The Week in Soap: 18th February, 2018

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

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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: 5th November, 2017

Sometimes a week goes completely differently to expectation.  This last week the kids have been home from school for the half-term break (already! Yikes…) and I honestly thought it was going to be a toughie.  I’m right in the middle of the pre-Christmas rush and I knew Dean was crazy busy with his work and not able to take any time off, so was resigned to night time working.  I was able to arrange one reciprocal playdate with a friend who has similar aged children, so i had a houseful of children on Tuesday, and Thursday was to be my one and only ‘work’ day.

Still, on Monday and Tuesday I managed to escape over to the office at 4pm when Dean finished work to pack up a few orders. When I got back, I found out that he’d managed to take the following day off as a holiday so that I could work. He’s a good ‘un.

So of course on Wednesday I took full advantage of an unexpected work day and made a load of bathbombs, as well as making a serious dent in the orders that needed to be packed and dispatched.

Thursday was my kind of day. Once the kids had been safely delivered to their friends’ house,  I made over 16kg of soap – the first time I’ve ever used all my moulds at once:

Four double batches of wet soap

Four double batches of wet soap

I think I may need more moulds!  Clockwise from top left these are Serenity (Patch, Ylang Ylang, Lemon & Sweet Orange EOs), Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime EOs). Blodau (Lavender & Ylang Ylang EOs) and Luscious Lavender.

Wet soap

Wet soap

Later on Thursday Dean said he’d managed to get the Friday off too – result!  I managed to get another few batches of bath bombs made, and then I indulged in a little experimentation  I made another test batch of lip balm – this time in packaged in a tin:

Lip balm test

Lip balm test

This one was made with beeswax, cocoa butter and rice bran oil, and turned out harder than the last test – this one would probably have been better in a tube rather than a tin. I didn’t flavour or fragrance, and I think I prefer it that way…

I also tried making whipped body butter – two separate batches, both made with unrefined shea butter and coconut oil, with a touch of evening primrose oil.  I added lavender and rosemary essential oils to the first batch, and ylang ylang and benzoin essential oils PLUS 1tblsp of arrowroot powder to the second batch.

Melting oil  & butter

Melting oil & butter

Whipping the oils and butters

Whipping the oils and butters

Amazing how much final product came from a relatively small amount of oils – these are far from dainty containers (I popped a pound coin in the photo to give some idea of scale):

Whipped Body Butter

Whipped Body Butter

I used unrefined shea butter, and I’m definitely not a fan of the fragrance – I’ll use refined next time, which is what I usually use in my soap.  I also didn’t add enough fragrance, although it might be that the shea was overpowering the essential oils.

On first trying it I found the body butter to have quite a greasy texture.  Being used to commercial body butters, this version does feel oily on the skin, but having used it for a few days now I find I’m liking it more and more – it sinks into my skin quite nicely.  The arrowroot is supposed to reduce the greasiness of the body butter but I can’t discern much difference between the one with, and the one without.

On Saturday I took over family duties while Dean did some work on the house – the children and I visited the library and went swimming, then had fish and chips at the beach.

On Sunday Dean and the children went to visit friends for the afternoon while I went to the office and unmoulded, then cut, the soap from Thursday’s soaping session. I’m conscious that I often share photos of freshly poured soap and then forget to share the cut pictures, so I made a special effort to get a snap of the freshly cut soap – do bear in mind that they’re still soft here and haven’t been tidied up yet. Clockwise from top left – Luscious Lavender, Blodau, Botanica & Serenity:

Freshly cut soap

Freshly cut soap

Finally, some exciting news on the home front.  Since moving into this house over three years ago now we’ve lived with a really grotty bathroom while we upgraded other parts of the house and it’s meant that I haven’t been able to share the kind of in-use product photos I would have liked.  This week work begins on our new bathroom – woop!  I can’t wait to share pictures, just as soon as it’s done.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vicki

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Blodau in the mould

Blodau in the mould

Botanica in the mould

Botanica in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Made it! (Blogtober 31)

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween

I hope you’ve all had a spooktastic evening (or managed to avoid one, whichever you prefer!)  But there’s another reason to celebrate tonight – Happy End of Blogtober!

