The Week in Soap: 5th March ’17

I got back into the swing of making soap this week. Having realised that I need to be making far more to keep up with demand, a new process was required.    Previously I would usually make three different batches during an evening’s soaping, once a week, but the new routine is four batches a night, twice a week. By doubling up the batches – ie making two lots of two fragrances, rather than three lots of one, I find I can make the four batches as quickly as three, if not faster.

Wednesday was the first day of the new regime – two lots of Welsh Rose and two lots of Bewitched on the cards.  But, wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of lye. Arghhhh – I felt sure I had a second tub but nope…  Nevermind, I had enough for three batches: two Bewitched and one Welsh Rose:

2 Bewitched, 1 Welsh Rose

Two Bewitched, One Welsh Rose

More lye was ordered and arrived within 48 hours, so I was able to make more today – two lots of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey and two of Blodau (Flowers):

2 OMH & 2 Blodau

Two OMH & Two Blodau (Flowers)

I clearly need to have a better handle on inventory.  I do have have the Soapmaker 3 program, which comes highly recommended, but haven’t got round to using it yet. :-/ Maybe that should be one of April’s goals.

This week I also delivered another couple of batches of ‘Ar Lan y Mor’ (By the Sea) and Potters’ Soap – exclusive fragrances/designs for Glosters in Porthmadog:

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters' Soap

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters’ Soap

I also finished off wrapping and packaging the mini guest bars for Plas Colwyn Guest House right here in the village – these are just a small selection of them:

Mini Guest Bars

Mini Guest Bars

We celebrated St David’s Day on Wednesday, and as is traditional, I made up a big batch of Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes) for the village school show.

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

I’ve been asked again to share the recipe, so I’m planning on getting that written up this week and posted here on the blog.

This is my little three year old in her traditional ‘welsh lady’ costume, singing her heart out at the front of the stage. She’s normally pretty shy, so it was wonderful to see her enjoying her moment in the limelight…

Little Welsh Lady

Little Welsh Lady

 

I also managed to get out for ONE run this week – 5km on Friday morning. If you saw the post about my goals for March, you’ll know that I want to run at least 30km this month. Easily doable, IF I can get my running mojo back where it was in January. Throw some motivation my way?

 

The Week in Soap: 5th Feb ’17

Happy Sunday everyone!  It’s been a busy week, so I’ll crack right on…

More Luscious Lavender and Welsh Rose were made this week. They’re very popular, and I always like to have plenty in stock:

Luscious Lavender / Welsh Rose

Luscious Lavender / Welsh Rose

Both were cut, but I only got round to photographing the Lavender:

Luscious Lavender, just cut

Luscious Lavender, just cut

I also photographed the two custom batches I made last week. This pic, of Potters’ Soap, proved to be my most liked ever on Instagram – so far! 😀

Potters' Soap

Potters’ Soap

And this one is called Ar Lan y Môr (By the Sea):

Ar Lan Y Mor

Ar Lan Y Mor

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week bevelling, packaging and labelling soap. It’s almost half term and before I know it the tourist season will be upon us, so I’m getting ahead of the game:

Bevelling Soap

Bevelling Soap

This evening I had planned to masterbatch a load of oils for the next couple weeks of soapmaking but discovered at the last minute that I’d run out of Shea Butter. Arrghhh!!  I’m usually really careful to reorder as soon as I’m getting low of something so crucial. I didn’t because I was sure I had more, but nope, it’s nowhere to be found. So, first off I ordered more Shea, and then changed tack and made some Bath Bombs (or Bath Fizzies, or whatever it is I’m eventually going to call them – decisions decisions!!)

Before Christmas I got my assessment documentation through for 8 varieties of Bath Bomb (in the UK/EU it’s illegal to sell any bath & body product without first paying to get your recipe assessed and approved by a qualified chemist), and tonight I made three of them – Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss:

Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss Bath Bombs

Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss Bath Bombs

They’re not ‘perfect’ looking, but they do what they’re supposed to – gorgeously!!

