A Name Change (Blogtober 8)

For the last few months I’ve been working on a mountain design. I live in the heart of Snowdonia, practically at the foot of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) itself, and wanted to make a bar of soap that might appeal to the many walkers and climbers who are drawn to the area.

The last version of Yr Wyddfa looked like this:

Yr Wyddfa

Yr Wyddfa

Although they proved to be really popular (and I sold all 30 bars in record time) I wasn’t happy with the design.  Firstly, Snowdon doesn’t look like that. Secondly, (faint of heart look away now) it looked like a big ole pile of dog s**t. Not what I want people to be thinking when they look at a bar of my soap!!

So, anyway, a few weeks ago I made another attempt using the sculpted layers method. (I need to make another batch soon so I’ll try to do a tutorial at that point, but in the meantime there’s a great tutorial here by Danica of Seife & Anderes.  I had thought that this method would give me uniform bars, all with a similar looking mountain scene, but nope, I think I need a fair bit more practice for that to be the case…

New version, to be renamed 'Eryri'

Yr Wyddfa reinvented…

Although these mountains look much more realistic, they still don’t look like Yr Wyddfa, and are clearly not uniform.  Pondering this dilemma I had a lightbulb moment.  I’ll just change the name of the bar from Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) to Eryri (Snowdonia).  We have so many mountains in Snowdonia, why limit myself to trying to reproduce one peak when I could potentially represent them all? 😀

The colours aren’t quite right in these, I think I need to revert to my dog s**t colours!!

So, introducing Eryri (Snowdonia). It’s fragranced with a blend of peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, patchouli and lime essential oils – a fresh, outdoorsy scent.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vickx

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Makeovers (7. Love Spell / Bewitched)

The soap that I’ve long called ‘Love Spell’ is scented with a fragrance oil that is a copy of the designer perfume ‘Love Spell’ by Victoria’s Secret. Having recently applied for my bath bomb assessment, which includes bombs fragranced with the same fragrance oil, I was reminded that I can’t call them (or my soap!) Love Spell as it contravenes copyright. I knew this, and I should have changed it ages ago, but to be honest I just didn’t spend the time to come up with a replacement. As it was, when I received the message from my assessor, the new name came to me within a minute or two. Typical! Anyway, it will henceforth be known as Bewitched.

I first made it back in the summer of 2014. You can clearly see where the top portion, coloured with titanium dioxide, shrank more than the rest of the bar during the curing process. The top was simply spattered with leftover soap batter:

Love Spell V1

Bewitched V1

Soon after that I got into tiger stripe pouring, which I initially made with a flat top (and experimented with some black stripes):

Love Spell V3

Bewitched V2

Love Spell V3

Bewitched V3

And later with a textured top:

Love Spell V4

Bewitched V4

Finally I brought it in line with the rest of the range i.e. with a full bar drop swirl:

Love Spell V5

Bewitched V5

Day 23 of Blogtober 2016. I’m starting to believe I can actually do this 😀

 

Makeovers (6. Clarity)

Blogtober Day 10.  Day 10 folks!! A third of the way through, nearly…

Anyway, this the sixth in an occasional series on the evolution of Soap Mine soap designs. Previously I’ve covered Serenity, Wake Up! (discontinued), Tutti Frutti,Delicious and Luscious Lavender, and this time it’s the turn of ‘Clarity’, fragranced with a gorgeous fresh blend of Lemongrass and Clary Sage Essential Oils.

This one has proved to be one of my bestsellers over the years, and I’ve been making it for a long time, so please forgive the quality of some of the photographs. I’ve said it before but soap photography is as steep a learning curve as soap making!

First came the two color version – a cool grey base with lime green drops:

Clarity v.1

Clarity v.1

I wasn’t overly enamoured with with the grey, so soon after it became a three colour bar, with a green base and white and black drops.

Clarity v.2

Clarity v.2

Clarity v.3

Clarity v.3

When I started adding texture to the tops, Clarity was included of course:

Clarity v.4

Clarity v.4

And so it was, for many, many batches. But then one day, very recently, I decided to ring the changes and, drum roll please…Ta da! This is the new look for Clarity:

Clarity v.5

Clarity v.5

The black base of the bar is coloured with activated charcoal, purported to be excellent for your skin. I found this post recently which talks about the benefits of activated charcoal in soap, but of course, I make no medical claims for my soap whatsoever! 😉

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 year 😀

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 before 😉

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!

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 distracted 😉 ) 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!

