The Week in Soap: 15th July ’18

This is going to be a quick post – I haven’t made any soap this week, but it’s been a busy week for wholesale and guest bar orders, so most of my time has been spent putting them together.

Wedesday was the exception to the regular routine, and I spent the morning at my monthly networking group, telling them all about my business.  I’ve done so many soapmaking demonstrations and talks, but I’ve never had to speak to a room of business people people about MY business. About my struggles and successes, and future development and growth.  I was a little nervous to begin with, but soon warmed up, and I even made some sales, which is  always a bonus!  I joined the group  back in January, and although time constraints have meant that I haven’t been able to attend every meet-up, I’m really beginning to really appreciate the benefits of being a member.  There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have been rather dismissive of this kind of group. And all the more so because it’s called ‘Women Working Together’.  But to be honest the idea of networking was a little daunting, and I’d heard some horror stories of pushy men practicing their sales patter on unsuspecting newbies at networking events.  So, I decided to give this group a whirl, and I’m so glad I did.  I was welcomed from the beginning, and the advice and support I get from other members, who have far more experience of growing businesses, is invaluable.

I’m really short of soapy pics to share with you this week, but here are a couple of the guest bars that I put together for one of my holiday home orders.  These particular ones were for a gorgeous cottage on the Lleyn Peninsula (well worth checking out if you ever fancy a break in this neck of the woods!)

Mini guest bars

Mini guest bars

More mini guest bars

More mini guest bars

I’ve got some new ceramic soap dishes on the way, made by my talented friend Helen of the Snowdonia Blue Slate Pottery.  These are so beautiful, and sell well as part of sets.

Ceramic Soap Dishes

Ceramic Soapishes

And here, just for you, is the very first look at how I’m proposing to package my new facial bars when I launch next month:

Facial bar packaging

Facial bar packaging

There’ll be a tag on the ties (as I have now) and a stamp on the bag with my logo – that’s the plan anyway.

Oh, and I’ve finally taken the plunge and signed up for a card reader, so that I can take card payments at fairs and markets. I don’t think that not having one has caused me to Iose an awful lot of sales in the past, but I know I have lost some.  People who say they’ll come back later when they’ve been to the cash-point, but they never do.  Perhaps they never meant to do so, but who knows?

Over on Instagram, this was my best performing post of the week – a #throwbackthursday collection of discontinued bars. I still love the all-blues one, and I’m thinking of using that colour scheme to make a nice ‘ice blue’ themed bar for next Christmas:

Discontinued Drop Swirls

Discontinued Drop Swirls

And this one was my favourite IG post of the week, purely because it combines my two passions of soapmaking and books – a selection of my favourite soaping books. How many of these do you have?  I’m open to recommendations too 😉

Soapmaking books

Soapmaking books

 

On a personal note, this week saw the first harvest from the garden – a cucumber and two (TWO lol) beans. This was taken at the beginning of the week, and there have been a further two cucumbers since. Fortunate, as my son absolutely loves them!

Cucumber & beans

Cucumber & beans

This weekend has been pretty active, with an early morning walk with my friend yesterday (Saturday) morning. The sun shone, the birds sang, and I got home in time for breakfast feeling, dare I say it, awesome!!

Beddgelert walk

Beddgelert walk

And then today (Sunday) my husband and I took the children on a walk up into the mountains, to a hidden lake called Llyn (Lake) Idwal:

Llyn Idwal

Llyn Idwal

 

Kind of an incongruous place to find a beach, but a beach it certainly is – there were even a couple of swimmers.  We had a bit of a paddle, and the kids did a load of rock climbing, before we headed back down and home just in time for dinner. My kind of day 😉

Thanks for reading!

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The Week in Soap: 24th June ’18

Last night I had the niggling feeling that I should be doing something.  I wouldn’t come to me though, so we spent the evening binge watching Better Call Saul (have you seen it yet?  I LOVED Breaking Bad, but didn’t think much to the idea of a spin off so avoided it despite Netflix’s best attempts at drawing me in. Given that it has the same writers, producers and directors I really should have known better, but there we go – Netflix 1, Me 0  Mind you, it has tried to foist some real doozies on me recently – the new Lost in Space remake for one – arrghhh!  Anyhow, within three seconds of waking up this morning I remembered just what it was I should have been doing last night – writing this…  Guess I’m not quite as firmly back in the saddle as I thought I might be ;-D  Now, clearly I realise that  nobody is out there desperately refreshing their screen in the hope that a new post from me will pop up, I’d like to maintain some form of regularity, so I apologise!