Eventually I want to be able to provide matching Bath Bombs for each soap in my core range, but at the moment I can only sell the three above, plus Boho Baby (patchouli & orange),  Lavender, Bewitched (was Love Spell), Serenity and Oatmeal Milk & Honey.  I’m waiting on more colourants to arrive then I’ll be making more (woo hoo!)

I had a bit of an interesting experience with Facebook this week.  I’ve neglected my page somewhat recently as, if I’m honest, it sometimes feels like a waste of time. The Facebook algorithm means that very few of my ‘likers’ actually see my posts, and consequently there is very little engagement.  Regardless, I decided that I should give it a go again, and wrote a post explaining why I hadn’t posted for a while and that I would be grateful if people could occasionally like, comment or even (gasp!) share a post. Then I added the photo that had been so popular on Instagram  Well my friends, that post has gone bonkers!  165 likes, 54 comments and, and 47 shares at time of writing…

Soo…. I wonder if the same thing would work here?  May I ask you to click that little like button below?  Would you be amenable to writing a word or two to let me know you’ve been here?  Lol, I can but ask, hey??!  Thanks for reading, back soon.

 

 

Goals: February 2017

February will see an increase in the pace of restocking the core range of soaps and (finally) bathbombs. In addition, the plan is to:

  • Create a wholesale Line Sheet.  Wholesale enquiries are increasing and this is a high priority ‘must have’. ASAP…
  • Make a test batch of facial soap
  • Make 3 Spring Special soaps
  • Post 8 times on the blog

On a personal note, I have these (particularly un-SMART goals). I’m going to run 50km this month, read something (yep, that’s deliberately vague as I have. absolutely no idea what yet – better decide soon eh?!), and do some baking. I LOVE baking but never seem to find the time.  Maybe a cake or two, maybe some cookies, I don’t know,  but I WILL bake two somethings 😀

A short post, but it gives February some structure. Thanks for reading and keeping me accountable!

 

 

The Week in Soap: I made marmalade!

Ok, so I made soap too, but I’m more excited about the marmalade.

I was given 2lbs of Seville oranges last week – the perfect opportunity to indulge in a bit of preserving.  I used a Delia recipe (can’t beat a bit of Delia!) and it proved to be extraordinarily easy: 2lbs of Seville oranges, 1 lemon, 4 pints of water and 4lbs of granulated sugar.  It’s identical to this recipe here, except I took it out of my rather ancient copy of Delia Smith’s Illustrated Cookery Course, which has been my go-to recipe book for years…

Slicing the peel

Slicing the peel

Boiling

Boiling

A motley collection of jars

A motley collection of jars

I’m ridiculously pleased with it – it’s really tasty.

Last week’s adventures in soapmaking was a couple of custom batches – I first made these last year for a local retailer, and they requested more of the same:

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter's Soap

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter’s Soap

I’ll have some cut photos to show you next week, but in the meantime, here’s a photo of the Potter’s Soap just before cutting – it’s been one of my all time most popular photos on Instagram:

Potter's Soap

Potter’s Soap

Other than the day job I didn’t get much more done this week – I spent a few days under the weather – a bug which turned into a cold – and then I was away over the weekend (hence the late post). Oh, but more wholesale enquiries have come in this week – hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon.

I’ll be back very soon with a roundup of January’s goals, and a plan for February – thanks for reading!

Hello 2017!

Another year, another set of goals… To be honest, last year’s weren’t a huge success – on a personal level I didn’t read as many books as I’d hoped, and I certainly didn’t run as far as I wanted to. Luckily, I’m not anywhere near as bothered as perhaps I should be 😀 On a business level I achieved two out four of my goals – I generated significantly more income than I did in 2015 and I nailed down my bath bomb recipe / got my assessment paid for and certified, so I can now crack on with making and selling them.  Lip balms and website are back on the list for this year…

Speaking of which, I’m going down the route of monthly goals this year.  Last year’s goals weren’t time specific enough, so without any further ado, here are my personal and business goals for January:

Personal

Run 30km.  Yep, I’m running again.  Last year I started off with a rather gung ho attitude and injured myself. I was out of action for a good couple of months and never really got back on track properly after that. This time I’m starting very gently. I’ve run 6.5km so far, so I think 30km is achievable.

