Her name was Hedge Sefcovic, which is the sort of name that comes with an explanation.
"My dad was a hippie," Hedge Sefcovic explained. "My name came from an obscure folk band, Hedge and Donna."
With a pedigree like that, it's small wonder Hedge Sefcovic ended up in the world of handmade soaps. It's one of those cottage industries whose artisans eschew artificiality — preservatives, dyes and so on — and use natural elements to make their goods.
It's the sort of thing a hippie would love, in other words. I don't mean that derisively or dismissively, because to me, it's the way business ought to be done. I am a great admirer of crafters, artisans, small farmers — the kind of laborers who approach their work in an earnest and spiritual way, as a calling and not merely a route to a paycheck.
Hedge started making soaps 13 years ago. She had some skin allergies that were aggravated by commercial brands, so she started reading up on soaps and was quickly hooked on what she calls "the process of mixing chemistry and art."
She joined the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild and, having acquired a certain fluency in the production of soap, went into business full-time as "A Natural Alternative."
That was 10 years ago. She has been at Musikfest every year since, come hell (figuratively) or high water (literally — she was flooded out last year). She is also a regular at Bethlehem's Chriskindlmarkt and Allentown's Mayfair.
Her soaps are hand-milled bars and pucklike cakes, scented with oils and colored with clays and minerals. She uses oatmeal and cow's milk and goat's milk and spearmint and eucalyptus and lavender and soy oil and even Hershey's cocoa powder (Special Dark) to give color to certain bars.
"Soap has a lot of chemistry," she said. "Every oil you use brings different properties to the end product."
The way she talked about it made me imagine her workshop as a kind of medieval alchemist's lab, but it's really just the lower part of a split-level where she (and her hippie father) churn out a couple of hundred bars a day in 25 varieties.
She buys her milk from local dairies and her beeswax from local beekeepers. She sells within a 60-mile radius of home, averaging about 150 days a year at events.
"Buy local, sell local," she said.
Over the years, Hedge has expanded her offerings, adding shaving soaps for men to the mix, then shaving mugs and soap dishes made by a potter friend.
I told Hedge I was going to figure out some sort of product to make in my basement and get out of this writing gig once and for all. I had been counting on the lottery to make that happen, but what a scam that turned out to be.
"I love having my own business," she said. "Other than being at shows where I'm scheduled, I set my own hours."
If you want to check out the goods, Hedge is in the Handwerksplatz, in the Colonial Industrial Quarter.