An Interview with the Artisans!
As the wet shaving world continues to grow and flourish, new artisans begin to jump on the scene: artisans who not only realize the benefit of traditional wet shaving, but spend careful time and research dedicated to providing products that help us to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy a well-crafted shave. Since this oftentimes becomes a hobby and - for many - a community, we thought it’d be fun to engage with some of our recent artisans and ask them a few questions so you can get to know them better, and buy with confidence!
Cooper & French: Minnesota-based artisans Richard and Stephanie have been making leaps and bounds on the wet shaving subreddit communities as of late, with a great selection of slick shaving soaps and comforting aftershave balms, all at a great pricepoint!
1. How did you get into wet shaving?
I was very unhappy with using canned foam and cartridge razors, both in terms of performance and cost for a long time. 20 years ago I had become so frustrated that I grew a full beard. Eight or nine years ago I flirted with a straight razor, but fell victim to my own ignorance and soon gave it up. Three years ago I made another run at it with similar results; on a whim I googled safety razors and soon fell down the proverbial rabbit hole of wet shaving.
2. What is your hardware (brush/razor/blade) of choice?
I have nine safety razors in my medicine cabinet! My Gillette Super Speed Red Tip and Slim get the most love. I still use the same 24mm synthetic brush I bought new three years ago. I have a large stack of sample blades thanks to a very generous Secret Santa last year, which has afforded me opportunities to try many blades. I find the Gillette Silver Blue razor blade consistently gives a great shave in a variety of razors.
3. What are your favorite pastimes and/or hobbies?
I collect and refurbish antique woodworking tools (time and motivation permitting). A finely tuned 100 year old hand plane is a thing of beauty to use.
4. Are there any influences or interesting backgrounds on any scents of yours?
My very first scent, Fresh Start, is my own essential oil creation. Born of the materials I had on hand and a half baked idea. It didn't really turn out how I had imagined it would. I very nearly tossed out the samples I had blended. It was my wife who prompted me to try it in a test batch. The scent is somewhat polarizing, I have found. Some people love it, others think it's too medicinal.
Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements: Arizona-based artisans known as Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements - or PAA, for short - have created an incredibly vast array of shaving products, from vegan shaving soaps, aftershave balms/splashes, and razors, to pomades and facial serums. Also, they’re the brains behind our extensively-tested shaving soaps and aftershaves!
1. How did you get into wet shaving?
I grew up watching my dad traditional shave. When he realized I was interested in what he was doing he pulled a step stool up to the sink, gave me a razor, sans blade, lathered me up and away we went! I wrote a father's day article about this very thing a few years back for the sharpologist for those interested: https://sharpologist.com/2013/06/a-fathers-day-gift.html
2. What was your job prior to producing wet shaving products?
I owned a design business in Costa Rica...Oddly enough the concept of creating my own products came to me while jobless and living in a hammock at the edge of a rain forest. But I have always dabbled. I took a couple soapmaking classes in college and actually created my first perfume at age 9, in between building bombs with my chemistry set. (truth)
3. The pith and captain’s hats have become a staple addition in many of your appearances. Is there any cool/fun background on this hat?
Well, being Douglas Smythe is a somewhat whimsical affair. That said, one needs somewhat whimsical accessories. I grew up in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, a very nautical place, so I expect the original influence stems from there. However, visually I think it's absurd to dress as a sea captain and live/work in the desert. The label for CaD is a fine example of such an absurd moment. I like visual conundrums.