Having completed Blogtober in 2016 without too much trauma, I was a little blasé about doing it this year.  What I failed to take into account is how much busier I am this year. I have more customers, more retail outlets, and I needed to make (and wrap & label) far more Christmas specials too.  I won’t lie, it’s been a squeeze some days to get my posts written and posted by the midnight deadline.

I’ve been trying to work out exactly WHY I wanted to do it again this year. I know blogging is good for SEO, but given that I don’t have a live website yet, that’s kind of immaterial. I like writing, and blogging every day has given me an excuse to do that, and of course, I LOVE a challenge. I like goals, lists and challenges. Hmmm… 

Have there been any benefits?  I’ve picked up 10 new followers during October, which is a few more than the monthly average.  I’ve had 2.5k views during this month (the next highest monthly views was LAST October, at 1.7k, and I’ve also seen my highest number of views in a single day this month, on the 12th October when I posted my top tips for giving a soapmaking demo.

There were some downsides though.  I didn’t complete a single other of my October goals NOT ONE! I didn’t do ANY work on my website. I didn’t make a lotion or a cream and I ran a grand total of 3.5km – a far cry from the 50km I wanted to complete.  I struggled sometimes with finding something I wanted to write about. I had plenty of ideas, but it wasn’t always the right time to tackle that subject, or I didn’t feel I had the time to do a particular subject justice. That was another concern to be honest, lack of time led to some superficial posts that I probably wouldn’t have been posted had I not had the pressure of daily deadlines.

So would I do it again? Probably, yes.  Maybe not Blogtober though. This October has been my busiest month EVER in the business. I’m rushed off my feet, and I think the challenge of daily blogging for a month is better suited to sometime during the first half of the month –  Bloguary anyone?? 😀

So that’s me done for Blogtober 2017.  If you stuck with me thus far, thank you SO much! I can’t close before giving a shout-out to my partner in crime Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps, one of only two others who started the challenge with me, and the only other one who completed it.  A special mention too has to go to Hayley of The Pamper Kingdom who got to day 17 before family had to take priority.  If you enjoy soaping blogs and haven’t yet checked out theirs, please do!

Thanks for reading, back… *ahem*… sometime soon 😀

Vicki

 

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

 

Social Saturday #4 – Instagram (Blogtober 28)

The fourth and final Social Saturday, at least for a while, features my current favourite social medium –  Instagram.  I was a bit of a latecomer it and if I’m totally honest I couldn’t initially see the point of it. That soon changed once I jumped in and started sharing photos and following other accounts, and believe it or not I’ve gained most of my wholesale customer through Instagram. I’ve found that there is a lot more interaction on IG than other social media – follow, like and comment on other accounts/photos and it’ll often be reciprocated.

It’s undoubtedly the best social medium for soap porn.  Follow the right accounts and you’ll get photo after photo of beautiful soap (or whatever floats your boat, lol). Using the right hashtags to search (eg #handmadesoap #coldprocesssoap #soapshare) will help you discover new accounts to follow.

If you don’t yet have an account, this article is a handy guide to getting started. If you’re already all set up, there are more advanced tips here and this page is really useful for finding craft based hashtags.

Follow me here: The Soap Mine, and if you share your account in the comments section below I’ll follow you (and others might too :-D)

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vicki

A New Stockist – Siop Ogwen (Blogtober 27)

I’m so excited to be able to share today that I have a brand new Stockist – Siop Ogwen in Bethesda, Snowdonia.  I delivered a selection of bars and gifts sets there this morning, and by the time I’d got home they’d already shared a pic on social media:

Soap!

Soap!

They started out as a book shop (my other passion):

Books, glorious books

Books, glorious books

but they’re diversified their range and now have some lovely, locally made gifts like this jewellery:

Jewellery by Ann Catrin Evans

Jewellery by Ann Catrin Evans

and these utterly glorious Welsh lady prints and bags by Twinkle & Gloom:

Twinkle & Gloom prints & bags

Twinkle & Gloom prints & bags

I’m honoured to have been asked to supply this lovely shop, so if you’re not near enough to be able to pop in and check it out (33 High St, Bethesda), then please take a look at their website or social media:  Twitter, IG and Facebook.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vicki