Getting back on the horse

I’ve done a lot of soapy things over the last couple of weeks, but they didn’t include writing a blog post. I’ve thought about it, aware of the passing days and the realisation that my plan to post at least once a week wasn’t panning out. But you know what? It’s only been 16 days. ¬†I’m improvingūüėÄ

During the last couple of weeks I’ve given a soaping demonstration to a local ladies craft group, given two soaping presentations, had a stall at a (late) summer craft fair and, of course, made loads of of soap.

The soaping demonstration was for a local ladies crafting group. There were some 16 ladies there, and I made a batch of Luscious Lavender soap from scratch. They were fascinated by the process, and asked a lot of questions as we went along. Luckily I had taken plenty of fully cured and wrapped soap with me, as once the demo was over they were keen to treat themselves and their loved ones to a bar or two of handmade soap. ¬†The whole demonstration was done through the medium of Welsh, and I’ve made a note to look up some of the more technical words and phrases before my next one (oops!)

The soaping presentations were in a local guest house, Craflwyn Hall, where visitors come to stay and walk the mountains that surround us here. I go every Thursday evening during the holiday season (usually April through October) and I absolutely love having¬†a captive audience to talk to about my soaping obsession. I’ll write a more detailed post about it another time.

Craflwyn Hall, Beddgelert

Craflwyn Hall, Beddgelert

 

The summer fair I attended last Saturday wasn’t particularly well attended, but I was lucky in that almost everyone who visited my stall bought something. It was a beautiful day – just look at the views from my stall!

View from my stall

View from my stall

I’ve also been making a lot of soap but you know what? I’m going to save that for the next post, which will come all the sooner if I already know what it’s going to be about. Oh I’m definitely getting back into blogging modeūüėÄ

 

 

 

Wait, March??

Um… Ooops! It would appear that it’s been five months since I last posted here. ¬†I knew it had been a while, but FIVE MONTHS?? ¬†In fairness I have been incredibly busy, and posting on the blog was one of things that I kept putting off until I had more time. Well, now I have more time. Today my youngest child started school. Only two hours a day this year, but that still gives me 10 WHOLE HOURS a week to ‘get stuff done’, and high on my list of priorities is to resurrect this blog and start posting much more often.

Since my last post I’ve standardised all of my range, including the seasonal bars. ¬†I may post more about these in the future, but here’s a quick peek:

Love Spell:

Love Spell

Cherry Blossom (Spring Special):

Cherry Blossom

Afternoon at the Races (Summer Special – Strawberries & Champagne fragrance):

Afternoon at the Races

Criccieth Beach (Summer Special – Rockpool fragrance):

Criccieth Beach

And, as there’s always an exception (or two) to the rule, there were also a couple of anomalies – one confetti bar which I made to use up all the bits of soap that I get when I bevel the bars, and one that seized badly when I added the fragrance so I had to simply do what I could with it to get it into the mould, and actually, it turned out ok:

Confetti Soap (Lemon Verbena fragrance):

Lemon Verbena Confetti

Black Rock Sands (Beachy fragrance):

Black Rock Sands

What else?

Well, I’ve gained two more wholesale accounts, bringing the total of retail outlets stocking my soap up to ten, and started supplying one-third sized bars to two businesses offering ¬†guest accommodation. ¬†Much of my time has been spent making, wrapping and labelling soap to keep up with demand. Generally this means working once the kids are in beds, so lots of late night soaping for me!

Every Thursday evening during the holiday season (April – Oct) I’ve been giving a soapmaking presentation to visitors staying in local Holiday Fellowship accommodation. ¬†I LOVE being able to share the process, and it’s always really well received – so much so that I’ve already been asked to go back next yearūüėÄ

During May and June I participated in a European soap swap with 20 other soapmakers from all over Europe. ¬†It involved making an all natural soap, without artificial colours or fragrances, and I was waaay out of my comfort zone. ¬†I’ll share more in another post.

We enjoyed a lot of fantastic family time over the school holidays, with long weekends camping, trips to the beach, geocaching and scavenger hunts (despite the weather not always playing ball – I’m fully expecting an Indian summer now that the kids have gone back to school!).

Plans for the near future include getting my bathbomb assessments organised in time for Christmas, making a facial bar, and experimenting further with sugar scrubs and lip balms before I decide on final recipes. Oh, and launch the website, but you’ve heard that one beforeūüėČ

Drop Swirls & Standardisation

I’ve been using a partial drop swirl for all my essential oil soaps for a long time but for my fragrance oil bars¬†I’ve been using a mix of styles – In the Pot, Tiger stripe, Drop – ¬†whatever took my fancy at the time of making. ¬†As I’m now selling more wholesale soap than I am retail,¬†I’ve slowly come to the realisation that my FO bars need to be of a uniform design too.

