Connecting with someone after having only talked for a few minutes doesn’t happen everyday. Treva Watson shares herself with you, her trials and her triumphs, and pours her heart and soul into the molds that form her gloriously transcending soaps and candles. Hard-working, determined, partnered with love, hope and prayer by her side, she’s created Diva Treva Soapworks & the newer Bohicket Apothecary, always drawing customers back for more. Soaps, candles, lotions, deodorants, bath bombs, laundry detergent, lip balm, skincare products, and more…
I’ve began repeating a mantra lately, “every second of my life has led up to this moment”. Intense as it sounds, I mean that everything before today has lead us to where we are now. Some creative impulses or business endeavors take years to discover, with obligation and resistance taking the front seat. But for those who continue listening to the creative voice inside, there’s bound to be fruit. For Treva, she’s loved candles and the power of scent for as long as she can remember and finally decided that she’d like to try her hand at creating scents and colors to match her creative inner being. We each possess our own unique way to communicate and the power of smell is Treva’s. I would definitely say that it’s a gift to all of us.
Our hippie souls connected this warm summer afternoon (yes, twas a while ago), sitting on Treva’s couch as she recounted her journey. Her house smells divine, by the way, with various stations of operation. Both basement and garage are scent factories, detailed with machinery, some newer and some old school, bottles, bags, and baskets. My personal go-to items that Treva has created? “Honeysuckle Patchouli” lotion, “Vetiver” & “Hippie Chick” candles, and her “Lavender” and “Barnwood” laundry detergents. OH, her laundry detergents are divine.
As far as I’m concerned, Treva is craft vendor that you cannot miss out on this Holiday Season! You can find her products at the Abingdon Farmers Market every Saturday morning and online!
Sarah: I was wondering your background and why you wanted to make soaps?
Treva: Ok, yeah. So, I moved here for Emory & Henry. I work at Emory, I’m in food service. So, I was living in Charleston, South Carolina, actually a small place called Goose Creek, which is near the naval weapons station. My ex-husband, that was his home. I also had family, and still do have family that’s at John’s Island. Are you familiar? I’m originally from San Diego and my Dad, when he left high school, he went into the Navy and he did the Vietnam and then he just planted right there in San Diego. Now, my Mom is from San Diego and so that’s where I grew up. And then I was fortunate enough to come to the East Coast and I went to Johnson & Wales (culinary arts school).
S: Oh my gosh! My ex-boyfriend went there.
T: So, I have a huge interest in cooking. Love cooking, I love food. So, I kind of dabbled into the culture that I did not get in San Diego, and I guess my Dad was trying to instill that with his children. It’s only three of us. So, food was part of it and the atmosphere and family traditions. Anyways, I left my ex and came up here with five kids and my intentions was just to be here, not sure how long, but to just be here as a transition onto a better life. Different life. So, my first trip up here I thought I was gonna be on the coast where the water is. From San Diego, I love beaches. Went from one beach, you know, to the other end.
S: Complete opposite spectrum!
T: Yes! Yes. And so, when I came up here I’m like, if I don’t get this job it’s gonna be ok. I’ll just go back to Charleston and we’ll be fine and I’ll find something else and I’ll stay where I’m at. I used to work at the Citadel and then I left the Citadel and went with Burger King and I’d done the Citadel (military college) for three years and Burger King for about two, and I realized this is not for me, I need to get back into campus dining, especially raising children. Ok. So. I come up here and I say it’s okay if I don’t get this job and I seriously prayed about it. I was parked right in front of McGlothlin Street, the building, and I said a little prayer and then I went on down to my interview and I interviewed with the GM at the time, the Dean, and then our regional…So, I got the job and I’m still tryna figure out the area, and there were certain things that I enjoy…one was burning candles, burning incense. There was no place around here for me to get it and then I discovered Johnson City, and Pier One was one of my favorite stores in Charleston. So, I would drive all the way down there to get candles, but one particular day I took a different route and I saw a shop and it was a soap shop and it was a woman who ran it out of a home. She did nothing but soap. I developed a great relationship with her. So, I started making candles. You take the base and you melt it in the microwave and all you had to do was add your fragrance oil and you put it in a mold. I was like, this is it? It was really easy and it made a great hard bar, but I wasn’t feeling it because at that point I’ve already tested natural soap at this woman’s shop and I said, I am so interested in learning how to make soap. And she’s like, I’ll tell you what, go on to the library, like you said you taught yourself how to make candles. I’m not gonna give you my recipe, and I’m like, I respect that. She says, find you a basic recipe, go ahead and make it, bring it back and I’ll critique it. She says, and when you come back, we’ll make soap together but I’m gonna have all of my oils already in the batch and just ready to go and we’ll mix and I’ll show you some tips.
