Eugene Weekly : Gift Guide : 11.24.10


Eugene Weekly’s Gift Guide 2010:

Reduce, Reconnect,  Rejoice! More ideas than just “coupon good for one massage” 

Organic on Your Skin Soaps made with love and garden herbs 

Caffeine Up Get through the holidays with the rituals of tea and coffee

Birds of a Feather Art and fashion in Poppy & Moe

Between Children and Young Adults Gifts for tweens straddle the line

Wood from the Heart Bad economy leads to lovely toys

Life, Death and Water Soothing fountains arise from crises

Drool-Worthy and Local Start a new, natural tradition

Kiss the Cook Better yet, get the cook one of these great holiday gifts

Genius Gift: Make your own Fizzy Water

Organic on Your Skin
Soaps made with love and garden herbs 
by Suzi Steffen

Holiday Market shoppers expect to wander through aisles scented with lavender, patchouli, lime, mocha, pad Thai and other mixed soap and food smells, all of them good, some at war (advice: Stick your nose in a bowl of coffee beans to remove the other scent memories). But only one stall has carrot cake soap.

That’s Christelle Munnelly’s Moon Root Soaps, a business that came about because, let’s face it, knitting needles are not ergonomically correct.

“I always wanted to start a business,” Munnelly says. Her mom picks and presses flowers on the East Coast, so Munnelly was used to traveling to arts and crafts shows on the weekends and used to thinking about how to run a vendor-owned and created stall. 

The first-grade teacher (she’s in her third year of teaching and knows she might be on the chopping block when 4J makes its decisions later in the year) moved from New York to Oregon for grad school a few years ago and liked it so much that she stayed. “I like the creative flair,” she says. “Everyone’s so friendly.”

Originally, Munnelly planned to create a company based around knitting. But she knitted so much that she developed carpal tunnel, which ended that idea. One day she picked up a soap-making book and decided to give it a whirl in her kitchen.

“Then I made a lot of soap, and then I started doing the Saturday Market,” she says, as if it’s a natural progression to the market from her house — where she grows many of the herbs that she uses in the soap.

Of course, Saturday Market sports soapmakers at every turn, so the fact that Munnelly succeeded during the two economically depressed seasons of 2009 and 2010 must mean she’s doing something different, and probably right. The vegan, 90 to 100 percent organic soap (her ingredients come from Glory Bee and Mountain  Rose Herbs), body butter, mists and massage oils don’t have synthetic ingredients, and she feels strongly about sticking to that mission.

“A lot of people want sandalwood soap, and I love the smell too,” she says. But for the essential oil from Austalian sandalwood, the price for a 16-oz. bottle nears $700, and a synthetic, Munnelly says, “is about $10.” So no sandalwoood Moon Root.

Her commitment to organic, natural and local sourcing includes her delivery method. Every day after school, she makes three batches of soaps and takes them around to the stores that stock her products (Kiva, Sundance, Capella, Friendly Street Market and Imagine Gallery) using her bike or, if she has to, a biodiesel car. 

Munnelly’s not afraid to experiment, to end scent lines that aren’t selling and create new ones. “I had 21 flavors,” she says, laughing, “and some weren’t selling, so I dropped ’em, but the other day I was like, ‘Why don’t I make a fennel soap?’”  

So alongside her “signature” carrot cake and orange cocoa soaps, alongside the body butters, look for a new anise/fennel line, and maybe something with grapefruit as well. GG

Christelle Munnelly and Moon Root Soaps will be at the Holiday Market through Dec. 12.