May 8, 2012

Sitting at the Crossroads

Some of you may be wondering what is up lately with the lack of soap related updates, and well honestly I'm pondering the feasibility of continuing on. For the past four years I have put all my time and energy into making my product the very best that I could, we've spent endless hours on tweaking the blog, website, and packaging to be what it is, and now I'm left wondering if I have what it takes to keep on moving forward with all of this. I'm hoping I can find a second wind. I truly have a love for the process,and the ingredients, but I'm feeling a bit defeated. Some months back, I started having big issues with condensation forming between the soap and the mold, so I made the switch to a larger homemade wood mold thinking it would allow some air flow that the silicone liner did not-and still I'm having issues. The soap is perfectly fine to use, but lacking aesthetically on all of the outer bars-and now that I've gone to a larger mold that is 2/3 of my batch. Ouch! I've tried gelling and cracking the lid,leaving the lid off,not insulating at all along with a host of other "remedies" all to no avail-soooo I'm just at my wits end and unable to resolve these issues. Interestingly enough some of my batches don't suffer from this odd occurance-it seems if they have some additives that absorb moisture such as pumice or oatmeal there's no problem- those without an additive to absorb excess moisture  build condensation on the bottom and sides leaving unsightly pock marks as a result. Supplies are just too expensive to keep up the process of elimination in an effort to resolve the problem. I'm pretty much devastated to have come this far only to have this kind of issue and am trying not to make a rash decision, instead I am taking a sort of "hiatus" from soap right now. I am still selling off what I have in stock to wholesale and retail customers while I figure out a direction to take. I hope that if you have any words of advice you will chime in- I'm hoping that someone has a solution that would help me continue on-I'm truly at a crossroads here. I feel a real loss and without direction, not knowing what else I will do if I'm not meant to continue on this path I hope there will be an obvious direction soon. I've made a real effort to contribute to a community that I love with positive comments and assistance where I could and now I am only hoping someone holds the key-surely someone has had these same issues along the way.

* Note-This is not a formulary issue-soap poured in round molds does just fine(unless I group them close together and insulate.) This is the same formula I have used for years now. I've wondered if our humidity has changed a bit and so the soap is experiencing more ambient moisture and since it is a hygroscopic there is just to much moisture until it can't absorb it anymore between the mold and soap.

10 comments:

Jennifer Young said...

Michele, I felt so upset for you, reading this post. And I just don't understand how your results just changed? Clearly you must have gone over what has changed in your ingredients, process and environment that could be causing the negative results??? I wish there was a magic wand I could wave for you. I wish I could solve it. I know about getting down, because I have gotten down before about Essential Oil scents evaporating... and feeling like, if I can't create exactly what I want, with the results I want... is it all still worth it? but I ended up just keep plugging on, experimenting until getting better results. I hope you can do the same and get the results you want and/ or even better. Good luck. Maybe taking a break from the business side of things (and continuing to experiment with very small batches...? until it gets solved?) could be the best thing? One positive thing is that you know it is possible, as you have done it before and others do it... Good luck. I am sending you positive motivational energy!! xo Jen

Traci R said...

Hi Michele, I've been a long time reader of your blog and I so enjoy it. I read your post first thing this morning and have been thinking about you all morning. I don't have any great wisdom to share because I haven't experienced your exact problem. But, I can tell you that when the seasons changed here in Missouri, I had to rethink my process. It seemed that nothing setup, and I was extremely frustrated. Maybe your area has had an atmospheric change which is causing the problem. If so, it might mean that you have to tweek a process that has been sucussful in the past. (Temps, air flow, etc.) The round molds may behave differently than the slabs.

I would just say this - you are an inspiration to many, and that I hope you work through these difficult times. All the best - Traci

Tierra Verde Handmade Soap said...

@ Jen and Traci-thank you both so much. It does my heart good to know that maybe I've helped someone else along the way by sharing my soaping trials, triumphs and tribulations.

My husband and I have put our brains together and have tried several different things in an effort to remedy this issue-and even though my pride was hurt-I've made a page for Oops! soaps on my website hoping to at least cover cost of materials during this whole thing. In the meantime I'm hoping someone out there has a tip for me that does the trick.

Thank you for your encouraging words they mean so very much!

innerearthsoaps said...

Michele that does sound like an unusual problem, I've never heard of it before. Soapmaking can be so fickle sometimes, I think everyone goes through periods where nothing seems to go right. Perhaps give it a break and come back to it with fresh eyes. Do you have any pics of the pockmarked soap?

Tierra Verde Handmade Soap said...

Erin,it has been THE most frustrating issue. I had some photos and got rid of them-I will take some more so that you can see it.I am fairly sure it's a condensation issue,but maybe not.

Jojoka said...

Hey Michele, I am not sure that I fully understood the problem but could it be a matter of the wood of the mold? And another question if I may. Have you changed the place where you keep your mold until you get your soap out?
Be courageous though please. I am sure that the solution will come right through.
Love, Jo

Tierra Verde Handmade Soap said...

@ Jojoka- there is a possibility it could be the wood mold holding too much heat since it is sealed-that might have been a mistake and one we are considering. Yes,I always put my soap to bed on the kitchen table-same spot as always,however it is almost summer here and perhaps more humid in the past few months than the previous months.

Amy Warden said...

Ugh. I can imagine how frustrated you must be right now, and I wish I had the magic wand too!!! You were absolutely key in helping me re-formulate my recipe without rice bran oil, so I really hope I can help you with this... Have you tried a dehumidifier? Sounds like you are using a slab mold? What about a log mold? Putting the soap in the fridge?

Tierra Verde Handmade Soap said...

I haven't tried a dehumidifier and that is certainly an option-although I hate to spend the $$ on one and that not solve the problem.On the other hand it would totally make my life at this point if that were the solution.

In other news-a more experienced soaper than my self that I sent pics of the affected soap to had a couple of things to say.
1) she didn't view the marks as a defect-(like I do.)
2) she had seen the same marks on soap with high olive oil content and thought it came from a "hot gel"phase. She suggested moving the mold around often to keep the bottom from over heating or pouring at thicker trace to cause the gel to happen faster. Soooo, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Dreaming Tree Soapworks said...

Late to the party but...
I don't consider them defects either, soap does strange things. The fact that your soaps with moisture absorbing ingredients don't do this, nor your ones in the pipe molds are telling you the whole story. There is too much heat and moisture. It's very likely do to a slight climate change in your area. I know where I am (by the sea) with the warmer temps the humidity has increased, no matter what I do my soaps will ash (when previously they didn't)I just roll with it. I think the issue is a combination of wood and silicone, or just silicone in general (I'm not a fan of silicone molds/liners for this reason) is going to do nothing but trap moisture and heat. Try just lining the mold with freezer paper and see if it happens, you can also try taking a higher water discount on the recipes without the moisture absorbing ingredients, removing the soap from the wooden mold the second it's hard enough to keep it's shape (usually after gel has finished), a dehumidifier, or cp/op method to flash off some of that extra moisture. Nothing but luck, hand in there, we've all had our moments.