Read one book.  Any book. Just read dammit!! We’ll see… This is one I may have to give up on until the kids are a bit older.

Business

January is usually a quiet-ish month, but I’m generally kept busy restocking after the Christmas period, so that’s a given, not a goal. In addition I want to:

Complete my tax return.  This is not optional. It has to be done by 31st January, and WILL be done by 31st January, so I know I’m onto a winner with this one 🙂

Make a batch of Castile soap.  Castile is a pure olive oil soap, with no other oils or butters, which needs at least 6 months cure time. I’ve wanted to make it for a while but not got round to it. I figure if I put it down here as a goal I might be more motivated to find the time.

Work on a formula for a facial bar.  I probably won’t actually make it this month, but I’d like to start researching and formulating a recipe so that I can try making this soon.

Post a minimum of 8 times on the blog.

And there we go, nothing really groundbreaking but, fingers crossed, they’re achievable. If you’re reading this, thank you!  It’s you I’m counting on to keep me on track, if only because I have to report back here in four weeks time – hopefully with my head held high 😀

 

 

 

15 Tips for giving a Soapmaking Talk

Soapmaking TalkFor the last couple of years, from March through to November, I’ve given a weekly soapmaking talk to holidaymakers staying in a local hotel. It’s an opportunity to get paid to rattle on about my favourite subject, and if I’m lucky I’ll sell a few bars as well. Win-win you might think? Well yes, these days I absolutely revel in it, but there’s no denying that the first few times I was really quite nervous. With that in mind I thought it might be helpful to others if I were to note down some of the things I now always do to ensure I give a successful soaping talk.

  1. The first thing I do on arrival at the venue is set up my display of soaps.  A big draw for me of doing a soaping talk is the opportunity to sell as well, so make your display as appealing as possible, with samples available to touch and smell.
  2. The introduction.  You don’t have to go into too much detail. I usually tell them my name, tell them what I do, the name of my business and where I’m based. I then explain that I’m going to talk them through the process of making soap, and I make it clear that questions are welcome at any point. I’ll then draw their attention to soaps I have on display, and let them know that there will be an opportunity for them to buy some at the end of the talk. Even better, ask the host / venue manager to mention to the audience beforehand that there will be an opportunity to buy.
  3. Let the audience know that they can ask questions at any time.  This is a personal preference – I understand that some people would rather not be interrupted – but I really like it when people are engaged enough to want to know more. If it’s something I’m planning on covering a little further on, I’ll say so.
  4. Take samples of all the different oils and butters you use in your recipes to pass around the room. People love to touch and smell things, and it often gets leads to more questions.
  5. Take an empty bowl.  This is my main prop when talking through the soapmaking process. I explain that while I can’t do a full demonstration, I’ll talk them through the process and ask them to use their imagination.
  6. Take samples of mica (or whichever colourants you use). I pass these around the room, explaining what it is and how it’s used.
  7. Take some NaOH in a small SEALED box and explain to them what it is, and precisely why it’s the only item that evening that you WON’T be passing around.
  8. Take samples of essential oils and/or fragrance oils. Pass them around the room. Explain the differences between them – how they’re made, the pros and cons of each.  Make sure that, whichever fragrances you choose to pass around, you have soap available in those fragrances to buy.  It really does make a difference to what will sell.
  9. Take a mould and liner to show them.  I use wooden loaf moulds and silicone liners and I talk about how I started out lining with freezer paper, and the difficulty I had getting smooth surfaces and sharp corners and hence why I’m a huge fan of silicone liners.
  10. If possible, take an unmoulded soap so that you can unmould it in front of them. I’ve now got into the habit of making at least one batch on a Tuesday night specifically to be able to unmould it at my soaping talk on the Thursday night.  Unmoulding a batch of soap never fails to elicit an ‘Ooooooohhh’ from the audience.
  11. This really should be point 10a.  If at all possible, take along your soap cutter and cut some of that soap that you’ve just unmoulded.  This has major WOW factor and in my experience the audience really enjoys seeing this part of the process.
  12. While I wear gloves to cut the main batch of soap, when I’ve cut a few bars to show the audience, I’ll take the gloves off and hold the end piece, showing them that by this point (48 hours post pouring) the sodium hydroxide has combined fully with the fats and is no longer caustic.
  13. I then talk about the curing process – how and why the soap is cured. Often some audience members are keen to feel end piece, and I’m happy to let them do so. I suggest they compare the softness of that piece with the hardness of one of my fully cured bars.
  14. I then talk about wrapping, labelling, and the legislation related to the selling of soap in the UK/EU.
  15. Finally I ask whether they have any questions. Often they’ll ask how/why I started making soap, or more general questions about commercial soaps. If none are forthcoming, I’ll often ask whether they know anything about the history of soapmaking (a subject that often comes up at this point) and then talk very briefly about the story (myth?) of the discovery of soap via the sacrificial fires on Mt. Sapo and what we know as fact about soap in ancient history.  It’s also an opportunity to talk about the differences between handmade and commercially produced soap.

