Reducing waste by crafting in Mokau

Rae Tissott is on a mission to reduce New Zealand’s plastic use one shampoo bottle at a time. Reporter Brittany Baker sat down with the owner of KawaKawa Kottage Krafts.

Hi Rae, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a wildflower of the 70s, still skipping through the fields of life! I was born in New Zealand and lived in Australia for 40 years, but have been living back in New Zealand for four years now. I’m a wife, mother, community support worker, friend and doer of lots of things.

My husband Chris and I, and our best mate Choco – a red kelpie/blue heeler we brought back from my Australia – live in Mokau. We are blessed to live in a small community and have certainly found our tribe here. Our three children and our grandchild live in New Plymouth.

I grow a lot of our food and started Crop Swap Mokau. And I preserve for winter like a little squirrel!

Chris, left, and Rae

I understand you hand make natural soaps and shampoos through KawaKawa Kottage Krafts?
Yes, I make small batches of handmade soap, shampoo bars, conditioner, body butters, balms, Kawkawa oil infusions for massage – which can help people with skin conditions – and ‘Mokau Mutt Bars’ to wash your pup. I try to use Kawakawa wherever I can – it’s such amazing stuff.

What’s the ethos behind this?
My ethos is to make a small range of natural products that have a low footprint, are plastic-free, have no chemicals, and are affordable to everyone. Everyone should have the opportunity to buy and use natural products.

Look at that cute puppy

Wow! What got you into making these?
I definitely could see a need for affordable eco-natural products, and my son’s partner, Nicole, had been making soap as a hobby. I was quite interested in what she was doing and when I first started, Nicole was able to offer a few helpful tips. Thank you, Nicole!

I had used Kawakawa leaves and small branches on a swollen leg overnight once and when I woke in the morning – blow me down! – the swelling and inflammation had gone and I could run and jump. (Whoop Whoop!) So when we bought the Mokau property, after having seen all the Kawakawa, I said to Chris “this was meant to be” and we named our house KawaKawa Kottage.

I researched and researched online and started with making Kawakawa soap. Then I made a shampoo bar to reduce the need for plastic and use more natural products. My friends had soaps, shampoo bars and balms thrust upon them for trial and I received very positive results.

Rae selection of handmade eco soaps, shampoos and conditioners

I played around with making simple labels – and still to this day – and always will do everything myself, and by hand. This is a Kottage Kraft.

My shampoo bars, Mokau Blue, were soon in the retail section at the Mokau Museum. The lovely Jan Brown enjoyed Mokau Blue very much and passionately sold it to just about every silver-headed lady entering the museum!

Then I was extremely blessed to be able to place my soaps and shampoo bars with Heidi Preston in her Mokau Market Pop-Up Shop, which runs just about every long weekend. Heidi also enjoys using my soaps and shampoo bars, and this opportunity took my products to the next level.

Through an acquaintance, I became connected with an IT lady online – Lauren. She set up my Facebook page and online shop. I could not have done this without her and am extremely grateful. I continue to send Lauren and her family shampoo and soaps for life!

What is so great about homemade shampoos and conditioners?
From the purchaser’s point of view, homemade shampoos and conditioners (if looked after) last forever. To look after your shampoo and conditioner bars, they need to be kept dry in between use. For this reason, I offer small containers that have a little drain mat in the bottom, which keeps your product dry and aids longevity.

There are so many great things like knowing exactly what’s in your soap, and your hair actually feels squeaky clean after use. And, most importantly, eco packaged – no plastic and great for our environment.

What currently inspires you?
I am currently inspired by our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. She is so real. And Jason Mraz’s ‘Life is Wonderful’ – I listen to this on repeat all day while crafting soaps.

What’s your favourite craft to make and why?
My favourite craft would have to be making shampoo bars and selling the idea to people that don’t know about them.

When I’m at the market, I love to explain to people that each one of these little bars is the equivalent of three plastic bottles. That these soaps help to prevent plastic bottles from washing up on our beaches, contain no chemicals, and make your hair feel amazing. I love to see people’s reaction because they get it – they really get it. Then they are hooked.

Where can we find you when you’re not crafting soaps?
When I’m not crafting you will find me in the garden, I love to grow food and I do enjoy walking on the beach. You can find me at the end of the day with a glass of red on the deck – which is up in the treetops with the Tui singing – sitting with my hubby and doggy, and listening to the ocean sounding.

Find KawaKawa Kottage Krafts trading at the Mokau Easter Bone Carving Workshop.

You can find KawaKawa Kottage Krafts on Facebook, and on Instagram.