Well then, what’s been happening in my soapy world over the last week? On Monday I sent out orders that had come in over the weekend, and Tuesday was spent wrapping and labelling. Again.  I don’t think I realised when I decided to turn my hobby into a business that, while I would get to make a lot of soap, I would also have to wrap and label a lot more soap too.  Ah well, at least I’m not sweeping chimneys!

On Wednesday I had my first big soaping session in about three weeks.  I stocked up on Serenity (patchouli, ylang ylang, lemon & sweet orange essential oils) and Bewitched (a dupe of the ‘Love Spell’ designer perfume), 120 bars in total:

8 loaves / 120 bars of handmade soap

8 loaves / 120 bars of handmade soap

Thursday was another day of non-stop wrapping and labelling, oh, and a little bit of photography.  I’m still trying to get good shots for my website, and I quite like this one of Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):

Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands)

Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands)

On Friday I cut the batches that I’d made on Wednesday.  I took a very quick snap of them just cut, so forgive their rather tatty appearance.  I also got a touch of partial gel in the Serenity, which hasn’t happened before – I’m trusting they’ll look fine once they’ve been tidied up and bevelled:

Serenity & Bewitched, freshly cut

Serenity & Bewitched, freshly cut

In the afternoon I donned my science coat (not really) and made a few more batches of emulsified sugar scrub. It’s one of the things I’ve been working on whenever I have a spare half day, and I have to say I absolutely love this stuff. I’ve whittled my recipe down to three options, and I’m hoping I can finalise the recipe soon.  I have so many things I want to launch this year, but at the very least there’ll be cold process shampoo bars and these sugar scrubs (fragranced with mandarin essential oil in this case) :

Emulsified Sugar Scrub - tester

Emulsified Sugar Scrub – tester

Emulsified Sugar Scrub - testers

Emulsified Sugar Scrub – testers

So that was it – my work week in soap.  This coming week is going to see more soap being made, including shampoo bars, and more work on the sugar scrubs. I’m hoping to be able to send off for my scrub assessments sooner rather than later (as they can take a good few weeks to get done) and in the meantime I’ll have to think about labelling.

Have a great week everyone, and if you’re in the UK, what about this weather eh?  Absolutely glorious, although it does mean watering my hanging baskets a lot more often than I’m used to!

Hanging Baskets, June 2018

Hanging Baskets, June 2018

Thanks for reading – back soon!

The Week in Soap: 11th March, ’18

I normally try to get this weekly round up out on Sunday evening but yesterday was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and there was no way this was going to get written last night.  I had a lovely day actually – woken by very excited children at 7am and brought a card, flowers AND chocolate in bed.

Lilies & Apple Blossom

Lilies & Apple Blossom

A quick 5k run at 8.30 was followed by an extremely good breakfast at a local cafe Caffi Gwynant, a long walk in the hills:

Beautiful Snowdonia

Beautiful Snowdonia

and the day was rounded off with a roast dinner at home with my mum and her partner.  A glass of wine turned into a couple more, and while we managed to get the washing up done, writing wasn’t really an option lol…

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  The week started, as it so often does these days, with a soapmaking session… Four loaves of Bewitched:

Bewitched colours ready to go

Bewitched colours ready to go

Bewitched in the mould

Bewitched in the mould

And I also made two loaves of Castile.

Castile in the mould

Castile in the mould

Castile  isn’t one of my best sellers, but I have a small (and growing) group of return customers, so I always make sure it’s in stock.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos worth sharing of the cut of these two yet, but here’s a new photo of Bewitched from a batch that’s just finished curing…

Bewitched Handmade Soap

Bewitched Handmade Soap

I sent out a couple of wholesale orders last week – one to the shop at Storiel in Bangor, and one to Siop Ogwen in Bethesda (which reminds me I really need to update my stockist list), and I also spent the best part of one whole day wrapping and labelling bathbombs…

On Thursday we woke up to an unexpected dump of snow, and soon after we got notification that the school was closed.  The kids were thrilled, me not so much – another day’s work missed, but we baked a couple of Lemon Drizzle Cakes so it wasn’t all bad 😀

Lemon Drizzle - yum!

Lemon Drizzle – yum!