There are also a few general things I’d recommend to anyone giving a talk, whatever the subject.  These might, quite rightly, be considered common sense, so I’m not including them in the ’15’ tips, but I thought it was worth adding them in, as it’s so easy to overlook stuff when you’re feeling nervous:

  1. Arrive early.  Always arrive early.  At least when you’re starting out.  I know it gives you longer to get worked up and for those butterflies to do their anxiety inducing business, but there’s nothing worse than arriving late to get you flustered.  Arrive early, sit down, mentally run through your presentation, have some water and do some deep breathing.  These days I can turn up with 5 minutes to spare and be absolutely fine, but I don’t recommend it 🙂
  2. Wear something comfortable.  You need to be relaxed, so don’t be tempted to get all glammed up if you’re generally the casual type.  Be neat and tidy of course, but stay true to YOU.
  3. Make sure you have a glass or bottle of water within arm’s reach. It’s surprising how dry your mouth gets when you do a lot of talking. It’s also really useful, if for example you suddenly lose your train of thought, to be able to pause and take a sip of water. Those few seconds can be all you need to get yourself back on track.
  4. Try to bring a little humour into your talk. I often talk about the man who came to me wanting advice about making soap from the lard leftover from his fried breakfasts.  That always gets a laugh and a few groans 😀

Good luck if you’re giving a presentation anytime soon, and let me know if you found any of this useful!

Designing, designing…

As winter inexorably approaches, the tourist season here has more or less come to an end for the year.  The only visitors we’ll see for the next few months will be hardy, well wrapped walker and mountain climbers, and many of the gift shops have closed or drastically reduced their opening hours while the owners take a well earned rest.  A good time, then, for me to take stock and consider what sold well during this last year.  It’s clear to me (and it’s no real surprise) that the bars which sold the best here in the village were those with a Welsh element to their name (eg Welsh Rose and Blodau (Flowers)) or a link to the local area (eg Black Rock Sands and Traeth Criccieth (Criccieth Beach)).

I’ve decided that there needs to be a few additions to the regular range – soaps which reference the local area – and the first of those will be Yr Wyddfa, our name for Snowdon, the highest mountain in England & Wales.  Yr Wyddfa has always been close to my heart. As I child I lived literally at the foot of this majestic mountain, and now I live just 10 minutes away from the bottom of 4 different routes up (depending on which direction I drive). I’ve walked (and run, with a team of women, carrying (an occupied!) wheelchair – but that’s another story :-D) to the top many times, but I’ve never taken the train up… Anyway, I digress…

On Tuesday night I made my first attempt.  Even while it was still in the mould I knew that there were things I would do differently next time:

Yr Wyddfa in the mould

Yr Wyddfa in the mould

See that blue on the top? That’s supposed to represent the sky, but sadly it’s the wrong shade of blue. Easily fixed – next time…

And the cut:

Yr Wyddfa, cut

Yr Wyddfa, cut

Clearly I’ve not gone with one of my regular drop swirls here –  I’ve gone a little more literal, with greenery (two colours of green), rock, snowy mountain top and sky.  I need to alter the colours of the rock and the sky, and perhaps have a little more greenery than rock, but I’m really happy with it as a first attempt.