After retiring from a life-long career as a cake decorator and pastry chef, Tina Anthony found an unusual outlet for the skills acquired during her career.

“I saw a magazine article in Victoria Magazine and they had these beautiful little petite fours. When I looked closer, they were made of soap. I thought, ‘I have got to do that.’”

So began her second life as an artisan soapmaker. Treasures of Eden Body Boutique specializes in an enormous range of uniquely hand-crafted products that include everything from deodorant to face masks to bath salts. And, of course, soap.

“There’s people who make soaps, and there are soap artists. It’s different. I’m a soap artist.”

Her unusual soap decorating style mimics what one might find on in an upscale bakery. They can resemble layer cakes or pies and other indulgent goodies. At the Neosho Farmers Market, her soaps are often initially mistaken as fudge, or even brownies. And with ingredients like coconut powder and espresso beans, these little pretties look good enough to eat.

And that’s sort of the point.

But she’s also interested in health and is always researching how different ingredients — like bavasu, olive, flax seed, or rice bran oil — affect the skin. In addition to being a creative outlet, Tina's interest in soap making is practical, too. The main reason she began making soap was because she couldn't tolerate the fragrances used in commercial soaps.

"My pitch for natural soap is that you’re not getting any chemical detergents, sodiums this and sodiums that. You’re getting pure oils, most of them organic, and they’re really good for your skin," she says. “I care about organic ingredients because I want to get as good of quality of oils as possible. I use my soap, and I have a very high standard."

Tina uses as many organic and/or GMO-free ingredients as possible, and she can provide 100 percent vegan soaps by request. She also uses botanical extracts, herb teas, hemp milk, aloe vera juice, and even beers, ales, and lagers.

Tina works in the cozy but bright kitchen of her historic house near downtown Joplin.  She uses a special soap calculator to calculate properties like hardness, conditioning, and cleansing. Cold processing techniques produce a workable batter that she can manipulate into complex shapes and designs.

The soaps firm inside of a silicon soap mold, and then Tina uses a simple tool that looks similar to a cheese slicer to cut the loaves into 1"-thick bars. Though she takes special care to decorate the surface of the soap, she never knows what the inside will look like until she cuts it open.

"That is the soaper's thrill," she says. "It’s an artistic outlet, and it makes me feel really good."

It's not uncommon for people to approach Tina's booth at Market because they think she's selling candy or individually-wrapped pieces of cake. Many of her other soaps look like earthy, smooth blocks of gemstones or dreamy ombre landscapes pretty enough to display as art. And with varieties like gardenia, lavender, lemon paradise, pumpkin ale, and more, she definitely has the best-smelling booth at market. These handcrafted, one-of-a-kind soaps make great gifts for others or a small self-indulgence for yourself.

“The most common thing that I get with customer response is that my soaps are too pretty to use. My counter is, ‘If I don’t spoil you, who will?’

Want to try before you buy? Grab a free sample next weekend. Tina is at Market every Saturday and also sells on Etsy.