Makeovers (4: Delicious)

One of my best sellers is, quite literally, ‘Delicious’.  It’s fragranced with a dupe of the DKNY fragrance ‘Be Delicious’ which has the fresh scent of apples blended with floral / woody fragrances.  To date I’ve always made it with a simple ITP swirl (with apologies for the lighting on the bottom bar):

Delicious - ITP Swirl

      Delicious – ITP Swirl

When I’m against the clock and frantically trying to get my stock levels back up, an ITP swirl is mercifully quick to execute. But, for me at least, they are unpredictable, and the colour distribution isn’t always as I would like. So I decided to try using the same colours but with a drop swirl, and this is how it came out:

Delicious - Drop Swirl by The Soap Mine

           Delicious – Drop Swirl

I LOVE it! So that’s me with one less ‘quickie’ during busy stocking-up soapmaking sessions, but I reckon it’s worth it 🙂

It has though brought to mind an ongoing dilemma I have about what’s most important when it comes to the soaps that I create. I put a lot of thought into what oils and butters go into my bars to give them skin-loving, super-lathering properties, but then I hear people say that they look too pretty to use. It’s a phrase I’ve heard at every single craft fair / Christmas market I’ve ever sold at.  I know people are being complimentary but – Noooooooooooo! Use them! Use them, then buy more 😀

 

 

Makeovers (3: Tutti Frutti)

Tutti Frutti is one of the soaps from my fragrance oil range and is particularly popular with children and young people   Scented with a fruity fragrance oil, it has both berry and citrus notes on a sweet vanilla base and is reminiscent of jelly beans. When I first started using it in soap, I wanted a design that reflected the complex fruity gragrance, and came up with this four colour bar:

1st Incarnation of Tutti Frutti

1st Incarnation of Tutti Frutti

When I decided to standardise my designs last year, I chose the In The Pot (ITP) swirl from my fragrance oil soaps. I wanted to keep the multicoloured idea, and so this is what happened:

2nd Incarnation of Tutti Frutti

2nd Incarnation of Tutti Frutti

It sold ok, but to me it looked messy, and not particularly appealing, so I had to think again.  This is the current Tutti Frutti design. I’m much happier with it, despite it being a little more time consuming to make, and doesn’t really fit, design-wise, with the rest of the range (but rules are made to be broken eh?!).

3rd incarnation of Tutti Frutti

3rd incarnation of Tutti Frutti

Makeovers (2: Wake Up!)

Wake Up! was the first soap that I ever made using a blend of essential oils, way back in early 2010. Up until then I’d used fragrance oils in soap but, despite having an interest in aromatherapy, I’d never tried blending oils myself. Oh how things change! It’s a simple but refreshing mix of Peppermint and Rosemary essential oils – perfect for waking up the senses in the morning shower. While the fragrance blend has stayed the same since that time, it was a couple of years before it got its true name. Up until some point in 2012 it went by the predictable, if uninspiring, ‘Peppermint & Rosemary’.

This is the very first :

1st Incarnation of Peppermint & Rosemary - now known as Wake Up!

1st incarnation of Peppermint & Rosemary – now known as Wake Up!

I quite like the sprig of mint used there as a prop, but the least said about the background the better!

It wasn’t long after the above photo above was taken that I acquired my very first loaf mould (from The Moulds Shop – highly recommended btw), and my soaps became a more uniform shape and size.  For a while I was obsessed with the Tiger Swirl, and Wake Up! looked like this:

2nd incarnation of Wake Up!

2nd incarnation of Wake Up!

Interestingly, it’s only now that I realise that I hadn’t started bevelling the edges at this point – something I always do these days.

These days Wake Up! looks something like this:

Wake Up! from The Soap Mine

3rd incarnation of Wake Up!

Currently all my essential oil soaps are made using the Drop Swirl technique, as I wrote about here. Sometimes they have textured tops, sometimes mica swirls, but they are always (for now!) Drop Swirls.

I’m really enjoying looking back over old designs, so please bear with me in the short term while I indulge myself with these makeover posts – I will try to intersperse them with some other stuff as well 😀  Thanks for popping by!

Makeovers (1: Serenity)

Quite a few of my soaps have had a makeover recently. No matter that I have (more or less) a set range of fragrances & designs, there’s always room to improve and to flex those creative muscles.

One of the most popular essential oil soaps that I sell is Serenity. The fragrance is a blend of Bergamot, Patchouli, Orange and Ylang Ylang essential oils.  The very first time I made a full batch of this one I carefully weighed out the appropriate amount of essential oil blend for the amount of soaping oils used, then put it to one side.  I then split my batter into three, coloured one white and two different shades of blue, then poured the soap into the mold, creating what I fully expected to be an awesome drop swirl. Except I’d forgotten to the add the fragrance. Argghhhh! There was nothing to do but scoop it all out, thoroughly mix in the essential oils, and put the whole lot back into the mould. Of course I ended up with a very plain, pale blue bar of soap which smelled amazing but looked nothing like my original plan:

Serenity Take 1

First incarnation of Serenity

The next few times I made Serenity, I decided to go with a single colour drop in a paler background.  Most of my drop swirls up to this point had been a white soap with coloured drops, but I wanted to try something a little different.  Here I used Icelandic Blue mica for the base colour and Denim Blue mica for the drop:

The second incarnation of Serenity

Second incarnation of Serenity

I used that design for a while, and it sold well enough, but it didn’t wow me, and last year I decided it needed updating.  The current Serenity has a base of Icelandic Blue mica, and drops coloured with Titanium Dioxide and Blue Dragon mica. I think it’s rather pretty and goes well with the name, so this design will be staying (for now anyway :-D)

Third incarnation of Serenity

Third incarnation of Serenity