Did you see my Happy Mail on Instagram or Twitter?  The super generous Terry of Oldways Soap agreed to trade soap with me, and this is what our postie delivered last week:

Aren’t they gorgeous?  Five varieties of soap (one of which has already joined me in the shower) PLUS a bunny each for the children (who were utterly thrilled – far more than they ever are with any of my bars lol…)  Terry is an expert at the Hot Process method (which I tried for the first time a couple of weeks ago) and she’s given me some hints and tips for my next batch which I’m looking forward to putting into practice soon.

So other than sending out the usual stream of retail orders for soap and bathbombs, that was my week.  This coming week is going to be very busy – I have a bathbomb making workshop on Saturday morning, and then a craft fair on Sunday, both of which I need to prep for.  I also have a few wholesale orders to get out this week, I’m making soap tomorrow (Tues) for a change, I have a networking meeting on Wednesday morning, AND my grading for my next kickboxing belt is on Thursday.  Plenty to write about next week lol…

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vickx

 

 

 

Hot Process – First Attempt

On Monday I decided to try my hand at making Hot Process (HP) soap for the first time.  It’s been on my list of things to do for aaaaages, and I even bought a fancy pants slow cooker / crock pot before Christmas in readiness, but the time was never right.  Recently however I was contacted by Plastic Free Snowdonia, a group who, as the name suggests, are trying to reduce the amount of plastic being used in this area.  They were interested in solid shampoo bars, which I’ve not made for a while, and I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out the HP method. My starting point was this tutorial by Sarah of Sas-Oki Soap and while clearly I am in no position to write a HP tutorial, being an absolute beginner, I did take a load of photos and so I thought I’d share the experience with you.

In the past I’ve used Liz Ardlady’s shampoo bar recipe, but used water instead of the apple cider vinegar (ACV), and left out the sodium lactate. I should confess that I’ve never used the original recipe as written, but I’ve always been really happy with the final bars without the ACV, so I decided to use the same recipe for my foray into Hot Process.

I put all the fats into the slow cooker and while they were melting down I made up the lye solution.

Oils & Butters Melting

Oils & Butters Melting

Off I went to do something else, and of course by the time the lye solution had cooled down, the fats were waaaaay to warm, so I popped them out into the snow to cool down 😀

Oils & Butters Cooling

Oils & Butters Cooling

Once everything was cool enough I added the lye to the oils and gave it all a quick stick blend to emulsify:

Lye added and stick-blended to emulsification

Lye added and stick-blended to emulsification

I turned the crockpot onto ‘medium’, covered the top with some cling film before putting the lid on to keep the moisture in (a tip I got from the Modern Soapmaking HP tutorial) and let it do its thing.  Another tip from the Modern Soapmaking tutorial was NO STIRRING.  So all I did was take a photograph every ten minutes or so.

This one was after 10 minutes cooking – the soap is beginning to saponify round the edges.  Apologies for the quality of these photos, there was condensation forming on the cling film over the pot:

After 10 mins cooking

After 10 mins cooking

After 20 mins cooking:

After 20 mins cooking

After 20 mins cooking

The soap continued to cook, and change colour as time went on. This was what it looked like after 40 mins, and it didn’t really change appearance for the next 10 minutes or so. I decided it might be ready.  All tutorials I’ve read have recommended using an infra-red thermometer to check readiness, but I don’t have one, so was winging it…

After 50 mins cooking

After 40 mins cooking

 

So a the 50 minute mark I removed the lid and the cling film, gave it a good whisk, then did the zap test.  For the uninitiated, the zap test is the process whereby you remove a small amount of soap from the pot and touch the tip of your tongue to it. Yep, you LICK potentially caustic soap.  Sounds crazy I know, but it’s a time honoured method of checking whether soap has fully saponified. If it simply tastes, erm, soapy, it’s good to go. If it zaps (and trust me, you’ll know what I mean if it happens to you) it’s not yet ready.  Oh, and please don’t put the licked soap back into the pot!!  😀

Fully cooked soap, whisked

Fully cooked soap, whisked

I then added some grapefruit essential oil,  and whisked that in thoroughly before the soap was spooned (actually, plopped and stuffed) it into the mould… It was very thick, and solidifying very quickly.  I’ve read that adding yoghurt, (or coconut cream/milk for a vegan version) can be added at this point to help fluidity – I’ll be trying that next time.

