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

 

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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

 

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

Soap Samples (Blogtober 5)

Every time I cut a loaf of soap – I always have a fair sized chunk left over at the end of the loaf. Not so thick as to be a saleable bar but perfect to cut into four and use as sample bars.  Their uses, as a general rule, are twofold

1. As free samples to be popped in the box when anyone places an order and

Free sample bar

Free sample bar

2. To be given out to retail outlets with each wholesale order, one per fragrance ordered, so that customers can get a good idea of the fragrance

Retail samples

Retail samples

I ALSO have left over the very thin end piece that I slice off the loaf when I begin cutting it:

Thin end slices

Thin end slices

and recently I started wondering how I could use them.  A couple of years back, at Christmas time, I had bundled up various end pieces, wrapped them up in raffia and sold them as sample packs at market:

End piece bundles

End piece bundles

But I wanted something a little ‘neater’, and then I remembered this blog post by Emily at Soap & Restless, and went on the hunt in the kitchen for a suitably sized cookie cutter.  This was the result:

Cookie Cutter Samples

Cookie Cutter Samples

I’m still not entirely sure what I’m going to do with them. Maybe cut a hole in each one and string them onto some ribbon or raffia?  Or just use them as prettier free samples? It would be an easy enough process to continue slicing that last chunk into thinnish slices, so I should still be able to get four samples out of each end chunk…  What do you think?  Which sample would you prefer to get with your order?

Back tomorrow,

Vickx

The Week in Soap: 17th Sept ’17

It would appear that Autumn is well and truly here. There’s a chill in the air in the mornings, and we’re lighting the fire every evening. It’s also a reminder that Christmas is coming, and with it that big, three day Christmas Fair I’ve committed myself to at the beginning of December – eek!  To that end, this week’s soapmaking was all holiday based:  Double batches of Candy Cane, Frosted Christmas Tree and Warm Gingerbread:

Frosted Christmas Tree, Candy Cane & Warm Gingerbread in the mould

Frosted Christmas Tree, Candy Cane & Warm Gingerbread in the mould

I’ve not taken ‘proper’ photographs of the cuts yet, but here’s a sneaky peek at the Frosted Christmas Tree:

Frosted Christmas Tree

Frosted Christmas Tree

And a quick (and rather rubbish – sorry!!) snap of the Warm Gingerbread (this is the previous weeks batch – this week’s moved even more quickly and I didn’t even attempt the drop!)

Warm Gingerbread

Warm Gingerbread

I had a bit of a mishap with the Candy Cane – there was a knock on the door mid-pour, and instead of ignoring it I went to answer it, thinking that the soap batter was nice and fluid and I could leave it a moment or two… There’s a lesson learnt – I was away from the soap just that little bit too long and when I came back it had thickened up too much to finish off the drop swirl, arrghhhhh….

Candy Cane Interrupted

Candy Cane Interrupted

Bath bombs are a relatively new thing for me and I’ve always found them a little tedious to make to be honest. Last Friday I made 90 of them, and I seemed to be quicker this time. I guess practice does make perfect (still need a LOT of practice though :-D)  They were pretty trouble free, except for one variety, but that’s a story for another day…

Bath bombs

Lots, and lots, of bath bombs

I also packaged up another 100 guest soaps, and bevelled a load more – there’s confetti soap on the horizon I reckon:

Soap shavings

Soap shavings

On a personal note, the highlight of the week was earning my green belt in kickboxing on Monday night:

Green Belt!

Green Belt!

Unfortunately I didn’t feel quite so kickass when I got to training on Wednesday night and discovered exactly what I’m going to have to do to earn my blue belt – there’s some hard work ahead of me!!

If you have a soap (or bath & body) blog, please do join our Soapmaking Bloggers facebook page (and maybe even consider taking part in Blogtober Soapers? ;-D)

Have a great week everyone, I’ll be back soon.

Introducing… Sugar Drops

One of my soaps used to make me a little sad. It smelled divine (no, I know I say that about all of them, but trust me on this one…) but it just didn’t sell well.  It’s fragranced with a dupe of Aquolina’s Pink Sugar perfume: think candy floss, caramel, vanilla blended with strawberry jam and musk with top notes of lemon drops and brown sugar. It really is lovely.

The high vanilla content in the fragrance oil means that it will naturally turn the soap brown, so while I use my regular drop swirl design, I only add FO to two thirds of the soap batter (one third with Titanium Dioxide, one third with no colour) and leave the pink portion fragrance free:

I became convinced that the reason it wasn’t selling was because of its name: First Kiss (so called because it’s so sweet, *groan*)  It was cheesy, and the feedback was that it wasn’t something that older people would want to buy as a gift, even if they liked the scent.

I needed some help to come up with something better, so I asked the good folk of Instagram, and was lucky enough to be given load of great suggestions.  The one I went with was Sugar Drops, suggested by @nightwingbeth.  I liked that it still implied sweetness, and also referenced the Drop Swirl design.

So there we go – First Kiss has been relegated to history, step forward Sugar Drops.

Thanks for reading, back soon!