Arts & Culture News

Oak Cliff Soap's Ariel Saldivar Comes Clean on Art, Business and the Worst Scent Ever

I first became aware of Ariel Saldivar at Wigwam, the Oak Cliff holiday pop-up shop most recently hosted at Oil & Cotton. Her Oak Cliff Soap Co. soaps were for sale and I bought three. Fancy soaps are one of those rare treats -- like a bag of gummy bears, but less likely to induce a diabetic coma.

Handcrafted soaps are just one facet of Saldivar's creative work, though. Not long after our interview, she popped up in 5x6, short film that put five questions to six local, working artists, getting their thoughts about creativity, art and what it means to be an artist. Salidvar was featured for her national jewelry line, Olivia K. If you're keeping track, that's two crafts -- soap making and jewelry, but wait, there's more. She also sings opera, lent her vocals to Broken Social Scene and once had an impromptu lunch with Sir Richard Branson. She's currently the associate director of the Goss-Michael Foundation and blogs about art history in her spare time.

Why soap? At the time she was trying to come up with a fundraiser for Oil & Cotton, the creative exchange and art education forum in Bishop Arts. Soap was something she could make that would generate scholarship funds so little neighborhood Picassos could attend classes for free. Oak Cliff Soap Co. premiered at the third Wigwam and raised over $1,000 for students. At six bucks a pop, that's pretty impressive. Keep in mind this was the second business Saldivar launched and her years creating and marketing Olivia K certainly helped her avoid some earlier missteps.

"It's great to have big dreams and big visions, but the reality comes down to dollars and cents. There are things to consider that none of us really want to consider -- not just the cost for supplies, but the cost of branding, too."

While researching Earth-friendly packaging, Saldivar stumbled across a YouTube video in which a woman used recycled coffee filters to individually wrap each soap, and Saldivar ran with the idea. Oak Cliff Soap Co. branding feels handmade because it is -- handmade, hand-wrapped and hand-stamped -- and it's all OC, even the logo created by local designer Lily Smith-Kirkley.

The scents were a team effort too. Oatmeal came first and then friends suggested sandlewood as not to alienate dude-bros. There's strength in collaboration, Saldivar says. "I think that's the smartest, greatest thing you can do as a small business owner -- always get advice from everyone. It's definitely not all me."

The good news is she promises never to make a bacon-scented soap. Hallelujah. Since she makes soap, we kinda had to know:

What's the worst scent ever? Anything with a sulfuric compound. Sulfur!

When you were a kid what did you want to be? An astronaut. I went to Space Camp and I had an amazing science teacher in fifth grade. ... She used to take us to the planetarium. I have a natural curiosity for things. I'm always intrigued by things I don't understand and that nobody has the answers to and space is definitely one of those things.

What was the first movie you saw in a theater? E.T.

What's one thing that drives you insane? When people are late.

What's your most favorite place, and how did you discover it? Tulum, Mexico. I think a friend of mine vacationed down there and she described it this way: You know those Corona commercials you see with the couple on the beach and the white sand? It's filmed in Tulum. After that, I had to go. It's never overrun, there are very few people, it's very chill and it's an eco-island ... everything is solar paneled and it's totally off the grid.

What's the coolest thing you've ever done? I got to go backstage at an Arcade Fire show at Madison Square Garden and meet all these crazy celebrities like Susan Saradon, David Byrne, Cindy Sherman, James Murphy and Aziz Ansari. It was one of those magical New York nights where you're like oh, all these people really do hang out.

Who's the most awesome person you know? Or have met? Sir Richard Branson.

How did you meet him? I was playing with Broken Social Scene at the Virgin Music Festival and there he was, all by himself so I got the cojones to go over and talk to him and invite him to lunch.

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Allison Perkins