S: I love it! She’s a mentor, but she’s also like, we each need to find our own way. Our own voice.
T: Yes, yes! So she was great. So, there was a company called Tennessee Candle Supply, which was in Jonesborough, TN. I’d go there to get my supplies. Everything I’ve done has been self-taught until later I found out that there were groups, like organizations. There’s, like, soap groups, candle associations.
S: And did you just look online to teach yourself? (is my millennial showing?)
T: I went to the library. I went to this library, picked up soap making books and candle making books. I would go to the bookstore that was in Johnson City. But mainly, I relied on our local bookstore, and then I got online. I guess I’ve been doing this now…it’s been twelve years total, and blogging was a big deal twelve years ago and you would follow other candle makers, other soap makers, and they would blog their journey. They would even give you tips and I guess if you’re dedicated and you wanna learn, you might have some mistakes, you just keep at it and then that’s what I did.
S: Just failing and…
T: Yep, I wasted a lot of product. But I just kept going and I didn’t give up and I didn’t sell anything for a long time. I was giving it away at work. Do you Monica Hoel? She does a lot with alumni. I would give her samples and stuff and she was like, oh, Diva Treva! And then that’s how “Diva Treva” came about. And then I wanted to switch, so later it comes to be “Bohicket”. I wanted a name that would be able to sit on the shelf at Heartwood and that was more professional than just Diva Treva. And then Bohicket is a road that’s on Johns Island, where my family grew up at.
S: That’s beautiful.
T: And the whole objective of that is that I said to myself, with Bohicket I would do more mature fragrances and I would work with more essential oils. I’m not a strictly essential oil person. I like to blend.
S: Where do the scents come from? And how or why do you come up with them?
T: Yeah, so like, lavender. It’s not just lavender. It’s a bulgarian lavender and then I would take a lavender 40/20. And then pumpkin spice. We know there’s not an essential oil in pumpkin spice so I just find a good pumpkin purveyor and it’s pumpkin spice.
S: And what is a purveyor?
T: Purveyor are companies that you choose for your supplies.
S: I see, that have the scent that you like. Does it come in little drops or something?
T: No, no. So, you have hobbyists, and they’ll get the little small bottles and then you have…
S: Big old honkin’…
T: Yeah, and it gets expensive. And I’m gonna say this because I think it’s important. So, a lot of times I order items and it’s too expensive to even think to sell, but I do it anyway because when you put something out you want to put something out that you love and hoping someone else will enjoy it. Like, this is another company and this is someone I look up to. I always support other companies. She’s called Future Primitive. I get a lot of my inspiration from her. You can smell this one.
S: Ooh, yeah.
T: She’s very earthy. I’m not a fruity person but if I do use fruit, it’s gotta be a really good one.
S: Oh, I love that! What I love is that scent is so powerful and that particular scent just took me back to a moment in my childhood, and I can’t remember what but I know that if I sat with it, I would be able to…it’s the most interesting thing that, like, scent takes you back to people or places.
T: It does. Yes, it does.
S: It’s so powerful.
T: It is. And I like her so much because her favorite oil is patchouli. I love patchouli. I love things like palo santo, but not everyone is into that in this area.
S: Asheville, maybe?
T: Yes, I love Asheville.
S: I’m sure you go to a lot of festivals there.
T: Yes. If I sneak patchouli in anything here, it’s gotta be something with citrus and then that seems to fly.