Solid shampoo freshly plopped into the mould

Solid shampoo freshly plopped into the mould

I scraped the last bits out of the pot and rolled them into little balls – with my bare hands!!!  I know, I know, I wouldn’t normally do it but these balls at least are for my own personal use only.  And the novelty of being able to squidge soap that’s straight out of the pot with my bare hands was irresistible 😀

Shampoo Balls

Shampoo Balls

Two days later the soap has become even more opaque:

Shampoo Bars in the mould after 48 hours

Shampoo Bars in the mould after 48 hours

I unmoulded the bars, and then cut them in half. These bars are going to be sent out as testers as, although I personally love this recipe, I want as many opinions as I can get before I think about selling this solid shampoo.

Unmoulded Shampoo Bars

Unmoulded Shampoo Bars

Cut Shampoo Bars

Cut Shampoo Bars

There seems to be conflicting opinions regarding how long Hot Processed soap should be cured for.  Strictly speaking, it’s safe  to use straight out of the mould, as the process of saponification has completed in the pot. I did use one of my little balls of shampoo on the same day as I made it, and it worked perfectly. However, as with CP soap, the bars were still somewhat soft when they came out of the mould, and I’m definitely going to give them an as-yet-undetermined cure time to dry out and harden up a bit. I’ve weighed one of the bars and I’ll monitor the weight reduction on a regular basis and report back when it’s ready.

I’m surprisingly thrilled with the result. It’s not very pretty. Not pretty at all actually. But it’s quick & easy and the clean up process is an absolute doddle and I’ll definitely be doing it again.  If you have any tips I’d love to hear them – pleeaaaase 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Vickx

The Week in Soap: 25th Feb ’18

Happy Sunday folks!  Hope you’ve had a good week?  It’s flown by here – can’t believe it’s Sunday evening once again…

So, as it’s already 8.30pm and I still have a mound of ironing to get through, I’m going to make this fairly brief.

I made another 8 loaves of soap this week.  This was on Tuesday, as once again my regular Monday making needed to be postponed as the children didn’t go back to school after their half term break until Tuesday. These are four loaves of Luscious Lavender and four loaves of Blodau (Flowers):

Luscious Lavender & Blodau in the mould

Luscious Lavender & Blodau in the mould

This follows on from the previous week’s enforced trial, and it truly does save a significant amount of time.  I was a good 90 minutes faster making those eight loaves this week than it took me a fortnight earlier when I made two loaves each of four different varieties.  Now, you know by now don’t you that I LOVE making soap, but when I’m making restocks I just need to get them done as quickly as possible, so this is a big win for me.  A couple of close ups of this week’s makes:

I’ve finally hit my goal of having 1000 bars in stock (as I write the exact figure is 1041 bars) but I’ve realised over the last few weeks that it’s not enough, and I need to have at least 100 bars of each variety in the core range made at any one time. I don’t ever want to have to tell a wholesale client that they can’t have a particular bar, and whilst I’m prepared to accept that it may happen occasionally, it’s something I want to avoid if at all possible.  Obviously those 100 bars will be at different stages of the curing process, and so I hope that if I do happen to sell out of a variety, it will only be a week or two at the most before the next batch is ready for sale.

I gained a brand new stockist this week. I was contacted by Zip World about supplying soap to their gift shop at Zip World Velocity in Bethesda. If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, do check out that link, you won’t be disappointed!! By last Friday they had received their stock and the bars were already on display. This is a quick snap kindly sent to me by a member of staff…

Soap on display at Zip World Velocity

Soap on display at Zip World Velocity

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent fulfilling orders and wrapping and labelling stock.  I’ve also been in discussion with another potential new stockist, more of which at a later date, fingers crossed.

This weekend has been a complete work free zone.  The weather was dry and bright, and although it was cold, it was the perfect opportunity to get out and tame a bit more of the garden.  I use the term ‘garden’ very loosely – it was an overgrown junk heap when we first moved in, and we’re spending an awful lot of time and energy clearing it, but we’ll get there eventually. In the meantime I’m giddy to announce that I have ONE raised bed ready for sowing! Look at this beauty:

Raised bed

Raised bed – woop!

Want to know how much work that was? Every single last bit of soil in that raised bed was sieved, by hand, to remove every last bit of glass, stone and rubble, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it (well, until it’s full of edibles anyway!!) If I wasn’t so sore this evening I’d be happy dancing 😀

I have quite a long ‘to-do’ list for this coming week.  I was contact recently by Plastic Free Snowdonia who were interested in solid shampoo bars. I’ve not made shampoo bars for quite a while, so that’s top of my list of things to do. I also need to make up bath bombs for a couple of orders, and for the craft fair I’ll be attending next Sunday in Abersoch (for which I also need to make up a load of gift sets – Mothers’ Day is coming dontch know! :-D)  Finally,  I want to make some shaving soap this week, this is a new one for me – the potassium hydroxide is on order and I can’t wait to start experimenting with recipes!

