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Outside the Lab: Pure and Simple

Outside the Lab: Pure and Simple

Albert Einstein taught himself the violin and would play duets with Max Planck, fellow Nobel Prize winner and the “Father of Quantum Theory,” on piano. Marie Curie rode her bicycle to clear her mind and relax. And Erwin Schrodinger  – of Schrodinger’s cat fame – crafted dollhouse furniture.

Outside the Lab highlights our faculty’s non-academic pastimes that help keep them focused through creative pursuits.

As hobbies go, Molly Jensen’s is pretty clean.

Jensen makes her own health products – soaps, lotions and lip balms. She gives some away to friends and she sells some occasionally. She refers to it as her “nano business.”

Molly Jensen makes artisan soap, lotion and lip balm. | Whit Pruitt, University of Arkansas

Molly Jensen makes artisan soap, lotion and lip balm. | Whit Pruitt, University of Arkansas

“Too small to be a microbusiness,” quipped Jensen, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Marketing in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Jensen typically makes small batches using as many local and conscientiously sourced ingredients, such as beeswax from Fayetteville bees. Her Shea butter comes from Ghana through two channels: Treasures from Africa, a Fayetteville business that supports a village in Ghana by selling the Shea butter the local women make, and Global Mamas, a group of women working together in Ghana to improve their lives through entrepreneurship.

She started with lotion. The primary ingredient in most commercial lotions is mineral oil. Mineral oil is a petroleum product.

“I found it distasteful putting that on my face,” she said. “I use really simple and pure ingredients. What I make is all oils and wax so it will have a much longer shelf life.”

She makes other products as well. Last year she had several friends who were pregnant so she made special lotion she called “Belly Bump” for stretch marks. She also makes her own deodorant and frankincense eye cream.

Jensen prepares a block of bees wax to be melted down for lip balm.

Jensen prepares a block of beeswax to be melted down for lip balm.

How does she do it? She melts and mixes everything in her kitchen and the forms match her home-made packaging. Her rustic soap is made through a “hot process.”

“It’s kind of like long ago when grandma would be in the backyard with the cauldron and lye and lard. It’s the same thing except I use a crockpot,” she said. “Once my son was in the kitchen and started eating he thought was a piece of cheese. It was a piece of soap. He got really mad at me.”

She spends about 15 hours a month in the kitchen making her creations. She stepped up her schedule recently to make 600 pieces for the Holiday Gift Market sponsored by the Community Creative Center at Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios.

The process can be soothing.

“I’ve been doing pottery off and on for 30 years and it’s the same feeling,” she said. “For me it’s about the hands-on process. I find it very relaxing and fulfilling.”


About The Author

Chris Branam writes about research and economic development at the University of Arkansas. His beats include the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of History.

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