An Open Letter to New Soapmakers
So, you’re a brand new soapmaker. Welcome to the wonderful world of soapmaking!
As you’ve already realized, soapmaking is an attainable art, but one where a certain amount of knowledge is required. Chances are, you’ve asked for help from experienced soapmakers. Some of you, however, report a reticence to share from other, more experienced soapmakers. Fair enough.
It’s true that some soapmakers will not share information, instead expecting you to do your research and conduct your experiments to learn “the hard way.” Other soapmakers will share everything they know, perhaps to a fault. Most, however, fall somewhere in between. They want to help, but don’t want to feed everything to you on a silver platter.
Why? It’s because they know that the best knowledge is gained from experience and that shortcuts are seldom good teachers. Does that mean you have to tough it out on your own until you figure things out? No! As with everything, it’s not what you ask, it’s how you ask it that appeals to or rubs a veteran soapmaker the wrong way.
For instance, nothing turns off a veteran soaper more than hearing the following:
“I have never made cold process soap before, but want to sell soap at a craft sale in two months, so please give me a perfect recipe.” (Uh, no. No veteran wants to be part of a plan this foolhardy)
“I don’t want to waste ingredients and I’ve never used ________, so please give me a foolproof recipe.” (Nobody likes to waste ingredients, but it doesn’t mean everything has to be handed to you)
“Hi, I want to learn how to make soap and where to get ingredients. Please tell me anything you know.” (Your question is too broad. We hardly know where to start.)
All of the above say, “I don’t want to work at it, but I will gladly take all you have worked for.” And yes, my colleagues and I have heard them all.
If you want to be a member in good standing of the the Happy Soapmaker Club, you’ll phrase your questions more like this:
“Hi, I’m a brand new soapmaker and eager to learn the craft. Please point me to a few reliable sources of information, so I can learn how to make soap the right way.”
“I’d like to add ____________ to my soap, but I’m unsure how to incorporate a new oil. Can someone help me or point me where to look for the information?
Do you see how the first set of questions come across as selfish and thoughtless of other soapmakers’ time and experience; whereas, the second set shows that you recognize the time and effort necessary to learn your new craft? Most of my colleagues are quite happy to help with specific questions and those that indicate you’re taking the initiative and time necessary to learn. Moreover, it’s simply true that experience is the best teacher, so resign yourself to the fact that not every batch will be “soap contest” worthy. We’ve all been there and continue to learn each day, so we expect nothing more or less from you.
Yes, welcome to the world of soapmaking, but be prepared to put some time and effort into learning your new craft!
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Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.