And I nearly forgot – look at this happy mail I received this week:

Creative supplies

Creative supplies

This rather suspicious collection of white powders was sent to me all the way from Ireland by Barb of, erm, well… I’m honestly not sure if I’m allowed to say yet as I suspect there may be a big reveal coming soon… Barb if you’re reading this do let me know if I can mention/link your new company name 😀 😀   Anyhow, she and I did a bit of a swap – I sent her some soap and she sent me this awesome selection of cream / gel / lotion making supplies, and these, together with Lisa’s e-book, are going to keep me quiet for a good while 🙂

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vickx

The Week in Soap: 18th Feb ’18

Last year, at the end of October, my day job came to an end and my soapmaking business became my full-time concern, and sole source of income.  If I’m honest, that last point is still sinking in – during the run up to Christmas I was so busy that the bank balance was never a concern, but now – eeek!!  Anyway, Christmas came and went, and it soon became very apparent that I needed to get back to soapmaking pdq. Stock levels were low, and while I was expecting a quiet period during January & February, I knew that I had to fill my curing racks ready for when things picked up again.  As soon as the children went back to school after the Christmas holidays, Monday became my regular soaping day, and I’ve been making 8 loaves of soap ( 2 each of 4 varieties) every Monday since.

Soap in the mould x 8

Soap in the mould x 8

More soap in the mould x 8

More soap in the mould x 8

So, back to this week. I didn’t choose the ideal time to get back into the swing of things as far as the blog goes, as it’s been a very atypical week.  The kids have been home from school for half-term, and to compound matters my husband was working away.  I didn’t have the luxury of a full day’s soaping on Monday (I won’t contemplate soaping while the kids are around) so once I’d got them both to bed, I made four loaves of Clarity (Lemongrass & Clary Sage EOs with activated charcoal):

Clarity in the mould

Clarity in the mould

This was a bit of an experiment.  I didn’t have an awful lot of time (if I wanted to get to bed before midnight!) and I wondered just how much time I would save if I made four loaves of the same variety, as opposed to 2 loaves each of 2 different varieties.  Turns out it saves a significant amount of time, but no real surprise there.  I could do it even faster if I had larger mixing buckets, but more on that in a future post…

On Tuesday I decided to repeat the process and once the kids were asleep again I made 4 loaves of Eryri (the landscape bar).  I’ve been putting off making this one as I perceive it to be fairly time consuming, but I really need to stock up on it as it’s perfect for the local market, and it was hugely popular at the pre-Christmas fairs. Actually,  I was pleased at how quickly I was able to make this lot:

Eryri in the mould

Eryri in the mould

So even with the kids home and husband away, I was able to make my (now) regular 120 bars this week. And I’ve a feeling that I’ll be making 4 loaves of 2 varieties every Monday from now on, rather than the 2 loaves of 4 varieties that I’ve been making up to now.

Wednesday was Valentine’s day, and with my other half still away, I treated myself to some beautiful red tulips:

Red tulips

Red tulips

On Wednesday I cut the Clarity, but was rushing and didn’t get a photograph. I did get a quick snap of the freshly cut Eryri on Thursday though:

Just cut Eryri (Snowdonia)

Just cut Eryri (Snowdonia)

This one is fragranced with a blend of rosemary, lime, patchouli, peppermint and a touch of eucalyptus – a fresh, outdoorsy fragrance.

On Friday my husband was home, and took the day off to look after the children while I spent time in the office bevelling and wrapping.  That’s the problem with upping production – there’s more of all the other stuff to do too!!

Otherwise it’s been a fairly quiet week as far as The Soap Mine goes.  I’ve had a few small wholesale orders, and a couple of wholesale enquiries for which I’ve sent out some info and samples, but I can’t wait to get back to a proper routine again on Tuesday when the kids start back to school.  Hopefully next week will give a more accurate picture of what I do as a (nearly) full-time soapmaker 😉

Thanks for reading, back soon,

Vicki

In case you were wondering…

… where I’ve been.

I posted in mid Jan with great intentions to get back on the writing horse, and then found myself paralysed with indecision about WHAT I should write.  I felt that I should recap everything that I’ve been up to since the end of October, but that felt like too big a job.  It would never be complete (and would probably not be 100% accurate either – I don’t have the best memory these days!) and I wouldn’t be satisfied with half hearted attempt.  Anyway, THAT is only reason I haven’t written anything for the last month.  Crazy really.

