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seem soap savon responsable artisanat Paris

16 June 2021

Studio Seem Soap – the power of shapes and colors

Behind the brand of ethical soaps with surprising colors and shapes, Seem Soap, there is Mathilde Lehmann. We met her at Studio Seem Soap, in Montreuil, where it all begins. She get back with us to the history of the brand.

Mathilde Lehmann savon éco responsable artisanat respect environnement

You have a diploma from an artistic formation at the prestigious Haute École d’Arts et Design (HEAD), how did you come to create soaps? This may surprise!

I studied fine arts in Rennes and after that I did a two-year Masters at HEAD which was really focused on art. I did a lot of technique, sculpture, molding, etc. And it wasn’t enough for me that my sculptures were just standing in space. I wanted them to be activated, to be confronted with a mode of use. I felt very close to design, it always fascinated me a little. So when I left HEAD, I did a six-month internship at AD Magazine. I was the photo assistant, I took part in the shooting etc … I was around the world of design at that time, and I really liked it, more than the world of art!

What won you over ?

The beauty of objects, but I also found what I lacked in artistic sculpture. The beauty of an object: yes! But which also has a function. A utility that pushes to manipulate the creation, to be in contact with the material. It opened up a whole range of possibilities for me between design and art, design and architecture, design and decoration. I didn’t have any design credentials, nor did I know the history of design, I learned everything on the field, doing this internship and I really enjoyed it.

It also allowed me to project myself into entrepreneurship. I have always wanted to be autonomous, independent, but I had not necessarily thought of creating a company. It was the desire to work on a useful, everyday object that led me to this questioning. Soap came to be a very interesting object to work with. An object that offered a lot of possibilities in terms of shapes and colors. The soaps we see are always fairly standard, square, round or oval; and fairly identical, sober colors. The adventure began with designer Valentine Sée. We created the studio together then my partner concentrated on other projects, and I continued! Before launching Seem Soap, we tested a lot of materials, molds. We experimented by pouring soaps in the shapes we found everywhere around us. It made us realize the extent of the possibilities available to us.

The thought took its course and the object was created. We presented the project at “Now! Le off” of design week, at the Cité de la Mode. In this show room there was everything! Lamps, furniture, chairs… It was funny because we arrived with our stone-shaped soaps, wondering what we were doing there … In fact the project was very well received ! We had direct contact with designers, the press, dealers, lots of people! We realized that we really had to do something with our creations. it was a bit of a way to test people’s reception even if we didn’t fully admit it to ourselves yet. We wanted to see if they were going to be interested or not. So we created a company to produce and sell our soaps. We made the molds from the universe that inspired us the most, namely the precious stones, with quite vivid colors. And the permanent collection was born!

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Why precious stones? Why is this rather than anything else?

When I was a kid, I used to pick stones like all children, but I never stopped! It’s both visual and very interesting to the touch. Soap is something you touch every day. We wanted to create an object that could be embellished. By breaking all the codes of soap, we made it a beautiful and useful object.

Your soaps are so beautiful, you almost do not dare to touch them. Was there in your first idea a wish to desecrate beauty through use or rather the wish to make everyday use sacred?

I am rather in the desacralization of the beautiful. I love the beautiful but I love that it can be used! I don’t want to see it just standing there, no more touching it. Even in decoration, in my inspirations, I like beautiful objects, but which also have a function. And I am not afraid to use them! When I buy a really nice candle, I’ll light it, I’m not the type of person to “leave it decorative” for years.

Having said that, I know that there are a lot of people who leave soaps in decoration for a long time. They then use the soaps, after having looked at them enough. Why not ! This is at the user’s discretion. There are people who try it directly. We have nevertheless worked a lot on ergonomics, handling, even if it looks like stones, these are shapes that are quite pleasant to the touch and handling.

There is the idea of offering an experience but also of offering more responsible soaps. Five years ago and still today, the return to solid soap wasn’t very expected although it is progressing. I have seen a lot of brands created and developed solid soaps since then.

