Deborah Wright and Deane Arnold: An Artistic Couple

Get ready for my first couple interview!  Deborah Wright and Deane Arnold‘s artistic endeavors run the gamut from soap making to fine arts and pumpkin carving (not your average get out the carving kit kinda carving, believe me!) I hope this is not the last couple I will feature but I’m glad they’ve agreed to be my first.

Debby and Deane

Debby and Deane

I love artisan soaps and have bought from many soap artists over the years so was pleased to have met Deborah Wright of Genoa last year.  Initially, I found out about Genoa through attending some local shows and then approached Debby about vending at Falling for Local when I saw that she sold her goods at Celebrate Local.  Luckily for me and the folks attending the event in October, she was available and participated in the show.  At that time, she had a deliciously scented pumpkin soap that I purchased for a friend’s birthday (BTW she LOVED it!)  She also had a pumpkin sculpted by her husband, Deane,  on display at her booth that was absolutely amazing.  She and I talked off and on during the weekend and, near the end of the event, I approached Debby about being featured.  She was eager to participate but sorta fell off my radar what with the holidays and a trip to Florida.  Fortunately, Debby kept in touch for a couple of months and jogged my memory about the request when I returned from down South. She and her talented husband agreed to be the guinea pigs for my first ‘couples’ feature!
Let me start with Debby and Genoa.  debby wright
She has been creating and selling her soaps, fizzies and more at through her online shop and craft shows for about 5 years.  She began making soap when she  received  a kit from the Crafter’s Book Club back in the early 2000s (one of those mail clubs that sends you a catalog every three weeks or so). At some point, they started to offer kits, and soapmaking was one of them and from thenon she was hooked!
Soaps unboxedGenoa5
In the beginning, her soaps were made just for family and friends but it became so popular that she started buying books, learning new recipes, experimenting with colors and scents, and using different molds. Now she makes 24 varieties of high quality vegetable oil soaps. Recently, she has added soaks, fizzies and massage oil to her repertoire.  Fourteen years ago she decided to make this into a profitable business but as a self-confessed slow starter she didn’t get her website up or a craft show schedule going until about 4 years ago.
As she puts it:  I never saw a need to reinvent the wheel by creating a soap recipe from scratch.  Many of the recipes I‘ve started out with have evolved to become mine through changes I’ve made over the years. You never know what you will get with the swirls until you cut the soap loaf 36-48 hours after the pour.”
However, being an artist is not a recent development for her.  She has been sewing since she was 10, started quilting when she was 32 and has had a passion for art all of her life including being on the yearbook staff at her high school.  Originally form Akron, she earned her BFA in Graphic Design at the University of Akron and went on to receive an MS in Marketing & Communications from Franklin University after moving to Columbus in 1984.
Although she has never worked as a graphic designer, she uses the skills she learned in her quilts, soaps and for layout work when sending out a business eBlast. She has been part of a Communications team at work (Nationwide Financial; she has worked there for the last 9 years) for the last few months that has allowed her to use a variety of design skills.  She has also worked in retail at Barnes & Noble in the college bookstore division, Craft and Flower Ltd. (now out of business), AAA, The Framing Center as a professional picture framer for 14 years, and an outside sales person with Crescent Cardboard .
Having spent a large part of her adult life in retail, she gets a charge out of talking to customers.  She has learned that not everyone likes the same type of soap so she offers a wide variety of scents.  She is also open to feedback or requests for certain types of soaps, and once she has received enough for the same product, she offers it or makes changes to what she is already making.  An example of this was when she was making lemongrass soap and sales were adequate.  Then a friend requested that she add basil oil to it.  Debby did just that and changed the color to a yellow and green swirl and wa-la!!  Sales took off!!!
Another technique she likes to use is preparing test bars using glycerin soap.  She states that this is a quick way to determine if a scent will sell because it doesn’t require a lot of effort or materials to make.  This is the method she used last year to create her new tomato soap that is mostly pale red with a delicate white and green swirl and the fresh scent of vine ripened tomatoes.  Because of her test bars and the feedback she received, she believes that sales will be good.
She states that:  I’m always trying to find new ways to make my products looks pretty but still usable. One of my biggest pet peeves is flotsam (miscellaneous or unimportant material) in natural soaps. If it doesn’t do something like exfoliating, I don’t want it there. That being said, I do like to add intriguing colors and patterns if I can. I am constantly going to YouTube to find the best ways to keep the soap fun.

