A Spanner in the Works (Blogtober 25)

I had plans for today. Big plans. Important plans.

Today was the day for finishing off the wrapping and labelling of the first batches of Christmas soaps which had emerged, at the weekend, from their curing confinement

Today was also the day for delivering/dispatching said soaps to all the lovely people, both wholesale and retail clients, who had pre-ordered them.

I got up, and started making breakfast for the kids (pancakes, from scratch, in case you cared).  I made my husband a coffee and took it up to the bedroom. He works from home and I take him a coffee in bed every. Sodding. Morning.  Mind you, I can’t complain. I get a cup of tea in bed at the weekends. If I nag enough…

I digress. I should have known it was going to be a strange day.  Most days my kids are awake before me – they were both utterly rubbish sleepers as babies (my eldest was over 18 months old before he slept more than 2 hours at a time) and have always been early risers. Today, for the first time in our family history, I had to go in to each of their bedrooms and WAKE THEM UP!! (*Ahem* capitals are for effect – I didn’t actually shout – how mean would that be?!!)  Seriously though, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever had to wake one, or the other, up in the morning. Never, ever have I had to wake them both.

So, they were up a bit later than usual, and I was hurrying them along to eat their pancakes and get ready for school. At 7.45 the electricity went off. Complete power outage throughout the village. Never mind, teeth still got done, faces still got wiped, hair was still brushed and we put on layers of waterproofs to brave the howling wind & rain for the arduous 45 second walk to school (have I mentioned how close we live to the school?)

Did you see it coming? We arrived at the school door and were turned away. No school today – ‘Health and Safety’. Can’t do school without electricity. “Arrrrgggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!” (I might have said, under my breath)

So home we go. I couldn’t go to work, and I couldn’t even take the car to make deliveries as my husband, at a crucial point in his current project, needed to use the car to go hunt for the to nearest reliable wifi connection (which, it  turns out, is to be found parked up outside our nearest Tesco (8 miles away), laptop balanced on knees – who’d have thought??!!)

So I spent an hour trying valiantly to do ‘housework’ (but mostly boiling a pan of water to make cups of tea). The kids spent an hour not knowing what on earth to do with themselves until I remind them that they have some toys that don’t have screens…

Mum turned up at about 10.30am, saw the wild look in my eyes and took the kids for a couple of hours. I ran (literally, the rain was still an issue) over to the office and wrapped and labelled as much as I could in the gloom.  These are about half of the orders that were supposed to go out today:

Soapy Work in Progress

Soapy Work in Progress

It was dark, really dark, and although I had so much to do my eyes did get sore and I was glad when 12.30 came around – time to collect the kids.

The electricity finally came back on at about 5.30, just in time to illuminate our meal of  fish and chip suppers that Dean brought home, in full-on hunter-gatherer mode.  The family was fed.

I’m back at the day job tomorrow, so I have a lot of soapy catching up to do somehow but one thing’s for sure – I’ll be back with Blogtober 26 😀 #blogtobersoapers

 

 

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International Soap Swap, 2017 (Blogtober 24)

Earlier this year I hosted a second International Soap Swap (You may remember the last one, back in 2015, which I wrote about over three posts: Post 1, Post 2 & Post 3).  We had fewer participants this year (we started out as a group of 14 but unfortunately a few had to drop out and the final count was 9 participants in total) but they are all wonderful, highly respected soapmakers, and if you have an interested in the soaping world I’m sure you’ll recognise at least some of them.

Here we go – the final haul. This was a truly international swap, with participants from Europe, the USA, Canada & Australia, don’t they look amazing?!

The Soap Swap Haul

The Soap Swap Haul

I’ve been procrastinating over this post for quite some time, but I’ve come to the conclusion that you probably just want to see the bars, and the packaging, and to know who made them. You don’t really need me to wax lyrical too much about them. Suffice to say that as well as looking stunning, they all smell flippin’ wonderful too.

Heavenly Bubbles

Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles is based here in the UK. I love the unique cuboid shape of these bars, and the utterly fabulous packaging.  You can find Wendy on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on her website.

Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles is based here in the UK. I love the cuboid shape of these bars, and the fabulous packaging.            You can find her on  FacebookInstagram, Twitter, and on her website

Heavenly Bubbles

Heavenly Bubbles

Heavenly Bubbles

Heavenly Bubbles

Kangaroo Apple Soap

Lisa of Kangaroo Apple Soap is based in Australia, and sent these beautiful rainbow bars.  Sadly Lisa’s return parcel with all her soapy goodies was lost in transit  😦  Some of us sent extra little parcels individually in an attempt to make up for her disappointment.  You can find Lisa on Facebook.