It took me a little while to settle into the idea.  Soapmaking is such a creative process and half the fun is coming up with new designs and trying out new techniques. I reluctantly came to accept that I needed to choose a style and stick with it, making it synonymous with The Soap Mine brand and making my soaps (hopefully!) instantly recognisable.

I wanted to retain a link between my EO soaps and my FO soaps, while ensuring it was easy to tell them apart, so the obvious choice was to make my FO soaps using a full bar drop swirl.

I’ve been making soap with this technique for a long time – this was the first one I ever made (years ago!), ¬†fragranced with coconut FO.

Black & White Drop Swirl

              Black & White Drop Swirl

And these are some more recent makes – this is what my FO soap bars will look like for the foreseeable future.

Delicious (Similar in scent to the DKNY designer fragrance Be Delicious)

Delicious

                    Delicious

Oatmeal Milk & Honey:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

        Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Welsh Rose:

Welsh Rose

          Welsh Rose

Blue Belle (Similar in scent to Jo Malone’s ‘Wild Bluebell’ designer fragrance)

Blue Belle

                        Blue Belle

I guess the next thing to focus on is standardising the photography :-O

Thanks for reading – back soon!

Bath bombs – I dipped a toe…

We’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year (already!!) and I’ve not been making much headway with those goals, so I decided to give bath fizzies, aka bath bombs, a go. ¬†I’ve always called them bath bombs, but apparently Lush have patented the name and now everyone’s scared silly to call them ‘bombs’. I’ll continue to call them bath bombs until I come up with my own clever, witty and amusing name. Obviously…

So, bath bombs. ¬†I have a vague recollection of making mini bath bombs in a craft class I took once many years ago, but this was the first time I’d attempted to make them from scratch at home. I duly did my research, and one book and a bunch of Facebook groups later I was ready to give it a go. ¬†I started with the simplest possible recipe: 1 to 0.5 Bicarbonate of Soda/Citric Acid, water, colour & fragrance:

Bicarb & Citric Acid

Bicarb & Citric Acid

For my first try I added the fragrance oil to the dry ingredients in the bowl, and added the colour to the water:

Water & Colour

Water & Colour

I spritzed and mixed, mixed and spritzed, until I thought I had enough moisture in there, and, of course, I added too much, not that you can tell from this pic:

Ready for moulding

Ready for moulding

I used a spherical mould in two halves and went for it.  It was pretty successful initially:

No 1

No 1!

But as I made more, and left them to stand a while – uh oh!

Expanding bath bombs!

Expanding bath bombs!

For the second batch I added cornflour into the mix. This is supposed to give smoother bath bombs, and also helps keep the mix stable while adding the liquid (ie helps keep the fizz from happening too soon). This time I added the fragrance and the colour directly to the dry mix, and spritzed with water from the bottle. I got a bit of bubbling as they dried out, but these were much more successful:

Bombs with cornflour

Bombs with cornflour

For the third lot I used the same dry ingredients – bicarb, citric acid and cornflour, but tried spritzing witch hazel (with a little added yellow colouring) rather than water.

I crumbled up the first, failed, lot, added a little cornflour and remoulded them, which seemed to work just fine.

By carefully making sure all the flawed sides were facing back or down, I managed to get a half decent picture of all them togetherūüėÄūüėÄ

My first Bath Bombs!

My first Bath Bombs!

Now, I’m not generally a huge bath bomb user, so I handed some out to friends¬†to get some opinions, and I’m happy to say they’ve gone down well. I personally couldn’t see much difference between the second (cornflour / water) and third (cornflour / witch hazel), so I’m not sure yet which is the best.

I can’t start selling yet though. ¬†In the UK (and the whole of the EU) each bath & beauty product that we sell must be covered by a¬†full Safety Assessment, issued by a qualified chemist. Assessments aren’t cheap, but they are a legal requirement and are there to ensure that members of the public can rest assured that the products they buy and use are safe. So, there’s more experimentation on the horizon (I’d like to incorporate a little skin loving cocoa butter next) and once I’m happy with the recipe I’ll get my Safety Assessment done so that I can start adding them to the range – woop!

Business Goals (finally)

I promised weeks ago to update on my 2106 business goals, but I’ve found it so difficult to decide what my priorities should be. The days have passed and I’ve pondered and prevaricated, mainly because the next 12 months could, hopefully,¬†bring some serious disruption to my soaping. ¬†When we bought our home 18 months ago, we knew we wanted to build an extension at the back, and within that extension would be a dedicated soaping area (woop!). We’ve finally had the planning permission through, and are hoping that the extension will be built this year.

