Busting bad guys and making scented soaps couldn’t be further apart.
But Tim Ferguson doesn’t think so.
He’s done both.
After 25 years with various RCMP detachments around the Lower Mainland, and then another 20 years as a fraud investigator at the Vancouver Stock Exchange, Ferguson and his wife Lisa now concoct scented bars of soap in the kitchen of their Port Moody home.
Their aromatic creations, which also include various balms, bombs and body butters, make regular appearances at farmer’s markets in their hometown as well as Burnaby and Coquitlam.
Ferguson said his two careers aren’t as disparate as you might think.
“As police we learn to talk with people, so it’s kind of a natural segue,” he said on a recent Wednesday while setting up their Moody Essentials booth at the Port Moody Farmer’s Market.
In fact, it was at such farmer’s markets the Ferguson’s began their journey to becoming soaper makers.
Lisa, who used to be a civilian member of the RCMP then got a science degree and now teaches anthropology, said the couple spent so much time on weekends visiting various markets they decided it might be a pleasant side hustle/retirement project to just become a part of the scene and making soap is something they could do together in their home.
Using an alchemy consisting of a bit of science and a lot of trial and error, along with conversations they’d have with other soapers (yes, that’s what craft soap makers call themselves) as far away as the Magdalene Islands, the Ferguson’s started creating their own soaps using high quality oils like avocado and calendula.
The key, said Tim, is finding the right mix of hard and soft oils to create soaps that might offer more lathering properties, better scrubbing properties or just feel soothing.
Lisa is the scent specialist, dipping into her vast collection of essential oils that she keeps in cabinets in the basement of their home to give the bars their unique aromatic signatures.
Again, she said, a lot of her work involves trial and error, as well as reacting to the desires of their customers.
One of their creations, based upon a recipe from the 1800s, even caught the attention of the New York Post newspaper that was chasing down a story about a resurgence in popularity of Old Brown Windsor soap after it was mentioned in a biography about Winston Churchill.
Turns out, the traditional spicy soap was also favoured by the likes of Queen Victoria, Napoleon and explorers Lewis and Clark, and while the Ferguson’s told the reporter they had it in their production line-up, they hadn’t noticed it particularly flying off the shelf.
The reporter hung up, disappointed.
Their potential moment of fame passed, the Ferguson’s are already gearing up for the Christmas season, even as temperatures rise into another summer heatwave. That’s because once a batch of 52 bars has been allowed to dry for about 24 hours, they’re then cured on seven-and-a-half foot tall racks in the basement for at least six months.
Then they’ve got to be packaged, and online orders need to be fulfilled.
It’s an interesting retirement challenge, Tim Ferguson said, as the couple navigates how to fuse their creative impulses with the hard realities of making a few bucks.
But at least it doesn’t involved handcuffs.