soaps curing

soaps curing

Not only does Debby sell online and at shows, her products can be purchased at Celebrate Local in Easton, Simply Vague (Polaris location) and Botanica at Franklin Park Conservatory.  Her best shows last year were the Lithopolis Honeyfest and the Pickerington Antique & Craft Show so she will definitely be back at those two.  She also hopes to get into some larger shows during 2014.
When asked where she would like to see Genoa go, she stated: I’m hoping to get into more shows and retail locations over the next few years. The biggest obstacle that I have right now is bar coding. There are so many places that require it, and understandably so, that it’s a challenge to get noticed without it. I’m excited to be in a position this year where my soap sales may subsidize my traveling. And I want to start having house parties. I still need to work up the details on the benefits to the host, but that’s a big part of my marketing plan for this year.
Being a repeat customer is definitely in my future and I sure hope that her goals for the future are realized.  I sure would love to have a soap house party at my house…what about you??
To get a better idea of the process and the time it takes to create these wonderful soaps, check out Debby’s YouTube video!
OK, now let’s learn about Deane!
Deane has  been a professional artist in one form or another his entire adult life and works primarily as a graphic artist.  He grew up in Westchester and Dutchess Counties in New York taking just about every drawing and painting class available in high school and  at community centers.  Although he did an independent course in advanced painting his senior year,  most of the time he laughingly says he spent a lot of time screwing around, sleeping in the art room for weeks and then in the final hour got to work and got straight A’s!  “I was a complete jerk. I’ve been trying to make up for that ever since.”Rubidiumdeane t shirt
He categorizes his art in this way:

For years it was detailed and realistic, partly influenced by Hudson River School painters, partly by the graphic aspects of comic book art. Now it’s more haphazard, heavily texturized, and embraces accidents and chaos. But it’s always been eclectic, and depends on what has my attention at the moment. I’ve tried plenty of things, just because I saw someone else’s work that I especially liked, and wanted to see “if I could.” As a result, I’ve done some good work in wood carving, music video and animation, clay, even scrimshaw. In the last couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with pumpkin sculpting.


He got involved in carving because he always liked jack o’lanterns and Halloween, but had always been more or less a purist until last year when he saw extreme pumpkins on the internet, and decided to give them a try. In his words, the first few attempts were pretty rugged looking.  However, he honed his skills and has created some of the most incredible pumpkin carvings I have ever seen!!!



Full immersion is how he would describe his process, tending to jump into a project with no real plan. Because he likes quick results, If a project holds his attention, he increases his research until he’s lost in it. Finishing a project is often difficult for him mainly because he doesn’t like to let go! Sometimes he thinks he is can be in danger of overworking pieces, always wanting to keep making it better. Inspiration comes from his craft, using discipline, humor and pursuit of the intangible…pretty heady, huh?? Pretty cool, too, when you see the results!!!!

Deane tends to get excited about anything he does, explaining it in what he calls “boring, agonizing detail”.  He is a constant learner and loves trying new techniques and exploring a variety of art forms. This is evident in the diversity of his art.  He creates graphics for album covers and T-shirts, paints in abstract, impressionistic and surrealistic forms and carves the most incredible pumpkins I have ever seen. This autumn he plans on being as busy as possible with Halloween and pumpkin carving events- that’s how much he loves this aspect of his art!deane pumpkin

And, as if that’s not enough, he is also a musician playing guitar and bass, arranging music, and programming synthesizers. Plus he sings. Not being a big fan of smoky clubs, he gave up performing in the mid-eighties, in favor of studio recording, concentrating on audio production since then. But in the last couple of years, he’s sort of hesitantly returned to the stage. One album that he worked on for a friend turned out quite well, and he decided to perform a CD release show, which Deane thought was a lot of fun.  He remained friends with the drummer from that project and they’ve been working on a few musical projects, with his friend  keeping at him to perform again so you just may see Deane back on stage before long

Because he approaches music pretty much the same way he approaches visual art.  Being a natural skeptic,  he pretty much approaches everything with an attitude of curiosity and “oh yeah? let’s see what happens.”

deane best in show

Best in Show at High Road Gallery

And what’s happened recently is a ‘Best in Show’ for his painting shown at High Road Gallery’s recent exhibit.  Then starting this weekend in Clintonville the local art galleries and businesses located on Indianola Avenue, south of the Studio 35, will host their 12th “Art Crawl” on Friday May 9, 2014 from 5-8 p.m. The “Art Crawl” will feature street artists, sidewalk sales from neighboring businesses along with the Art Gallery Show openings.  AND Deane’s art will be on exhibit at Pennington Custom Art Services…woot!

Intersection...available at Pennington

Intersection…available at Pennington

“Oh yeah? Let’s see what happens”….for Debby and Deane in 2014!

Deane’s art is available at: 

PM Gallery

Contact info for Debby:

One thought on “Deborah Wright and Deane Arnold: An Artistic Couple

  1. Additional note to Vicki’s wonderful and detailed stories: Genoa no longer has soaps available at Simply Vague. But I DO now have bar codes on everything. So I’m open to any retail opportunities out there.

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