I’m jumping back onto it tonight, and from now on I’ll be doing my weekly roundups and any other stuff in between, just like before. I’m not going to try to backtrack, but if you have any specific questions about what’s been going on over the last few months, please just ask  (my memory’s not that bad ;-D) but I may well naturally fill in the blanks as I go along anyway.

The run up to the Christmas period was amazing, business-wise. I was busier than I had anticipated, and for that reason I’m still playing catch-up as far as stock levels go.  My current goal is to get to 1000 bars in stock over the whole range, and I every time I think I’m getting close, another big order comes in. Mind you, I’m DEFINITELY not complaining.

I’m making a minimum of 120 bars a week now, and if you follow me on Instagram (www.instagram.com/thesoapmine) you’ll know that Monday is my big ‘making’ day.  I’ll make four double batches every Monday (that’s my 120 bar minimum) and occasionally try to fit in another session later on in the week.

I’ve retired a couple of fragrances that weren’t selling so well – Delicious (a dupe of DKNY Be Delicious) and Boho Baby (Patchouli & Orange essential oils) have both gone. I don’t have any plans to replace them with anything permanent just yet, but if I come across a fragrance that I just ‘have to have’, I have the capacity.

This was the result of last week’s Monday session:

Four Double Batches of Soap

Four Double Batches of Soap

From left to right are Serenity, Welsh Rose, Tutti Frutti and Blodau (Flowers), and here are a couple of them cut:

Serenity Handmade Soap

Serenity Handmade Soap

and

Welsh Rose Handmade Soap

Welsh Rose Handmade Soap

I used slightly different colours for the Welsh Rose this time, and there’s a more subtle different between the pinks that I usually have (I’ve also just realised that this is such a fresh photo that I’ve not bevelled this one yet!) Anyway, I can’t decide whether I really like it, or I really don’t… Hmm… what do you think?

I’m going to leave things there for now, and not try to get too ahead of myself. I’ve already had some thoughts ping into my head for the next post, so I THINK I’m back on a roll. I’ll be doing my best anyway.  I’ll be back next Sunday for a full weekly round up, if not before…

Thanks for reading!

Vickx

The Week in Soap: 29th Oct ’17 (Blogtober 30)

This week is half term here in in Wales, a week later than the rest of the United Kingdom it seems.  This means, of course, that there’s no school all week, and I’m left wondering how I’m going to fit in everything I have to do while entertaining two energetic children.  It also means that this is going to be a whistle-stop post as every minute counts this week!

On Monday I made two double batches of Candy Cane and Frosted Christmas Tree.  I’ve been caught by surprise somewhat at how well (and quickly) these soaps are selling, and seeing as I still have time, I made some more…

More Candy Cane

More Candy Cane

More Christmas Tree

More Christmas Tree

Tuesday was a write-off, work-wise, thanks to that power cut.

Wednesday was my last-but-one day at the day job, followed by kickboxing and then my last Wednesday night soapmaking demo of the season. I have been asked back for next year (yey!) but that won’t be until the hotel opens to guests again at the end of March.

Thursday was bittersweet.  My last day at the pre-school was lovely – we took the children for pizza and ice-cream, and then to the park and everyone had a wonderful time.  It was sad to think that I won’t be working closely with them again BUT I can’t wait to be able to focus properly on this business from now on (well, after this week anyway!!)  As soon as Dean finished work at 4pm I headed over to the office to put together orders for the following day’s deliveries and ended up feeling elated and just a little bit in awe at how quickly the Christmas soaps are heading out the door!

Orders in Progress

Orders in Progress

Friday morning was spent making soap deliveries, including to a brand new stockist – always exciting! The sky was clear and it was  a joy to drive around beautiful Snowdonia in the sunshine, delivering soap and chatting to the stockists. I had a load of wrapping and labelling to do in the afternoon, in preparation for the Porthmadog Craft Fair the following day but by 7pm I’d had enough and took the evening off.

Up and out early the next day for the end of month craft fair in Porthmadog.  Honestly, I  think it was the quietest day I’ve ever had there in all the years I’ve attended.  I suppose it’s that lull between the end of the summer season and the start of the Christmas shopping, but given that I’m busier than ever with wholesale and online orders I really didn’t mind. While I was there I managed to put together a long list of places I want to approach in the new year with a view to becoming stockists, and also worked on plans for new projects, so it wasn’t wasted time.

