Running Wild Spirit
Handcrafted Natural Bath and Body Goodies


Seattle Times April 26, 2007
By Connie McDougall
Special to The Seattle Times

Tiny Maltby a hot destination for foodies, shoppers, gardeners -- A look at the past

Down the street from the parlor stands a reminder of the town's past — the 1907 school converted into a home for the Maltby Gift Shops. Take a stroll up the wood stairs to see vintage photos of school kids in 1909, and a local train wreck in which two steam engines collided.

The shops focus on one-of-a-kind, homemade items, including the store Running Wild Spirit, located in the former boiler room. Wild Spirit's logo, a line drawing of a galloping horse and rider, tells you something about owner Charlene Feetham. She handcrafts her soaps, lotions and creams in a barn that also houses her "wild boy," a horse named Zhivago.

Wild Spirit started small in Maltby after one of Feetham's sons suffered a skin condition relieved by a lotion she created using lavender, buttermilk, oatmeal and other soothing ingredients. When he improved, friends and family got interested. "There's a story and a person behind every product I make," said Feetham.

Now there's a second store in downtown Seattle at Sixth Avenue and Stewart Street, but the mission remains the same. "I try to blend special things for people and do it naturally."

One of her most sought-after products is called Seattle Sunshine, with lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit — luxurious body lotion that wafts a light snap of citrus. "I made it to be uplifting on our long, gray days," she said.

To paraphrase, broadly: "There are more things in Maltby, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Northwest News By Deborah Stone
Features Writer
Staff photo/Ian Gleadle

‘Domestic goddess’ turns entrepreneur

One of the things Charlene Feetham always wanted to do was to make soap

"I was what I like to refer to as a 'domestic goddess,'" says Charlene Feetham. "I was basically a stay-at-home mom who loved helping out in my kids’ classrooms. I was also always into crafts and liked doing creative activities. One of the things I always wanted to do though was to make soap. For some reason, it seemed like it would be a very creative pursuit and a cool thing to do."

The Bothell woman soon got her wish. About 10 years ago, her adolescent son was experiencing serious skin problems. He had been through countless appointments with dermatologists and had gone through different types of treatments to no avail.

Finally, Feetham decided to take matters into her own hands. She says, "I knew that there were natural healing products used in the large animal industry because we’d always had horses and I'd heard of many of these products. I thought that maybe this type of natural healing could apply to humans."

Feetham began researching essential oils and talked to a number of people about making soap. She wanted to make an all natural, vegetable soap, using ingredients that she hoped would help her son’s skin condition.

After purchasing her supplies, she set to work in her kitchen on making her first bars of soap.

"I basically had this saleswoman at the store where I had bought my supplies help me through the process step by step," explains Feetham. "I kept calling her on the phone at every stage to make sure I was doing it right."

After four hours, success was achieved, but now the wait came. Soap needs a curing time of about eight weeks before it can actually be used. “When the time came, my whole family tried the soap and they all loved it," adds Feetham. "It lathered well, smelled good and was moisturizing to the skin. And after a period of time, with continuous use, my son's skin actually started to clear up."

The soap, which contained lavender, tea tree, buttermilk, honey and oatmeal, became known as the "complexion bar" and soon, Feetham's son’s friends were asking if they could have some of that "special soap."

"When people from my son’s school began calling me for the soap, I realized that I just might have a business on my hands," says Feetham. In a short time, Feetham began making other types of soaps in response to family's and friends' needs. For awhile, she sold them via word of mouth from her home, but then she started selling them at the Snohomish Farmers’ Market, where her business really began to take off.

A year ago, she opened a store across from the Maltby Café to sell her products and then just recently, she opened a second store in downtown Seattle at the corner of 6th and Stewart Street.

"It's been a real whirlwind for me," comments Feetham. "Things just happened very fast and when the opportunity to open the store downtown presented itself, I decided to go for it. I'm just trying to catch my breath at this point."

Feetham's company, Running Wild Spirit, now produces 14 different handcrafted soaps in bar form and 22 types in liquid form, along with other products, such as body powders, shower gels, lip balms, lotions, body oils, salt scrubs, bath fizzies and candles. She also has special lines for men, kids and pets.

The company is basically family run and operated, with Feetham at its helm. She makes all the soaps out of her home still, devoting one day each week or every other week to production.

"I usually make about two to three hundred pounds of soap on that day, as well as a big batch of liquid soap," explains Feetham. "I call making soap, ‘cooking without calories' and it's a fun process for me. I usually take some existing recipes and tinker with them to make them my own, by adding different ingredients. It's often a lot of trial and error work, but I love working with all the natural ingredients and then seeing the results."

According to Feetham, each bar of soap has a story behind it, which resulted in its creation. There's "Bug Off," a type of soap to keep the bugs away that can be used on humans and horses.

Feetham explains: "I am an endurance rider and I often ride my horse for 50 to 100 miles out in the woods. There are tons of bugs out there and my horse is allergic to those tiny mosquitoes that people often call 'no seeums.' So I decided to make a soap that would be a preventative for him and for me. Now I have the same stuff available in a spray, a powder, shampoo, mist and gel and it really does work."

Naked Body Oil, another product, was made with Feetham's father-in-law in mind. He had lived with Feetham and her family when he was ill and she helped to take care of him. She says, "He had such dry skin and all these ulcerations on his legs. His skin was in sad shape and it really needed lots of moisture. But I wanted to make him something to also help strengthen his skin and heal it quicker. We saw great results from the oil and it’s really been especially good for people with eczema. It contains a combination of almond, avocado, grape seed, wheat germ and calendulated olive oil, which is infused olive oil with calendula petals."

The stories continue, each one with a unique reason to prompt Feetham to create a new kind of soap to address the problem situation. Young and old buy her products at her shops or on line through her Web site.

She also sells wholesale to several local stores and country inns. "Basically, the people who buy my products are people who are into good skin care.

"Many of them haven't been able to use soaps in the past because they have irritated their skin, but with my soaps, there are no skin irritants, like alcohol or sodium sulfate. My products also appeal to those who have problem skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis."

Feetham doesn't have any immediate plans for her company, other than to let it grow and see where it leads her. She says, "I'm riding the wave to see how far it goes. We're going to hire some employees soon to help out in the stores because it's getting too much for just me. I'm just happy that it’s taken me this far.

"I feel good about things because I'm producing all natural products that are good for people. It's very rewarding when they tell me that my soaps really helped them."

For more information about Running Spirit Wild, access the company’s Web site at: www.running wild
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