I’ve been approached a few times now by customers and curious folk, about my teaching a soap making class! I’m *seriously* considering this.

Here is the thing. I LOVE making soap. I love talking soap and I love sharing the love of soap with others! One thing that always concerns me about new soap makers is that some I have encountered know very little about soapmaking and the possible mishaps that can happen. Some of them can’t even tell me what method that they use.

This scares the pants off me. Like really really scares me. All it takes is one bad experience, and we (A general, handcrafted soap maker we) lose a customer forever. Our entire industry suffers.

I’ve heard the stories from customers of mine, they’ve tried someone’s handmade soap that they picked up at a little market only to have a very bad experience. In one case I actually gave away some soap to a customer who was scared to try handmade soap again. She turned into a regular customer. That had a good ending. I’ve others who refused to even try FREE soap. That makes me so sad.

I’d love to see more people making soap, but I want to see those people properly trained to do so.

I contacted someone at the local college, and will be doing up a lesson plan. Some thoughts on this:

  • History of Soap Making
  • The Saponification process
  • Oils and what they bring to the party
  • SAP values of oils
  • LYE and safety
  • Creating your formulation
  • Basics of Fragrance oils and Essential oils
  • What can go wrong and what to do about it.
At the end of the last day (I am thinking this will be a multi day course), I would do a basic demonstration making soap using oils that can be found in the supermarket. I’d make enough so that all the students can take home the soap made in class.  I think I would want to do a second set of classes, one that goes over advanced soap making, swirls, layers and different pouring techniques. Also working with exotic oils and additives, colorants and higher end essential oils. Maybe a bit about blending. Then, I would definitely want to hit on going into business, and what every  soap maker needs to know. For starters, how to wholesale properly, marketing techniques and of course labeling guidelines. If I get some spare time (HA HA) I will put a lesson plan together and present it to NSCC, maybe you’ll be seeing me in class soon! Of course, this is all in my perfect world, where I have lots of time to do this!
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Mothers Day Surprise!

Today, I was invited out to my daughters school to do a little soapmaking project with her class!

They have 22 students, and trying to think of a basic project that could be done was a challenge. It really shouldn’t have been, because its what I do for a living, but when I make Glycerin soap in my shop, I’m doing so in much larger quantities and I’m doing a lot more variety, ducks, soapsicles, jolly rogers, robots and critter soaps. In this case I needed to figure out how to co-ordinate making 22 soaps with 4 kids at a time, that looked somewhat the same, and with a pretty fast turnaround.

Packed up for the surprise!

Packed and ready to go!

I made some soap embeds over the weekend that consisted of flowers and hearts. There were enough to use two in each bar if they wanted. I have two, four cavity tray molds, that were the same size and would give them all about a 3 ounce bar, which is a nice size. The trick, was that I could only work with 3 ounces of soap, and one kid at a time so that they could choose their own fragrance. That means things harden up quick!

Soap Embeds

Soap Embeds, Flowers & Hearts

It didn’t take me too long to get organized. Luckily, there was an empty classroom next door!

Bring on the kids!

Bring on the kids!

Overall, things went well. I had thought I would have time to do 4 kids at a time, but things started setting up way too fast, and I had to change things to work with one child at a time. They could choose two of the embeds and one of four scents. A few of them were really keen and wanted to blend things, and another child added FAR too much scent to his bar (a healthy squirt instead of two drops!).  So, we started from scratch for his. I didn’t want him to “smell” out his mom! Thats ok!  I’m easy!

Eventually, we all got a groove going on, and things went much quicker.

Their lovely creations!

Their lovely creations!

I never got a chance to take another picture of all the un-molded soaps due to time. With one of the last groups, I asked a student to help make a soap for her teacher and an additional soap for an absent student.

After they are let to sit for a few days, they will be wrapping them in tissue paper to give to their moms!

I can’t wait to get mine!

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People do hear the message!

I was asked recently to do a talk about the cosmetics industry and its impact on girls self-esteem for a local girls group and I am absolutely giddy with excitement!

The request came from a customer of mine, who, at some point must have heard me go off on one of my famous soap tangents.

This is a subject very close to my heart.

