Lye & Ash
Lye & Ash is an Oak Cliff company specializing in aromatically blended bath and body products. You can often find founder Praveena Jane Parsons at Little D events, and I was thrilled to meet her at All Out Trinity. Across her table were soaps, aroma waters, and bath beads made from ingredients we won’t find at Bath & Body Works: pandan, a plant often used in South Asian desserts, kusmi tea from France, and styrax, which soothes respiratory issues. Each aromatic blend is like a first edition book, never to be reprinted.
I experienced Lye & Ash’s Jasmine-Rose-Vanilla soap for the first time while listening to Janet Jackson’s Control in the shower. Music and soap have never worked together so well! As I washed, the lather seemed to envelope me in the energies of Aphrodite and Kali, making me feel feminine and powerful. In a world that tells us such things are mutually exclusive, this blend of aromas challenged the lie that women can’t be soft and smell good while being in control of our futures, thoughts, and bodies.
The Love Scrub, scented with lavender, rose, and cardamom, gave two pronounced experiences. In the hot shower the scrub felt refreshing and cool, but not so cold it caused discomfort. Its texture reminded me of being at the beach for the first time in years and feeling the sand slide across my skin. I was on vacation in my shower! This contrasts with how the scrub smelled. The lavender and cardamom together painted a picture of an evening at home: lights down low, spice tea beside me, and a good book. The texture and scent gave the scrub two distinct energies that each wanted control, and both put me in such a good place that instead of picking a side I let them both take over at different times.
Together, both these products were just as promised by Lye &Ash’s Fascebook: good for the soul. To find out more about how Parsons came to know the perfect scent combos to move our moods, check out her Q & A below, and visit her at the next Commerce Street Night Market on March 30.
Q & A
What's your artistic origin story?
I started Lye & Ash after years of working with a former shop owner who created her own fragrances. I have always loved scent since I was a young girl. As a child I enjoyed the smells of lipsticks, powders, soaps, perfumes. I would venture down the soap aisles smelling everything I could get my hands on. Suntan lotion is probably my favorite smell. I worked in several fragrance shops including Neiman Marcus, I opened the first Sephora at the Galleria in 1999, and then worked for a smaller more boutique style shop for about a decade. I have always had a passion for all things that smell wonderful.
What is your mission?
Our mission is to create a perfect blend of aromatics and present it in a beautiful and artistic way. Creativity is key. I never make the same thing twice when I'm working with soap. Though the base is always the same, once I add my aromas, pigments, herbs, I always make sure they're original, never duplicated. Passion and creativity go into every new batch. I want every person who picks up a bar of soap to feel something, a spark, an emotion, any response whether it's positive or negative or maybe they just can't put their finger on it; they discover a smell can be powerful.
What inspires you to create?
Inspiration is so important to me. I am inspired by what I see, feel, and smell every day. I enjoy working with plants and when I'm in a nursery I get really excited and my creative juices flow. Squeezing rosemary between my fingers, breaking lemongrass stalks, pinching jasmine petals; they release this powerful energy of memory, discovery, a sense of old and new. I enjoy traveling around the world, and I discover new aromas, styles, and habits from each culture I meet. I want my product to reflect what I see.
How do you #connectwithcommunity?
Right now I am a pretty small company. I communicate through Facebook and through markets. Right now I am very devoted to Little D's markets. I love Terry's message and the way she operates. Keeping it small is what a community needs to grow and flourish. It feels personal and I love that. I don't have a website, I'm not on Instagram, and I don't send out emails. I'm almost a bit techno shy. I really enjoy talking with my customers, getting to know them, meeting face to face has a much deeper message than just taking orders through a computer. However, I'm feeling the pressure to do so and I'm not sure how I'm going to go about it yet. I just love being part of the Oak Cliff community and meeting the buyer.
Why is Lye & Ash important?
It's all about experience and how the consumer feels. I don't use any animal ingredients or anything that has been tested on animals. I test my products on myself, my husband, and my children. If they get a reaction then I start over. I believe in connecting with my community. Getting out there and getting my hands dirty — I don't want to hide inside my workshop. I think a company should be fearless when it comes to expression, whether it's political, religious, personal, or cultural. A company should show its personal side. I need to know that there is a real human being behind the name, and I think that has been lost in a lot of companies. Lye & Ash wants to break down those barriers. Being a tiny soap company doesn't mean we can't make big statements.
What has Lye & Ash taught you?
It has taught me to have fun and be fearless in what I do. Even if I fail, it's just a mistake and I have recovered from many mistakes before. I've learned to get back up and try again, and have fun doing it!
How are you different from others working in handcrafted arts?
Don't take it too seriously. People should lose themselves in their creativity. It's like walking in the dark and knowing exactly where everything is. I use my intuition and memory as a guide. The moment I lose those two tools I find that I'm stuck and I hit those road blocks, I stall out. If it feels good then I go with it, nurture it, feed it. It makes me artistically stronger.
What advice do you have for someone beginning a similar endeavor?
Have no fear. And start small. You don't have to have a lot of money or even a business card to get started. You just need creativity, drive, and that one thing that starts it all. For me it was a bar of soap. Then I paid a vendor fee, bought some fabric, paper, and I got creative. I'm still growing!
What's a little-known secret about the business aspect of your art?
I never make the same thing twice. Why? Because I think there's this magical energy in every bar I make that you can't see or touch—but you can feel it.
What's your favorite combination of scents?
My favorite combo??? That's a hard one. I don't think I have one. Maybe I just haven't made it yet.