September 25, 2013

That's A Wrap

I spent a good part of the day yesterday printing and wrapping soap for a nice wholesale order that graciously took a big part of my inventory off of my hands. Some might call that wonderful timing, I call it AMAZING GRACE. How great it feels to have a few $$ coming my way, and to be able to begin making new product all over again. What a blessing!!

September 24, 2013

Lavender Flower

The second Lavender prototype-I think it's just right. The purple is a perfect shade of Lavender which seems fitting since I had Lavender Flower in mind for it's name. Picture a gentle breeze softly stirring a hint of Lavender into the air on a late summer's eve. Oh yeah!

September 22, 2013

Still At It

So, since I have previously committed to a show right before Christmas (a show I am very happy to be participating in.) I decided to  hang on a bit longer and see how things go. I've been in the process of working up an actual line instead of the hodge podge of goodies I have strewn all about. Organization and efficiency are going to have to be part of the quotient now. Anyway, this is a prototype of a Lavender number I am working on that I am hoping will be part of my line.

September 16, 2013

Soul Searching

Recently, I had a meeting at which I was a rather unwilling participant with an advisor of sorts. He told me that based on my numbers I should just consider making soap only when my family needs it. He seemed to think that making soap was too labor intensive for an "individual"to make any real money at it. He then stated he didn't think even a couple of people could make a substantial living at soap. Now, I know this to be an inaccurate statement, obviously, I don't know the exact figures for the soapmakers I know that make an abundant living,but I know it's possible. I know abundance is a relative term too. What is abundant to me is not abundance to someone else. My definition would be having enough to contribute to the needs and comfort of my family and have extra to help make a difference within my community-my business plan has this already worked in.  This person was unfamiliar with the process of making soap or it's potential. He did have access to my figures which are dismal by most accounts I'll admit. I've thought about throwing in the towel many times over the years, so this isn't the first time. I was pretty devastated to have someone just put it out there like that. I sat there in that room with him and couldn't even respond-I was just frozen.  I could hear my mother's voice in my head responding to the various ideas of what " I wanted to be when I grow up"  her stoic reply was always certain to be"you'll never make any money doing that." I left the meeting angry and devastated. This person doesn't have any idea of how I've worked to learn soapmaking, how it's been like a serenade to my soul, how it's been  like a lifeline over the past few years-a constant in my life in the midst of turmoil. I would also like at add there have been many things I've tried over the years and gave up on because they were too hard or I couldn't do a perfect job so I gave up. I would like to point out I haven't given up on soap yet. Grant you, it's not important like curing cancer, I'm not sure what it's significance is to society, but it matters to me.

I wonder why it's easier for someone to tell you to go get an unfulfilling " minimum wage part time job" than to say "what would you need to do to make your business a success?" What support do you need?  Why is it that people think you only have the ability to work a "minimum wage part time job" and not to learn the "business aspect" of what you are already doing? In all fairness, I have been sort of stumbling along in that area,but I could learn it-we all have that potential and capability.

I know I'm perhaps a bit of a dreamer, and while I have seen myself as an artisan of handmade soap I haven't really seen myself as a "business person." I've been terrified of that part, and made lots of excuses as to why I couldn't do it. I allowed that to be a part of my "self identity" I am an artist, but not a "business person." Now, while I'm still stinging over someone just putting my downfall out there like that, my new school of looking at "problems" has taught me to look at "What is good about this problem?" Did you know the only persons who don't have problems are those 6ft. under? Did you know that in fact there is always something good to be found in the thick of any problem?What's good about being told to "put your soap molds out to pasture" you ask? It's caused me to take a hard look at where I want to go, it's caused me to up my resolve, it's  helped me see I need to work harder at grasping the "business side" of things.  Seems like such a juxtaposition that there is good to be found in every bad situation, but it's true.  Clearly, the answer is I must find a way to tackle my fear of the "business" side in order to be successful. I must weigh whether or not soapmaking is something I want to keep in my life or let go of and in order to keep it I MUST learn how to run a business. I must "Focus on where I want to go and not on what I fear." I know the answer deep inside, I'm just not quite sure how to go about it all, but I know it's come to the point that I either figure it out or set aside my molds and move on....

September 15, 2013

Something Old, Something New

A new take on an old soap from a few years ago. Tree Hugger- an arborial delight scented with the fresh, clean scent of Fir Needle. 

Breaking in the new log splitter on a small tester slab. A big ol piece of equipment that does an amazing job of splitting up a slab. Love! I wrangled the Mr. into splitting the logs so I could snap a pic. lol!

The end results of the new and improved Tree Hugger.I'm experimenting a bit with a new bar size too.  I used the hanger swirl technique from Erin's book "Soapmaking Made Easy," and I'm pretty darn happy with the results.  Thanks Erin!

I finally got around to breaking in the new log splitter. I've had it for about a month and haven't gotten a real chance to use it  yet. I will still be offering rounds, but have decided to move over to a slab because I feel it offers so much more opportunity for textures and color work. I am experimenting with bar size and think that the bars above are just about where I want them. 

