You might walk into Beam & Anchor, the welcoming and well-curated shop off Interstate, and studiously admire the patterned textiles, reclaimed industrial furniture, and gossamer wearable talismans. You might even pick up a bar of coffee soap from Maak Lab, unaware that Anoria Gilbert, one of the makers behind Maak Lab is directly above you in the airy workshop, deftly combining coconut and essential oils, in an alchemical ritual where bark blooms and Stumptown Coffee is reimagined as soap.
Anoria and her boyfriend Taylor Ahlmark moved to Portland from the desert five years ago and started making soap as a hobby, moonlighting out of their attic at night, and working full-time day jobs. It was there that Maak Labs was born. It’s grown into a full-time job for Anoria — Taylor also works at Portland favorite Tanner Goods. And it’s taken off from there — the Coffee Bar even has devoted followers in Tokyo. “With the onset of Paddler’s Coffee brewing the only Stumptown coffee in Japan, there’s been a good push in our bars of the same beans,” she says. “We began selling there last fall, and have had a steady stream of suds shipping abroad since.”
We stopped in the Maak Lab studio above Beam & Anchor and Anoria showed us how the Coffee Bar Soap is made.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a soap maker? Can you talk a bit about living and working in Portland?
Taylor & I moved to Portland from Arizona five years ago. The culture, design-focus, and greenery were big factors for us.
The first few months we loved the nature here, being such a stark contrast to the desert. We started experimenting with new plant life, finding different ways to harvest and utilize leaves, bark, blooms — and essential oils became the most interesting aspect. The steam distilled essential oils were rich in scent, and soap was the perfect utilitarian place to use it.