Can you explain to us what is wrong with liquid soap?

So there is already a question of packaging, then there are also products harmful to the planet, to the skin, whereas in solid soap we are in a product that takes better care of the skin, which is much more respectful for the planet. It’s mostly a question of commitment.

Did you encounter any difficulties while creating and producing this more ethical soap?

Yes of course ! We did a lot of testing … At Seem Soap Studio, we use hot saponification soap. Our supplier is in Nice. We tested for a long time, looked at the ingredient lists. You really have to take the time to go through the ingredient lists. We carried out tests, prototypes, for the face, and the body… We turned away from cold saponification, because when it’s cold we could not have the expected shapes and the smooth side. We therefore opted for this type of saponification, the base of which is already saponified. I pour it myself, and I add pigments and perfumes. I have my little recipes! There are plenty of hot saponification soap bases more or less organic, ours is natural!

Mathilde Lehmann, you are a visual artist, what difference do you make with the profession of craftsman?

A craftsman makes an object that he will reproduce… There may be a more mechanical idea. There I create an object that I have designed and I reproduce it endlessly. The plastic artist will make unique creation, the artist works on one subject and then another subject … It’s not the same creative process. I would say that I am more of a designer-craftswoman. However, it was my background as a visual artist that allowed me to get there. I went from artist to craftsman, but only thanks to everything I have learned and developed as a visual artist. So I don’t consider myself to be an artist. It’s true that there is a plastic dimension in my creations… It’s quite ambiguous, it’s sculptural, a handmade work, a creativity, new shapes, new colors … Not to mention the pigments that I work to find new colors. There is indeed a very plastic side, but in the process I feel closer to designers than artists.

How is your creation process going? How do you determine the shapes and colors of your handmade soaps?

Creation is quite instinctive. I’ve been creative since I was little. I love the colors. They are all already present in nature, after that it is a bit of a search for imitation of nature. We are inspired by it, and we reproduce what we see. On the subject of colors, I also keep an eye on trends. I have my boards that I adapt. For the patterns, we started with more linear, fairly minimalist patterns. Then we did some chores! We wanted to have two aesthetics. One with a lot of character and the other which is expressed more gently.

I saw that you have made a number of collaborations, how does a collaboration come about?

Garance Vallée, for example, a Parisian artist designer, contacted us with the desire to do a collaboration. She sent us sketches, we discussed them. We were heading towards something mineral. We reworked her sketches to suggest something. This collection is interesting because we change the molding technique and I finish by cutting with a knife. So we really find my experience of physical sculpture. Each piece is truly unique since it is cut manually. There is also the idea of the precious stone.

Lex Pott, Dutch designer, for his part, told us about his desire to do something around the pebble. And funny thing, it’s a craving that we were thinking about too. The collection resulting from this collaboration includes two axes: a first where we molded from real pebbles, which we picked up on the beaches of Normandy and a second where we focused on the universe of the place, the lying of sun for example.
A collaboration but two very different soaps with a gradient of colors. It is quite a research to find the technique of nuances.

Has confinement stopped your creation?

There was the egg collection that came out for Easter. The idea came to me last year during confinement. As we were confined and I had nothing to mold, I started to mold in the eggshells. And it was actually more about taking pictures, something aesthetic, and it really liked it! A lot of people have asked me if we can buy them. So I thought to myself that I was going to release a collection for the coming year!


What is your favorite stage ?

I like the production stage. The moment I cast them in the mold. But I think I prefer the design. I do research, I draw them, I make models, in paper, in folding … Then in 3d, then the mold with the 3d. I am working with a 3d designer for the molds. I have a machine that heats up, that sucks in and encompasses the form. When I unmold them, the edges are raw and I shape them by hand. I leave them, I remove the small imperfections and then I pack them.
Having that touch before they’re finished also allows me to sculpt the final tactile experience.


Seem Soap creations are to be found here !

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