Kangaroo Apple Soap

Kangaroo Apple Soap

Kangaroo Apple Soap

Kangaroo Apple Soap

Melinda’s Naturals

Melinda is based in the United States, and is currently on a break from soapmaking, so we were really lucky to get ourselves a bar of Blossom Dreams when we did. Perfectly natural and scented with a sweet frangipani fragrance.

Melinda's Naturals

Melinda’s Naturals

Melinda's Naturals

Melinda’s Naturals

Melinda's Naturals

Mimi & Boo

Look at this gorgeous packaging!  Linda is the face behind Mimi & Boo, and these wonderful bars are scented with her own custom blended fragrance.  You can find her on Instagram, and also on her website.

Mimi & Boo

Mimi & Boo

Mimi & Boo

Mimi & Boo

Shieh Design Studio

Emily of Shieh Design Studio was a soapmaker who’s blog I devoured when I first started making soap – she’s a really innovative and interesting soapmaker. Sadly her blog hasn’t been updated for a while but if you’re not familiar with it out you really should check it out.  She’s also on Instagram and Facebook.

Shieh Design Studio

Shieh Design Studio

Mimi & Boo

Shieh Design Studio

Mimi & Boo

Shieh Design Studio

Sienna Lily Soaps

Carolyn of Sienna Lily Soaps is based in Spain, and has the most amazing imagination.  These ‘Sailor’ themed soaps each came with their very own maritime based quote and hand decorated packaging. Find her on Instagram, Facebook,Twitter, and her website

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Sienna Lily Soaps

Soap & Soap

Zacil once made and sold soap commercially under the ‘Soap & Soap’ company name.  She no longer makes soap to sell, so again we were so lucky to have her as part of the swap group.  The photos don’t really do justice to her bars – the piping on the top is exquisite!

Soap & Soap

Soap & Soap

Soap & Soap

Soap & Soap

Soap & Soap

Soap & Soap

Soga Artisan Soaperie

Louise, the owner of Soga Artisan Soaperie, is based in Canada.  She sent these gorgeous ‘Frozen’ themed bars, who’s cool scent was a perfect match for the design and colour. You can find Louise on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and her website.

Soga Artisan Soaperie

Soga Artisan Soaperie

Soga Artisan Soaperie

Soga Artisan Soaperie

What do you think? Aren’t they gorgeous? A huge thank you goes out to each of the participants, it’s a real honour to be able to experience the creations of all these amazing soapmakers.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow

Vick

The Week in Soap: 22nd Oct 17 (Blogtober 23)

Blimey it’s been a busy week! It started on Monday with two double batches of Luscious Lavender and Warm Gingerbread:

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Warm Gingerbread in the mould

Warm Gingerbread in the mould

and continued on Tuesday with two double batches Welsh Rose and Clarity:

Welsh Rose in the mould

Welsh Rose in the mould

Clarity in the mould AFTER CPOP

Clarity in the mould AFTER CPOP

I was so SO pleased that the Clarity turned out ok:

Clarity, freshly cut

Clarity, freshly cut

 

The two previous batches failed (I wrote about that trauma here) and I still need to try my hand at rectifying the failed batches with the oven method. Soon, soon…

Wednesday was my regular weekly soaping presentation. I only have one more to go this season before the hotel closes for winter, but I’ve been asked to go back in the spring which I’m really happy about.  That’ll be my fourth year so I must be doing something right!

On Thursday (after the day job) I spent the late afternoon / most of the evening wrapping and labelling soap for the Beddgelert Craft Fair the following Saturday. I spent all day (and evening) on Friday doing the same.

Saturday was the fair itself and, being the organiser, I needed to be there before anyone else to set up, and was the last to leave after the clear up.  Despite the (relatively) poor turnout, which was entirely down to the rubbish weather, it really was a good day. The stallholders and customers left happy, and I breathed a sigh of relief – it’s definitely going ahead again next year 🙂

Sunday, yesterday, was a family day. I needed a breather, away from work, so the kids and I baked and generally spent the day relaxing. Well, as much as one can relax when one’s dear husband is taking apart the bathroom… Yep, the next phase of home renovation has started, the reno-rollercoaster has begun again and we should have a shiny new bathroom by Christmas. I’ll share pictures when I can.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vick.

Beddgelert Craft Fair (Blogtober 22)

This time last year I wrote a post called 10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair which was a response to organising one in Beddgelert,  my home village, for the very first time.  For the last month or so I’ve been working hard putting together this year’s event, which was held yesterday.

Yesterday! Those of you in the UK will know that yesterday was pig of a day, weatherwise.  Storm Brian came to visit, and the weather was shocking.  Strong winds and torrential rain. Ho hum.  This resulted in two stall holders cancelling on me last minute, which was a disappointment, but we managed to spread out the other tables and I don’t think they were missed by customers.  The other issue with the awful weather was, of course, that people clearly didn’t want to leave the warmth (and safety!) of their homes.  Footfall was down from last year, and I can only put that down to the weather. Nothing we could have done about that, and so I was really grateful to those people who did brave the elements and came out to support us. I thought I’d share some pictures of the day with you here.

