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Casey Makela: Artist Profile

Casey became interested in making soap as a result of the personal needs of her family, friends and community. As a traditional midwife and mother of a large family, she knew how important natural body care products were to a holistic lifestyle. She drew her inspiration from the resourceful examples of her creative and conservative Irish family who firmly believed that the bounty of nature offered healthful alternatives to commercial products that were ecologically unsound.

Upon moving with her husband and children to the Great Lakes State of Michigan in 1984 and setting up an eco-friendly farmstead in the historical ghost town of Killmaster, Casey decided to expand her modest soap making enterprise to include soaps made with milk. Among other things, She wanted a resource for the milk production of the Oberhasli dairy goats her family raised as part of their contribution to breed preservation. She also believed in the potential of a truly milk-based soap that would be unique to the natural soap industry for the milk being hormone free and organically produced. She began to experiment with making soap using a variety of milks including sheep-milk, mare-milk, goat-milk, cow-milk and even human milk! Her efforts led her to write the first book ever written on making soap with milk published in 1997 - "Milk-Based Soaps".

Killmaster Soapworks Natural Soap Company was established with an emphasis on environmentally sound product production and socially responsible management. The family owned company is known throughout the world for their unique high quality soaps made with milk and exclusively produced at their custom soap factory located in a ghost town. The company is also a supplier of soap making equipment including the SUOMI Soap Cutter. Casey is not only committed to making outstanding natural soaps, she also loves to share her craft with others and donates time to promote and endorse the start of other women-owned soap and natural body care businesses. Casey and her enthusiastic staff continuies to develop products that not only serve the needs of natural bathers, but which also endeavor to promote social awareness of humanitarian causes pertaining to child-birth and mothering related concerns.

Casey combined her love of soapmaking with her enthusiasm for education and in the late 1980's founded the Ancient Arts Folk School where natural living skills could be preserved and taught as mediums of art and creativity. AAFS quickly became a learning center for skills such as making soap, fiber craft, spinning, herbology, cheese making and a host of other crafts that were once necessary life skills before the age of technology.

Her work as an educator in natural living skills was also intermingled with her calling as a midwife. Casey has been an active proponent and activist of natural child birth, unassisted birth and midwife assisted home birth for over 20 years. Her conviction to the art of midwifery care, the rights for women to choose their birthing environment and the education of future midwives led Casey to form the Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery & Herbology in 1988. Since that time MSTM has become the first licensed midwifery school in North America to ever offer a vocational diploma in Traditional Midwifery Studies. MSTM has since become an educational resource for thousands of women around the globe. In order to further the cause of birthing rights for women, Casey founded the American College of Traditional Midwives in the 1990's. The ACTM offers resources for women seeking natural birth and activism for the rights of birthing families. (UPDATE note: In 2006, The American College of Traditional Midwives started the first online petition ever launched on behalf of Decriminalizing Birth - for the sake of birthing freedom, please take a moment and sign this important petition.)

Casey's passion for quality education was also centered on home schooling and as soon as the option became legal in the 1990's, the Makela family made home education a focus for their children. Casey established resources in her own community and became a legal activist for persons being prosecuted for educating their children at home. Now that her youngest children are in college, Casey is writing a book about home based education. She also devoted over 15 years as a 4-H youth volunteer.

While midwifery and soap making have been large parts of Casey's life, her love of the arts and theater has always been ever present. Casey is an accomplished musical artist and professional vocalist. She and her husband have done award winning work in children's musical theater and were artists with the Michigan Touring Arts for over 10 years. Their work on behalf of children led them to be recognized by an award from the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse in 1994. Casey is professional Jazz vocalist as well.

She also supports the arts by donating her time to community theater. In 1993, she won the role of "Annie" in "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN" and performed the part co-starring with 4 of her own children. But her most satisfying theatrical involvement was performing in the musical "GYPSY", for Shoreline Players in November 2003. Casey enjoyed the rare opportunity to star in "GYPSY" as the character "Rose" along side her her daughter, Marion, who starred as Rose's daughter, "Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee".
The real-life mother/daughter team performed together contributing over 200 hours to community service in support of the arts. Casey summed up the experience in these words: "Working with Marion was, without question, the most awesome thing I have ever done as a vocalist and performing artist. To play such an incredible role with my very own daughter defined for me what it meant to be accomplished and fulfilled the dreams of having done everything I ever wanted to do in life as an artist. That was it. I honestly wouldn't care now if I never sang another song ever again or ever performed on another stage. There will simply never be another stage that will hold the allure and the magic of the one I shared with my daughter in what was quite simply the role of a lifetime."

Casey will always consider soapmaking a unique form of artistic expression and continues to promote it among the many mediums she considers personally fullfilling and hopes to inspire others as well.

Visit Casey's photo/press gallery.

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