All great stuff, BUT it does mean I’m unwilling to plan for expansion, or an increase in the number of retail outlets that carry my stock, for fear of being unable to keep up with demand if, as is likely, my current soaping area is out of action for a period of time. ¬†It’s difficult to plan for, as it’s by no means certain that it will go ahead as planned, or if it does, how long it will take. So my goals for this year are modest and *crosses both fingers* easily achievable:

  1. Generate at least as much income as I did in 2015. If it’s more – happy days!
  2. Finalise my recipe for bath bombs / fizzes, organise – and pay for – the safety assessment (a legal requirement in the UK), and start selling them.
  3. Lip balms – as above
  4. FINALLY get the website up and running. This one shouldn’t be a problem, but given that it’s been ‘in production’ for over 2 years it’s going to take more focus than I’ve had thus far to get it done.

There, four goals. Nothing too taxing there is there? ¬†We’ll see…

And a quick soapy pic – here’s a stack of a recent batch of ‘Delicious’, with a lovely upside down depiction of the island of Cyprus in the middleūüėÄ

 

Delicious

Delicious

Cyprus

Cyprus

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon!

Makeovers (5. Lavender)

New Year is generally a time for looking forward for me (I’m still working on those 2016 business goals I touched on in my last post) but last week I was browsing and sorting (supposedly – I’m easily distractedūüėČ ) through my HUGE collection of soapy photographs and I came across some from the early days. ¬†I can remember being SO proud of this one – my first every straight lavender essential oil soap:

Luscious Lavender

Luscious Lavender #1

Note the rounded corners – I hadn’t yet discovered the joys of silicone liners lol… You can also see the signs of a partial gel here too.

It wasn’t long before I began standardising (and simplifying) the swirls, and this was the next incarnation – an In The Pot (ITP) swirl:

Luscious Lavender

Luscious Lavender #2

I went through a phase of experimenting with mica in oil swirls on the top of the bars – though I’m not sure why I thought this was a complementary colour for the top-swirl…

Luscious Lavender #3

Luscious Lavender #3

When it came to developing a cohesive range I decided to make all my essential oil soaps with a drop swirl, and so came up with this two colour lavender drop in a white base:

Luscious Lavender #3

Luscious Lavender #4

The colours have remained the same ever since – I use titanium dioxide for the base and two micas called ‘grape’ and ‘lilac beauty’ for the drops:

Luscious Lavender #4

Luscious Lavender #5

Luscious Lavender #5

Luscious Lavender #6

Thanks for checking in – I really do hope to be back soon with those 2016 goals!

2016 Personal Goals

I don’t do resolutions. ¬†Haven’t done for years.¬†I can’t be bothered with airy fairy statements like ‘I resolve to get fit’ or ‘I resolve to learn a new language’ blah blah blah, which never seem to come to anything (for me, anyway)

I do, however, like the idea of having specific, measurable goals, and while I’ll cover my Business goals for 2016 in another post very soon, I wanted to share with you my two personal goals for this year. ¬†(Not least because I’m hoping that having to update here will make me more accountable!)

My first goal is to run 1,000km during 2016. ¬†Before having children I used to be a regular runner, but that was over six years ago, and I’ve been feeling recently that I want to regain my previous fitness levels. On paper, 1,000km seems a lot (especially as I ran a total of 93.5km last year!) but I really think it’s doable – ¬†it equates to 19.2km a week, or 83.3km a month. This week I’ve run 14.5km over four days (rest days on Wed & today – Sat) and I’m planning on going again tomorrow, so I’m on track:

4-10 January

4-10 January

and the distance I run per week should increase as I get fitter. That’s the plan anyway!

My second goal is far more sedentary РI plan to read 12 novels.  Compared to how much I used to read, it seems a paltry number, nevertheless it will probably be a harder goal to achieve than my running one (I had the same goal last year and I read 4 (4!!) novels all year) But my evenings are almost always spent working Рbe it soapmaking, wrapping/labelling soap, paperwork, marketing etc etc etc. Add to that two young children, exercise time (see above!)  and a part-time day job (with related compulsory coursework/study) and time for reading suddenly becomes rather hard to find. I hope to squeeze in half an hour reading at bedtime before my eyelids start to droop!

Number 1, and currently on my bedside table is Life after Life by Kate Atkinson:Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

Anyway, that’s it for now. Once again it’s approaching midnight and I’m nowhere near bed. Oh for more hours in the day lol!

Wish me luck, and let me know what your goals and/or resolutions are for 2016ūüôā