Kevin & Kay collect driftwood and other ‘recyclables’ from the coast locally and turn them into gorgeous items to decorate the home.  The Christmas tree with incorporated fairly lights are a special favourite of mine… Kevin & Kay aren’t on any social media at all, they can’t keep up with production as it is so have no need to advertise – what an great situation to be in!!!

Driftwood Crafts

Driftwood Crafts

The stall next to Kevin & Kay was taken by Pauline of Jewellery by Pauline.  Practically all my earrings these days have been made by Pauline, and as well as other jewellery she also makes adorable embroidered lavender bags.

Jewellery by Pauline

Jewellery by Pauline

Next up was Vanessa of Vanessa’s Papercuts.  Vanessa has an amazing talent creating art with paper – either intricately cutting it so that it’s almost lace-like, or using lots of cleverly cut layers of paper to create an image:

Vanessa's Papercuts

Vanessa’s Papercuts

The came me.  This was the very first outing for my step risers, so I haven’t necessarily worked out the best configuration for the display yet…

My table

My table

Next was my next-door-but-one neighbour Cadi.  She makes the most lovely Christmas wreaths and had a small table in order to take orders for this Christmas.  I always have a wreath of hers on our front door during the festive season.

Handmade Wreaths

Handmade Wreaths

Next up was a group of three local ladies who are INCREDIBLY talented with yarn and fabric.  I wish I’d taken some close-ups of their work, so intricate and finely done:

More Handicrafts

More Handicrafts

The next table was taken by the ladies of our village Craft Club.  They meet once a week in this hall, and had lots of knitted/crochet items for sale (along with a few jars of homemade preserves which went down a treat too).

The Craft Club's Table

The Craft Club’s Table

There was one more table, next to the one above (you can just see a corner of it in the photo) but it was a stall being run for a children’s club, and there were children manning the table.  I failed to get a photo without any of the kids in it, so I can’t share any, but they had Christmas stockings, greetings cards, purses, bunting and lots of other lovely stuff for sale.

We should also have had a wood turner and a lady who makes mosaics, but they were the two who were sadly unable to come at the last minute.  I think there was plenty to interest the lovely folk who came in to support us though.

At the other side of the hall we also had a lucky dip for the children, a tombola and a fabulous refreshments table manned by the local club for *ahem* ‘people of advanced years’.  I suppose you could call them Golden Oldies 😀  They did us proud, serving up teas and coffees and SO many homemade cakes.

All in all it was a great day, and could only have been improved by having more people come through the door, but there’s no predicting the weather around here!!

Thanks for reading, and my apologies if this post seems a little rushed – and for the quality of the photos!! Up until now I’ve managed to get posts written at least one day before, and schedule them to go live on the morning of deadline day.  By the time I got home last night after clearing up the hall I had absolutely no inclination to write, and today I’ve been busy with the kids, so it’s now 7.30pm on deadline day – eek!  No matter, as long as it’s live before midnight I’m still in the game lol 😀

Back tomorrow!

Vickx

Social Saturday #3 (Blogtober 21)

Happy Saturday guys!  I’m now officially two thirds through this blogging marathon, and I seem to be noticing more articles online about why you shouldn’t post on your blog too often (like this one!)  I’m committed, I’m not giving up, but there’s no doubt that I can’t find the time to write in depth, well rounded and well researched pieces at the moment, so my writing does feel a little superficial.  I guess it’s all part of the challenge 🙂

This is the third Social Saturday of Blogtober17, and today it’s Facebook’s turn. Ah Facebook.  Is it losing popularity?  Is it becoming the social medium for an older demograph? My number of FB followers has grown slowly but steadily over the years and I get more engagement on there than I do on Twitter, but less than I do on Instagram. Insterestingly I have more business followers on Instagram – that’s where I’ve connected with most of my wholesale customers / stockists, and Facebook is the place where I find I have the most personal, individual customers.

Today’s post is a real quickie.  For the last couple of months I’ve been organising the second annual Beddgelert Craft Fair. It happens today (woop!) and I have an awful lot to do, so, with no further ado, this is my Facebook Page. Do pop over and say hi, or share your link in the comments field and I’ll come to visit you!

I’ll be back tomorrow with a run down of the Craft Fair – keep your fingers crossed for me today!

Vickx

2nd Beddgelert Craft Fair

A Change of Circumstance (Blogtober 20)

**Waffle Warning**  I’ve just reread this post before pressing publish, and it’s rather text heavy and lacking in pretty pictures.  While the turn of events is a little sad,  it’s exciting stuff in terms of growing the business and so I just had to share.