The "Safari" hat or Pith hat, just so happens to be my hot weather hat of choice here in Arizona. I find the design far more functional than the traditional cowboy or 10 gallon hat. I soak the hat all night in my sink, actually weighing it down with a full scuttle. before I leave the house the next day i grab the hat, shake it off and plop it on my head. A soaked pith hat is evaporative cooling at its finest! Seriously, the Brits got it right with this design, I think everyone should own one! A pith hat is a lot like a vintage razor, form and function that demands respect. lol
4. If you could only wear one cologne/fragrance of yours for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Oh that is like one of those desert island questions...which I hate, lol. Last thing i'm going to be thinking about on a desert island is grooming! But I digress, hmmmmm I don't even have a favorite color! I find it limiting to pick favorites and I think that is obvious with the amount of different scents we offer at Phoenix Shaving! A lot of mine and Fran's moods/eccentricities are reflected in our business I think it's fair to say. I will say, when I finally nailed AL Fin, I felt like I finally made it, like I truly had something to offer the perfuming world. The name comes from the Spanish for "At Last", which is somewhat reminiscent of Archimedes "Eureka" moment, now that i think of it, minus the running around town naked part.
Sam, otherwise known as u/RocTraitor! RocTraitor is a widely-known and well-respected straight razor restoration guru on various wet shaving subreddits. He brings vintage classics back to life at budget friendly costs and ready for a shave that’s fit for a king!
1. How did you get into wet shaving, and what intrigued you to begin honing and overall restoring straight razors?
I've always wanted to get into wet shaving. I started out with a Sensor 2 that a mentor gave me - I really didn't know anything about wet shaving or cared too much until about 8 years ago, when a girlfriend gave me a DE with some blades and said she remembered her father using it, and thought I would appreciate it. Then I started looking into "old style shaving" which we all know is wet shaving -- Just went along with it for a while, then I discovered Reddit and the community there about this particular subject and started looking in SR's. I was searching on eBay and other sources for a SR to try and they were expensive to me at the time to "just try". During this time I was reading about restoring straights and I thought to myself, "Well that doesn't look so bad, I can do that for sure" and just picked up pieces here and there, talked to a few people for guidance and the rest is history. I haven't stopped since that point. I think it was about 5 years ago.
2. If you could only use one straight razor (gasp) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
It would definitely be a C.V. Heljestrand MK33 7/8 or thereabouts - nothing shaves like it. A close second would be a 13/16 extra hollow Geneva that I have, it's absolutely smooth and a dream to shave with.
3. What insight(s) can you tell us as someone who doesn't have the ability to hear, or what benefits/upsides have you experienced by not having the ability to hear?
Noble Otter: Also a fellow wet shaving redditor, Noble Otter has come out with a unique range of soaps and aftershaves, taking an interesting approach to the standard “barbershop” scent, and a benchmark fragrance “Flying Hide” consisting of dry leather and dark tobacco.
1. How did you get into wet shaving?
My wife got me a wet shaving kit for Christmas several years back. I have no idea where the kit came from but it was a pretty bad kit haha, but I absolutely fell in love with that method of shaving. Not only because it was a better shave but because it made me slow down for a little bit and appreciate a small thing. In today's society we rush around too much and don’t appreciate high quality things like we used to.
2. Being relatively "new to the scene" are there any other artisan/manufacturers' recipes from which you've drawn inspiration for your soaps?
I am a huge fan of Barrister & Mann. I am always trying to improve myself in the perfumery realm and Will at B&M is a big inspiration.
3. What is your favorite fragrance (soap, aftershave, cologne or even something unrelated)?
This is a tough question because its always changing! Soap wise right now it’s "Laureato" by Abbate Y La Mantia. But my favorite scent is the natural smell of the forest. As a lover of nature and backpacking, it just makes me relax.
4. If you could be any TV Show or movie character, who would it be and why?
You know... I never know how to answer these questions. I guess if I had to pick it would be Peter Pan in the movie 'Hook'. A man who loves his family and after awhile gains his sense of spirit.
As with all things in wet shaving, it's all about choices and diversity. "Different strokes for different folks" as they say. Someone may like bay rum, others swat it away with a vengeance. Some may prefer aftershave balms, while still others dare not partake of any post shave routine apart from the classic aftershave splash. These preferences, in addition to artisans' unique, personal upbringings and eccentricities can lead to some radically different products for us to enjoy! Hope you all enjoyed, and please leave a comment if there are any other artisans you'd like us to interview. As always, shave on!