I spent most of Sunday with Dean and the children on a Halloween themed day out. The plan was to have a completely work-free day but during the drive home I started getting anxious about my low stocks of bathbombs.  Arrghhh!  I couldn’t help myself, I made 5 different varieties – 75 in total. Ho hum… the life of a business owner 😀

Back tomorrow for the last Blogtober post of 2017 – woo hoo!!

Vicki

 

24 Tips for Giving a Soapmaking Demonstration (Blogtober 12)

24-tips-for-giving-a-soapmaking-demo

Last December, I wrote a post giving some hints and tips for giving a soapmaking talk / presentation, something I’ve been doing on a weekly basis for the last three years.  I also get regular bookings to do soapmaking demonstrations, which, unsurprisingly, take a little more preparation. It’s safe to say that it’s been an interesting learning curve, and I thought it might be helpful to someone out there if I were to note down some of the things that I’ve learnt the hard way.  Many may be no-brainers, but some of them might prove to be helpful. So no more waffle, here they are:

  1. Consider your fee before you’re asked so that you’re not coming up with a figure out of thin air (yep, that was me, and it was ridiculously low!)  It might be worth offering two options – one fee if there’s to be no selling involved and a slightly lower one if they’ll allow you to offer your products for sale after the demo.  In my experience they’ll always go for the slightly lower fee and you can take full advantage of the sales opportunity.
  2. If they’re happy for you to sell, make sure you take plenty of product, and some samples as well. If at all possible, make sure that you have plenty of the variety that you making on that occasion available for sale (ie if you’re making lavender soap in the demo, make sure you have plenty of fully cured lavender soap available to buy).
  3. Consider offering a discount to the audience on the regular price of the bars – I usually take 50p off the price of each bar for demo audiences. It’s not a huge discount by any means, and it’s doesn’t make too much of a difference to me, but it is appreciated by the audience.
  4. Take plenty of business cards.  You have a captive audience and a great opportunity to sell not only your soap (or other products) but your demo packages too.
  5. Be prepared.  Create a list (beforehand!) of all the things you need to take, and tick them off as you pack them.  There’s nothing worse than getting in front of an audience and realising that you’re missing a key piece of kit.
  6. Make sure that you know exactly where you’re going.  Google Street view has been my friend a few times when I wasn’t familiar with the venue.
  7. Decide how much preparation you want to do beforehand.  There are plenty of things you can do before even setting off for the venue.  I like to soap at room temperature, and so I prepare the lye water at home and transport it in a well sealed container.  I also prepare the oil/butter mix before I go, and depending on what facilities are available at the venue I may melt it down before leaving, or do it as soon as I arrive at the venue to give it time to cool (if you choose this option make sure that there is a microwave available to use)
  8. Wrap/secure oils WELL to avoid spillage.  Ask me how I know :-O  The passenger foot-well of my car has never been quite the same since the Great Oil Spill of 2016 😀
  9. Make sure you know how much space you’ll have. It’s also nice to have an idea of how many people are likely to be in the audience – is it likely to be 5, or 35?  (That will also give you an idea of how much product you need to take to sell)
  10. If you use a hand blender (or any kind of electrical equipment) remember to tell the organiser that you’ll need to be positioned near an electrical socket. If in doubt, take an extension lead.
  11. Be aware of your timings.  If it’s your first time you might unconsciously race through the process in record time, leaving the audience wondering just what happened there. Take your time and explain what you’re doing every step of the way.
  12. Let the audience know that you welcome questions at any time (providing you do, of course).  If you’re new to demos you might feel that having questions being fired at you could be offputting, but I’ve found that it’s a nice way to break the ice.
  13. Take samples of the ingredients to hand around the audience during the demo, eg fragrances (essential oils or fragrance oils), colourants, oils / butters in their natural state.
  14. Make sure you take plenty of towels and/or tablecloths to protect whatever surface you’ll be working on. I also have a roll of thin linoleum that I use to cover tables as I’d be mortified if spilt lye / raw soap and damaged somebody else’s property!
  15. Also ensure that you have plenty of cloths and/or paper towels to mop up any spillages.
  16. Don’t forget your safety gear.  It might be obvious, but it’s easy to forget the gloves or the goggles.  Make sure they’re added to your list (see point #4)
  17. Don’t ever use a new recipe or fragrance for a demo – make something you’ve made many times before, and that you know works. Don’t rush –  It’s easy to forget to add a fragrance or add the colourant at the wrong time if you’re feeling even a little pressured or anxious.
  18. Take a big plastic tub specifically to take home all the washing up.  I use big tubs to take everything to the venue and usually find that I can use just one of them to transport soapy pots and utensils home – you don’t want to be carrying them home in the same containers as all your non-soapy stuff.
  19. If you can, take some previously made soap in the mould to show the audience the unmolding / cutting process.  (And don’t forget your cutter!) It means that the audience can see full process from start to finish. I usually try to make a batch 2 days before I’m due to give a demo or talk, for this very reason.
  20. Consider talking about the wrapping process and/or  labelling rules & regulations.
  21. It can help to have some ‘interesting facts’ at your fingertips (eg history of soapmaking) should something take longer than planned. If, for whatever reason, your soap doesn’t trace as quickly as usual, you don’t want to be standing there in silence with an audience staring at you!
  22. Consider preparing a handout with a basic recipe and a list of resources should anyone want to try making soap themselves.  Not everyone is comfortable doing this, but in my mind it shows a generous spirit to be willing to help others get started.
  23. Know your audience language.  Now this is a  bit of a niche tip, I’ll admit, but I live in a bilingual area (English/Welsh) and while I’m comfortable giving a demo / talk in either language, I always make sure I know beforehand which language I’ll be using for that particular occasion.
  24. Try to enjoy it!  The audience will enjoy it much more if you’re having fun yourself. Smile a lot, crack a few jokes if appropriate, make it clear that you welcome questions and engage in conversation.