When I decided to take The Soap Mine forward as a bona fide business, I knew it would be a slow burner.  It was 2010, I had a small baby (I was still on maternity leave) and I had just discovered that it would cost me just shy of £1,000 a month if I went back to my full time job. Neither my husband nor I were happy with the prospect of putting our baby into full time childcare (I was a project manager in a Manchester ad agency – crazy long hours) and so I gave up paid work to become a Work At Home Mum and set to making a business out of selling soap.

I practiced and experimented for months and months, and finally applied for SAs (Safety Assessments – professionally certified documentation that proves that my recipes are safe), organised insurance and dealt with all the other legal admin that needs to be done in the UK before you can sell soap.

I spent a couple of years selling at markets and fairs in and around Manchester, and then we took the big decision to move back to my childhood home in Snowdonia, North Wales (well, not actually my childhood home, I don’t think my dear mum would have been too impressed at that, but the same village)  This was the turning point for my business.  I was able to slowly increase the number of wholesale customers that I deal with, start giving soapmaking demonstrations and talks, and supply local visitor accommodation with guest soaps.

Throughout most of this time I’ve also had a part-time job in the village pre-school.  For the last 2.5 years I’ve been the Assistant to the Setting Leader – just the two of us and up to ten 2-4 year olds.  Happy chaos!!  To be perfectly honest it would never have been my first choice – working with children had never been a dream – but I was offered the job when my youngest turned 2, and I could take her to work with me. There aren’t many jobs out there where you can take your child to work so it didn’t take me long to accept.

BUT, as I got busier and busier on the soaping front, I had started thinking about giving up the pre-school role and running the soap business on a full time basis.  My youngest started school full time this September, and so, with some trepidation I told my employers that I would be leaving at the end of the Christmas term.  Then fate decided to move things on just a little bit more quickly.  Last week, the Leader of the setting handed in her notice – 4 weeks notice. She has another job, and we can’t replace her.  Not for want of trying, there’s just nobody out there with the appropriate qualification who wants the job, and so she is literally irreplaceable.

So, sadly, we have to close the pre-school. We’re shutting our doors for the last time a week today – next Thursday, and I’ll be officially out of work.  Except I won’t be. I have more than enough to do with the business, but now I need to think seriously about growth, and increasing revenue.  It’s extraordinarily exciting, but ridiculously daunting too.  I have so many ideas and plans, and now I’ll have the opportunity to put them into action – wish me luck!!

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vickx

 

Saaaaaaaave!! (Blogtober 19)

°OMG I’m so relived today.  Remember a couple of day ago in my last Reader’s Questions post where I confessed that I’d recently had two failed double batches of Clarity?  The ones that looked like this when cut?

Clarity fail...

Clarity fail…

6kg / 12lbs of soap that I don’t know what to do with (except I might have a plan, which I’ll come to in a moment..)

Anyway, it was with much trepidation that I decided I had to attempt making it again. It’s a REALLY good seller, and I can’t afford to run out, but I was nervous – wasting more precious oils (both regular and essential!) wasn’t an option.  I had decided that it was probably down to a partial gel situation, and it would appear that, contrary to what I said here about changes in the weather not affecting my soapmaking, recent changes in the weather had indeed affected my soapmaking (Gah! This is where making bold statements in a blog post gets me!!!!)

I decided to try the CPOP (Cold Process Oven Process) method.  I made the soap with the oils and lye solution just a little warmer than room temp (I usually soap at room temp) and preheated both ovens (on the dough proving setting) to just 40°C.  I had to use both ovens as I make two loaves at a time but can only fit one in at time:

CPOPping!

CPOPping!

I did actually try to take a pic with the door closed but it didn’t quite come out as planned :-D:

Look! It's me...

Look! It’s me…

So, I left the moulds in there for an hour, then turned off the heat and left them there for another hour.

When I took them out the tops definitely looked different to my non-CPOPped batches:

Soap in the mould after CPOP

Soap in the mould after CPOP

And then, a mere 24 hours later (I usually leave them in the mould for 48 hours)  I cut the first one loaf, practically holding my breath as I brought the wire down for the first slice…Success!!  (but do bear in mind that these are freshly cut and not yet tarted up…)

Clarity freshly cut 1

Clarity freshly cut 1

Clarity freshly cut 2

Clarity freshly cut 2

Cue a little happy dance…

And what to do with the other 6kg of spoiled soap?  Well, in the comments section of this post where I also shared my ‘fail’, Sly of Soaps by Sly was kind enough to share a video of Tania of Soapish showing a method that seems to ‘fix’ a partial gel. This could be a gamechanger, and I’m definitely planning on giving it a go (just don’t ask me when!!)

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!

Vickx