I also tried a technique from Erin's new ebook "Soapmaking Made Easy" and I think it came out really well. While I've been making soap for several years, I  haven't done a lot of color work until just lately. I did use clays and herbs, but I didn't so much attempt techniques really. Her book makes it very easy to try a few new things. I'm already rarin' to try the next technique on my list.

September 14, 2013

Saturday Afternoon Soaping

I spent this afternoon working on a soap using a technique from "Soapmaking Made Easy. " This is actually my second try, the first one got a bit too thick on me before I could actually try to hanger swirl. This is take 2 of the hanger swirl technique from Erin's book. I feel like this one went much better-I upped my water to 25% and found it worked well for me. I think I got some movement down in there, and I'm very happy with the colors and textured top. I'm hoping for this to be an updated version of a soap from a few years back-Tree Hugger with swirls of green, brown and white and scented with Fir Needle.

September 10, 2013

"Soapmaking Made Easy" - A Reveiw

Recently, I had the honor of previewing the soon to be released "Soapmaking Made Easy-A Comprehensive Guide to Making Cold Process Soap" an eBook written by my friend Erin (of Inner Earth Soaps fame.) I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I was to check it out. Erin has long been one of my muses in the soapmaking world, and is quite known for her beautiful color combinations, gorgeous textured tops and her clean technique. I can remember when I first started making soap going to her blog almost daily just to marvel at her work. I guess I thought I might learn by osmosis or something, but now she is sharing many of her tried and true techniques with us as well as information on safety, formulas, oil properties, colorants, additives, suppliers and more.

Erin is known for her beautiful color combinations, gorgeous textured tops and her clean technique.

I found Erin's book to be very thorough and to have great information for both the new soapmaker as well as the more experienced soapmaker. New soapmakers will find important information they should know about before they even pick up a stick blender; such as the three different categories of soap (though the main focus is Cold Process), safety precautions (how to handle lye), oil properties, trusted formulas, how to create your own formulas based on the properties you want in your soap, how to tell when your soap is at trace, what "gel" is, how to rebatch and much more...

The beautiful cover

Erin even takes new soapmakers on a virtual soapmaking session where you will learn step by step what "trace" actually looks like, when to add scent and additives, what gel looks like and even how to cut soap you made only hours before.

 Raw soap a few minutes after adding lye solution starting to turn opaque

 Pouring the soap

Cutting the bars

Throughout the book, Erin gives tips and reminders that only a seasoned soapmaker would know, but a new soapmaker should take notice to. Her tips and reminders are invaluable morsels of experience. This example is very basic, but among one of the most important.

"Reminder-Only do one thing at a time. Cooking and making soap together do Not make a good combination."

While it seems like a pretty tongue in cheek sort of reminder-it is very important that you have a calm quiet area to work in. Multitasking is not recommended while attempting to use lye.
For the more advanced soapmakers Erin graciously unlocks the secrets behind several of her techniques (this is the moment I've been waiting for-somebody pinch me.) Erin gives step by step tutorials for techniques such as even layering, messy layering, hanger swirls, in the pot swirls, decorative textured tops and more. Woot with me now!

Messy Layering Technique - Spooning on the layers

Messy Layering- finished bars

To sum it all up, I would highly recommend Erin's eBook for beginners, as well as more experienced soapmakers who want to expand their repertoire of techniques and learn something new from someone with a vast knowledge of soapmaking technique. Look for Erin’s eBook "Soapmaking Made Easy-A Comprehensive Guide to Making Cold Process Soap" to go live Thursday September 12, 2013-for free tutorials and to get your hands on her eBook be sure to sign up for her mailing list.

Pick up your "Soapmaking Made Easy" ebook here.

September 8, 2013

Date Night Memories

Hollyhocks with sun coming from behind.

Hollyhock up close and personal-beautiful.

Sunflower in a perfect light.

Purple Fountain Grass in the evening sun.

So, one of the advantages to having one child leave the nest and the other one up old enough to spend time with friends is the resurrection of "date night." You remember that don't  you? The time before kids when you could go out for a meal together, have a conversation and just breathe for a moment. A couple of weeks ago the youngest was gone for the evening and so  we headed out for an impromptu date night, because this was last minute there really wasn't time to plan for too much. The evening was beautiful, so we decided to check out some of my photography haunts(my husband is such a trooper and very graciously indulges me once in awhile) and once it was too dark for pics we whipped up a lovely Frittata with bacon, roasted Hatch green chilies and plenty of sharp cheddar. Yep, it was an evening to remember.

September 5, 2013

What I've Been Up To Lately

 My project for the day  yesterday was getting some soaps stamped for my upcoming wholesale account.

I also have another batch or two of soap yet to make before the order is complete-this is a little floral goodie that is always a bit challenging to see if  I can race to get the swirl in before it sets up to much.

I'm still having so much fun exploring color.  I can totally see what the appeal is and can't believe I was so resistant to it for so long. The soap above is a bit of Ultramarine Pink that looks a bit more towards the Lilac really. Ultramarine Pink  is not quite a true pink (although if I had used more it would be more pink), but either way it sure is pretty. Quite subdued in comparison to the Ultramarine Purple in the top image. The top is an Ultramarine Purple that I am totally in love with-it looks great every time. I find that Ultramarines are easy to use too although the Ultramarine Purple above is not water soluble while the rest of them that I have are.