The “big companies” are forever throwing advertisements at us, trying to get us to buy their body washes (that dry us out), their body lotions (that are more water than anything else), their cuticle creams (a good bar of soap would fix that), their cellulite creams (that’s genetic more than anything and really a good spa brushing would work better than a cream), their eye creams and just about any other “specialized” things that they can come up with for you to spend your money on.

There are really three basic things that will determine your skins health.

Genetics – Yeah, sorry there isn’t much you can do about this but be proactive in the other two areas. Take a look at your mother and your grandmother to get an idea of your genetic destiny! Remember, if they are smokers or drinkers or have a poor diet – it will show up on their faces so it isn’t all “written in stone”.

What you put IN your body – Water, healthy good for you fats and lots of green vegetables and fruits with anti-oxidants is the best thing you can do for your body. A great diet will literally make you glow with health! Dark purplish circles under your eyes can indicate a food borne allergy. Eczema is usually a dietary issue as well!  Someone who spends a lifetime smoking will dry out their skin and will develop wrinkles well before their time. A diet heavy in chemicals, additives and sugars will take a toll on your body inside and out.

What you put ON your body (or really what you DON’T put on it) –  Keep it simple. A well made bar of soap will allow your skin to “balance” itself out. We all have a layer of wax on our skin that does many things. It protects us from the skins rays, helps keep dangerous bacteria & viruses at bay and locks moisture in.  This wax is constantly being replenished. Almost all commercial body wash and bar products strips your skin of this valuable layer through the use of their bubbling agents (SLS & SLSA). First it dries us out, and then we need to apply all those lotions and body butters that the very helpful commercial body wash companies make for us after their products dried us out to begin with! Don’t get me started on the Anti-bacterial stuff. Studies have shown that it does more harm than good! A simple, good quality bar of soap is all you really need. Sometimes a little extra help is needed depending on what your hands have been exposed too, but if you find yourself relying heavily on lotions and butters, you really need to take a closer look at the situation!!

It is my personal opinion that when big companies are more concerned with their bottom line and maximizing their profits, they lose sight of the needs of their customers and what might be best for them. In fact there are many instances where products are formulated to ensure that a particular issue is only temporarily relieved, and continued use of that product exacerbates the issue or creates a whole new one! Their customers then become an unlimited (and addicted) source of income.

Of course, this is only one of the things that I will be touching on with my talk, as you may have gathered…..I get a little off topic at times.

This just means I can write another post. 🙂

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It’s (Almost!) Gardening Season!

In theory, I love to garden. I say “theory” because usually I go through all the labour of planning and planting only to have an army of ants eat what I’ve grown. Or one year, I was pregnant, got all excited about growing my own vegetables, however I got very sick during my pregnancy, so my garden was left to grow into an ugly mass of weeds.

Last year, I tentatively did some container gardening. Just tomatoes, strawberries and herbs. It went well. The bounty was shared by the local chipmunk, but he did leave us some.  This year, I am debating doing a full garden again, but there is the issue of the ants. I apparently planted my garden smack on top of a large nest of ants, or at least quite close to one. We live on a giant sand hill, so this is likely part of the problem.

Are there any avid gardners out there that can give me some ideas on how I can plant a small garden without feeding the ants?  Is it possible to have one in sandy soil? Should I build a raised planter (which seems like a lot of work)?

Even though I wear gloves when working in the garden, I still get dry hands and minor cuts, scrapes and hives on my wrists and up my arms (I’m allergic to most green things). My Daily Grind soap is my go-to soap (also after cooking smelly things!) for washing off the ground in dirt, and I always use a bit of my Helping Hands Hand Balm which helps to add much needed moisture back into my hands and soothe the itchies.

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Soap testing fun!

Last October I set out to test various scents and combinations of scents for the summer and of course for Christmas! I did up 18 different half pound test batches and set them all out to cure for several months.

Testing Soap

Testing soap for 2011

You didn’t think I meant LAST christmas did you?? Ho ho no way! When I set out to develop a new scent or even test for the Christmas season editions of soap, I start at least eight months before I plan on releasing a new scent, even longer if I plan well.

