzz Editor In Chief Tim Wassberg in the shop where she works about mixing, the senses and the allure of the outdoors in her new home.
The Buzz: My first question is to talk about the town. So being here doing this, what do you love about this town, first of all?
Wendy Bretz: It's very relaxed here. It's obviously a tourist destination, so the people here, I find, are generally more friendly to visitors. Everybody keeps their property looking really nice. The stores are all really cool. Every store you go into has unique things. The food is really good. And of course, the view. You can't beat the view here. It's fantastic.
The Buzz: I was talking to Pierre Broulette at Atelier. Being in this town seems creatively fulfilling, especially if you're doing something in aromatherapy. Can you talk about that and the blending of aromatherapy with this area, this sort of lifestyle?
WB: Well, all of our products here are organic, biologic, natural. And for me, I find making this soap is very therapeutic because of all of the perfumes and the scents and the essential oils that we use...it's almost like an art form. And we really pride ourselves in the quality of our product. We take our time and make sure it's done well. If it's not done well, we just don't sell it. And as you can see, we have just a huge variety. We have all the essential oils. We have, I think, 40 different kinds of soap.
The Buzz: When you're making soap, and you're trying to bring in all these different smells -- because people react as far as the five senses: how it feels, how it smells, how it tastes. Even how it tastes a certain way. Can you sort of talk about that?
WB: A lot of our soaps are geared towards certain things. So we have one which is basically charcoal soap and is really good for oily skin. We also have soothing soaps like lavender. We have things that are good for babies' sensitive skin. We have hypoallergenic soap with no perfume. But, of course, we have the really florally type of stuff. We have citronella shampoo, body gel, and soaps which are good for campers or just being in the outdoors.
The Buzz: How big is the outdoor thing here?
WB: Oh, here, it's huge. We live outdoors here. It's camping. It's college life. It's skiing in the winter. Of course, you don't need the citronella then. Home is where you go to have meals with friends and to relax at night, but everyone's outdoors here. As soon as you have a free minute, you're outside. You're either hiking, in the winter snowshoeing, skiing, building snowmen with your kids. In the summer time, it's canoeing, swimming at the beach. Just being outside because it's such a beautiful place to be.
The Buzz: People love to know who they're coming in to see. So can you give me a little bit, if you don't mind, of your background, and you ended up here.
WB: It's kind of strange (laughing). I've been living in this area for about a year. My husband actually moved us here to work at Bombardier at La Pocatiere. They make trains there at that factory. And then I found this job about a month later. And my background is actually geology, but I worked in a laboratory which is quite similar to making soap because the temperatures and the recipes all have to be very precise. So I found that it was a really good fit for my skill set. But also, it is very artistic as well. It's almost like science and cooking together.
The Buzz: Because it's all about education and technique versus what you feel.
WB: With the geology it was different because it's very precise measurements, and once you reach a certain point that things would melt, you'd pour them into dishes, and then you'd be done. Here, it's more artistic because you're working with the perfume, and the color, and how hard, and fast, and long you have to mix certain things, certain elements of the soap. Like these here. These are marbleized with a base layer soap and two different colors. Something like this when you've got two different colors, the way you get the color to stay on top is different than when you mix it in.
The Buzz: Is it like a churning thing?
WB: It's a big chaudron. It's in French. It's a big pot basically...a cooking pot. And then you have a - I don't know the words in English...forgive me - but it's a big mixer. A hand mixer that you can put for soups or stews. And then you have your oil, and you have your lye, and you mix that together. And you mix and mix and mix and then you have to find something called a trace. How big your trace is depends on what kind of soap you're making. So it's how thick the soap base gets. After that you put some to the side if you're making a layer like this. And then you put some to the side in two different pitchers if you're making different colors. You mix in the color, the perfume, then you add it all together, and then you let it dry overnight. Then you cut it up. We have our sechuary, see, which is our drying room. And the soap dries here for a month.
The Buzz: Wow. Do you do a lot of shipping and stuff like that?
WB: Yes, we now have a new internet site, and we do shipping, and it's anything that is $60 or over is free shipping.
The Buzz: My last question, is that this form of work seems relaxing and almost meditative. Can you talk about being out here, how it helps de-stress unlike in some cities.
WB: Before we moved here we actually lived in a city in the United States, and moving here it honestly just felt like I can breathe again. The sky is blue. People aren't running around always on their phones driving too fast because they're late for some appointment. Here it's just almost like Sunday drivers driving down the 132 looking at the ocean, I mean, everybody is more relaxed here because you're either on vacation, or they love their job, and they're here because they want to be here.
The Buzz: And you want to be here.
A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other things.
Make Sure To Stay At:
Camping Le Rayon De Soleil, which is located in Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska 18.6 miles East of Kamouraska. The campground is open from mid-May to the beginning of October and has 120 sites including 80 pull thrus including 15, 30 and 50 amp hook ups.