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Soap confections are a feast for the eyes, and nose, at Zinnia Virgo Soaps in Harford County

There is a slice of blueberry cheesecake on the tub in Tebonye Crawford’s bathroom and a cinnamon bun on the sink. They aren’t there to scarf down; they are there to wash up. Faux food, they are among the hundreds of unusual soaps made by Crawford, of Edgewood, and sought by clients from as far off as Canada and Hawaii.

Since 2017, when she started Zinnia Virgo Soaps, she has fashioned thousands of colorful and creative bars, with marbled swirls, pungent scents and striking shapes, in the basement of her home. Soaps that resemble succulents and shot glasses, doughnuts and dog paws, pineapples and pretzels. Some soaps have woodsy smells; others, a whiff of bourbon.

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Her customers at area farmers markets, food festivals and on the Internet (Etsy) just eat this stuff up. Several have actually tried.

“At one event last year, a boy ran up to my table, grabbed a soap that looked like candy and licked it,” said Crawford. “His mom wound up buying the soap. The rule is, ‘You lick it, you buy it.’”

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“One woman told me her son came home from a late-night party, saw a slice of peach pie soap sitting on the kitchen counter and took a bite. We’ve had several victims like that.”

All of her soaps contain beneficial additives (oatmeal, aloe vera, coconut oil and Moroccan clay) touted as healing treatments for skin disorders. Her daughter’s eczema, and problems finding soothing cleansers, prompted Crawford to start the business. Not that everyone who buys the soaps lathers up.

Facing camera, Tebonye Crawford, creator of Zinnia Virgo Soaps, discusses her soaps with Valerie Shapir (foreground, right), and her mom Joanne Kassimir of Havre de Grace (outside frame) during Havre de Grace's First Fridays market.
Facing camera, Tebonye Crawford, creator of Zinnia Virgo Soaps, discusses her soaps with Valerie Shapir (foreground, right), and her mom Joanne Kassimir of Havre de Grace (outside frame) during Havre de Grace's First Fridays market. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

“Many just display them in bathrooms and kitchens,” she said. “They say, ‘These soaps are so pretty, I’d feel guilty using them.’ "

The craft is a sidelight for Crawford, 43, a cybersecurity analyst who works for the Army at Fort Meade.

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“As soon as I get home, I go into ‘soaping mode,’ " she said. “I enjoy it; it’s my down time, not a chore. I’m in my creative zone. I may work until 2 a.m., just soapin’ away.”

Larger soaps cost $7; smaller ones, $4. Custom orders pour in for fragrant favors for weddings and parties. One woman purchased tiny Bundt cake soaps for her daughter’s second birthday; another bought 40 small blue bars shaped like onesies for a baby shower. Crawford buys the molds for her soaps online. Other organic body care products feature everything from lip balms to bath bombs to menopause sprays.

“I try to appeal to everyone,” she says. For kids, there are soaps shaped like unicorns, mermaids and llamas; for men, scented bars with robust names like “Tall, Dark and Handsome.” Crawford labels them all with such titillating titles as “Ninety-Nine Percent Naughty, One Percent Angel” and other more provocative monikers.

“Catchy names draw attention,” she said. “I’m inspired by anything. It’s the weirder ones that I seem to sell out of first.”

You can find Zinnia Virgo Soaps at etsy.com/shop/ZinniaVirgoSoaps and at the Havre de Grace Farmers Market.

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