Hope they’re helpful to someone – if you can think of any more please comment below!

Thanks for sticking with me so far, nearly halfway there! Back tomorrow #blogtobersoapers

Vickx

 

The Week in Soap: 8th Oct ’17 (Blogtober 9)

It’s been a quieter week on the soaping front.  I was grateful for that to be honest – we had family visiting for the first half of the week, and I’ve been getting into the swing of Blogtober.  Day 9 today, almost a third of the way through the month already!!

On Monday I made two double batches, both restocks, of Welsh Rose and Blodau:

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

The Welsh Rose wasn’t my best – it accelerated a little and the colours weren’t as bright as they usually are, but it’ll be fine.  The Blodau on the other hand, turned out great  – this is a closeup of it in the mould which proved to be really popular on Instagram:

Close up of Blodau in the mould

Close up of Blodau in the mould

On Tuesday I made more restocks – double batches of Clarity and Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

The new wire for my cutter arrived on Tuesday, and it would appear I ordered the wrong one again. AARRGGHHH  It was a coiled string (?) and slightly thicker than I expected it to be.  Well, we fitted it onto the cutter anyway (taking a bit of a risk but by Wednesday morning I had 12kg of soap to cut and I couldn’t risk it getting too hard) and although it IS a little too thick, it did the trick.  I did a bit of research and discovered that I probably need 20 gauge wire, so I’ve ordered some and it should be here soon.  What a flippin’ palaver!

On Wednesday evening I gave my regular weekly soapmaking presentation.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy giving these. It often turns into a bit of a conversation rather than a ‘talk’ and I get to indulge in waffling on about my favourite subject to a captive audience. AND then I get to sell them soap too!  I’ve only got another two or three weeks to go before they stop for the winter, but the manager has already asked me to go back next season – hurrah!

Thursday was another completely soap free day, and Friday was spent in the office, cutting soap, labelling soap, wrapping soap, photographing soap etc etc….

I took some better pictures of my Christmas specials, which I’ll be sharing with you this week, and of the mountain soap (from yesterday’s post) and this one – the Blodau from earlier this week:

Blodau - just cut

Blodau – just cut

I realised that the reason I don’t get round to sharing cut pictures as much as the ones in the mould is that I don’t usually tidy them up until they’ve been curing for a couple of weeks, so I made and effort to try to tidy up the freshly cut bar and take a picture, and it worked ok I think:

Blodau, tidied up

Blodau, tidied up

Towards Friday evening I started to develop a sore throat which worsened as the evening went on and meant I got very little sleep on Friday night. Saturday was spent feeling ill, lethargic, weak and sorry for myself generally, and Sunday was mostly spent in bed, trying desperately to kick whatever it was that was making me feel so rubbish…

I’ll be back tomorrow, come what may, hopefully with a clearer head and body that’s more willing to co-operate!!

Vickx