When making soap by the cold process method, there are so many factors that come into play. Because its a chemically reactive process, the fragrance or essential oil that you add to your pot of oils and lye can cause allllll sorts of interesting things to happen. Even if you have the most perfect soap recipie on the planet, things will still go wrong when you change just one factor! Ricing, soap on a stick, seperation, volcanos, morphing, acceleration and any number of undesireable soap mishaps.

If all of those things don’t happen, then there is another set of hoops for the soap to jump through. Some scents simply fade into nothingness in a week, they may be too strong and need to be adjusted, or, horror upon horror, they may change into something completely different. I will always remember the day that I tried to make a cumber melon scented soap, only to end up making soap that smells like old dead fish.  Needless to say, that fragrance oil was recorded as not suitable for use in cold process soap. Other scents may initially fade, then come back full force a few months later, or end up being something completely different. So, its always a good thing to let the soap hang out for a few months to see what happens. I also don’t want a customer buying a great smelling soap only to have it turn into something yucky in 6 months.

Oh! And color! Some scents will turn soap various shades of tan or even dark brown, this is a natural process and won’t harm or stain your bathtub, sink or skin. The darker the coloration, usually the more vanilla the blend contains. This isn’t a bad thing, but when I have a fantastic smelling floral or citrus soap that goes dark brown on me, it may affect my decision to bring it in. Color can be a big factor in someone purchasing a soap, so I have to be conscious of that when testing as well.

The upside is that I never run out of new, fun scents to try in the shower! I’m currently using “Butt Naked” in the shower and I’m really liking it, but I doubt that I will be bringing it onto the line any time soon. I love the way it makes the bathroom and our bedroom smell after a shower though!

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Pocahontas a sign of spring

One of my favorite spring time scents is a beautiful Sweet Grass and Cedar blend that I’ve named Pocahontas. I love making this soap when the snow begins to melt, and the squirrels start racing around.

It reminds me of a gentle breeze blowing across the feilds and picking up the slight cedar scent of a forest just waking up from the winter.

I’m sad though, due to an oil supply issue, this blend will either have to be re-worked and re-invisioned, or shelved indefinately.

Pocahontas Soap (Sweet Grass & Cedar)

It will be a shame to see her go. But as with every change, comes the possibility of something new and even more beautiful in her place!

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What a whirlwind….

Christmas came and went, and with it the craziness of the season. I keep intending on updating the blog, doing up newsletters but then life blows up!

I’ve recently taken the business to the Atlantic Crat Trade Show and what a great venue! I picked up several new accounts and took re-orders from several others. My goal of concentrating more on wholesale to reduce my overall expenses seems to be closer to a reality now.

I LOVE the spirit of this show. The vendors that can be found here are absolutely divine. Everything here is handmade, and local to the maritimes which of course is part of the appeal!

A few of my favorites:

Echos of Erin – they make beautiful handmade celtic jewlery. I adore my chain mail bracelet that I picked up from Vicki. Her sister Connie makes the most delicate hand hammered silver pendants that I have ever seen!

Sweet & Sour Gargoyles – Candi makes the most whimsicle, fun and laughable pottery I have ever seen! She puts so much fun into each peice, it really makes giving these peices of art a joy. From her, I bought two very grumpy fish, a treasure box with a sleepy dragon guarding the conents and a really cool fish soap dish. She is a quirky, fun, adorable person to just be around. She’s one of those people who you just enjoy being around. You can find her creations at Jennifers of Nova Scotia and Coconut Creek, as well as any discerning gift shop in Atlantic Canada!

Wild About Wampum – The one thing I love, is a crafter who is passionate about her work. I had admired her work previously, but at this show I promised myself (and failed) that I would not go crazy buying stuff for other people or myself, and just go, do my work and leave. Yeah, I think I spent 2 minutes listening to Marcia gush about her work, and about these shells and I was sold! I adore the pendant that I bought from her.

I met a new Soapmaker at the event as well, she owns a company called Sweet Bisquit I was thrilled to meet someone who was so passionate about making safe products and had a thing or two to teach me about the cosmetics industry! I look forward to meeting her at other events. I kinda wish I had bought some of her bath bombs! I can’t make those worth a darn and her scents looked drool worthy!

I’m looking forward to getting more focused on the business, getting more active in marketing and getting some production done!

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