GOOD, CLEAN FUN
Santa Ynez resident Breanna Guagliardo knows you’ll get clean with her homemade soaps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be dirty of mind when you do so.
Her Bad Granny Soaps feature all sorts of outrÄ subjects, from notorious figures such as Bonnie and Clyde to counterculture superstars like Divine, Bettie Page and Charles Bukowski to all sorts of kitsch from the 1950s. She also makes a “Fight Club” soap with raised lettering. They are meant to elicit a laugh from whoever gets a gift of the soaps in the mail. For a new business that launched just last year, she’s cleaning up well, you might say.
“People don’t have cool soaps,” she says. “They have liquid soaps or it’s just plain. But the imagery that you can use kinda adds character to your bathroom.”
Up until she discovered soapmaking, Mrs. Guagliardo was a tow truck driver (“It was cool. I was helping people out, like a Triple A kind of thing”) and then a housewife. (Her husband, John, works at an oil refinery in Santa Maria.)
And, yes, at 36 years old, she is a grandmother. Between the two, the Guagliardos have six kids, two from a previous relationship for John, two from a previous relationship for Breanna, and two young’uns between them. They have six grandkids and three more on the way via her stepdaughter’s new family (she just got engaged).
“They call me Granny Bree,” she says. “I don’t mind.”
Before catching the soap bug, Mrs. Guagliardo wasn’t an artist nor did she have a crafty, creative bent.
“It’s just random weirdness,” she says, describing her sudden interest in making things. Apparently, she didn’t rely on an experienced friend to show her the soap-making ropes nor did she spend a long time on YouTube. “I just winged it,” she says with a smile. “And it seems to be working out.”
The first soap she made featured a punk rocker from the movie “Suburbia” with “Ho Di Do” written over it. The next was “Nuns with Guns.” Having seen how easy they were to make, she declared them “super rad.”
The soaps are made in layers. She prints the pictures on water-soluble paper and that sits in the middle of a glycerin base with goat’s milk. When folks get to the middle, the paper just crumbles away and disappears down the drain.
Having mastered the basic block, Mrs. Guagliardo starting thinking of casting molds. She learned to take vintage figurines like cherubs, seahorses and skulls and turn them into molded shapes. In her cherub soaps, which she’s marketing for Valentine’s Day, she puts rhinestones where the eyes should be. “It makes them creepier,” she says with a laugh.
But she also makes some plain soaps “for old people who don’t like crass, weird stuff in the soap.”
She’s also moved into making bath bombs, and they come with a similar aesthetic: The Black Amethyst bomb in black and purple turns the water violet; the all-black skull-shaped bomb smells like eucalyptus and spearmint and leaves the bath water with a dark cherry color.
“I’ve been in my garage for days and days,” she says, having just made another big batch to sell. “It can be laborious because there’s so much drying time and different layers. But it’s working out because of a growing fan base on Etsy (as BadGrannySoaps) and Instagram (as @badgrannysoaps3883).
“Anything my brain just spontaneously comes up with that I think would be cool, I can use,” she says. “They’re quirks in my brain that I’ve turned into soap.”
Bad Granny Soaps are available online through Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/BadGrannySoaps and Instagram @badgrannysoaps3883.