S: Like honeysuckle patchouli, which I have that. I love honeysuckle, it’s my favorite. We had a lot of honeysuckle around our property as kids, so we called our driveway…our driveway was really long and we called it Honeysuckle Lane.
T: Yes! Used to suck the honeysuckles?
S: Mmhm, so good. So, I love the honeysuckle patchouli. What is your current workload?
T: So, my typical nights are, I task it out…maybe one night I’ll do four to six batches of soap and then I take a break from that because it has to sit in the mold. When I first started out, I started out with a shoebox. A little plastic shoebox just making whatever work, and that was great but there were a lot of failed batches from that because wooden molds actually help the soap heat up. It gels, it goes to a phase of saponification and it has to get really hot so that it gels and that’s the beginning of the curing process. It’s that lye interacting with the oils.
S: The science behind it.
T: Yes, yes. So, where I sold my soap at first was at the Tobacco Flea Market. I did candles and soap. It was dark and gloomy inside.
S: Those flea markets are a place to behold and I’ve gotten some really cool stuff there.
T: And the people there, the staff there was so good to me. And I know that when I walked in they saw, we gotta new face here, and knew immediately I wasn’t from here. I guess from the moment I opened up my mouth. The guy there, he was so generous. And at the time, it was a struggle when I first moved here ‘cause it was one income, not two, and I was raising five kids, I’m renting a house, it was not as cheap. So, make the candles out of love but it also helped make my ends meet. It did. The babies are now eighteen, so now it’s getting a little easier.
S: And I saw that they just graduated high school?
T: They did, yes. Ok, now jumping back. So, I did the flea market for a couple years and then I was doing one show and this one show was Independence. Molasses Festival? They sold a lot of apple butter. I can’t remember…it was so long ago. And then I occasionally used to go to the wine store and I would treat myself to a bottle of wine on my payday at work. There was a young lady that worked in there…
S: Is that Catbird’s?
T: It is, uh huh. And she worked there. She was there all the time. She happened to see me up there that one show and she’s like, you know what? Farmer’s market is moving. I said, moving? She said, yeah, they’re building a pavilion in Abingdon and this would be a perfect time for you to get in. So, I applied. I started up the soaps there and the candles, that’s all I did. Soap and candles. When I got to the farmer’s market, I was the only one there exclusively making soap and candles. And then there was another young lady. She was selling shea butter. She was doing great and she knew that I sold it. I said look, we’re two different crafters so there’s no real threat there. You do you, I’m a do me, and stick with it. I guess the moral of the story is, I may be a soap maker there and candles but there’s not a threat because all of us are different in their own way.
S: Do you have a favorite process or a favorite product or something that resonates with your heart the most?
T: I love scent, so candles is gonna be number one. I love scent, I feel like I have to burn incense all the time.
S: Just to calm…
T: To calm down, yes. I would say candles first and soap relaxes me, to make the soap. I get to get creative. With candles, you’re not so creative, it’s more getting creative blending the scents but not with colors and it’s not as visual. When I started out I was doing a lot of my shopping at the health food store when it was across from Cargo.
S: Oh, yeah! Where the Choice is now? Where do you see your business going?
T: Of course you have dreams. I’m like, someday I want it to be sitting on a shelf at Whole Foods. And then I’m like, ugh, but I like it small because I’m not ready. Especially when you’re raising kids, you’re not ready to be…I think I’m just really comfortable with being small. It can be stressful, it’s demanding, if you’re having to push orders. It’s expensive, so if you go bigger, be prepared to spend more money and then with this, I spend a lot of money and sometimes I have to buckle myself down.
S: I think there’s a beauty in the simplicity of smaller businesses because of that. I think people have more control over it. And having some control, when there are so many things in our lives that feel like they’re out of our control is a really lovely thing. To have the freedom to say, if I keep it a little simpler then I get to call the shots on this thing. I don’t know. I think that’s why I love living in a smaller town, too.
T: I’m learning to love that. At first I’m like, this is not for me.
S: I was the same way.
T: But I don’t miss the traffic.