Artist or Artisan, Which are You?
What kind of soapmaker or chandler do you consider yourself?
Are you an artist, creating and offering soaps and/or candles that are intricate and beautiful pieces of art that customers are more likely to admire on a shelf than to use? Or, are you a pragmatic artisan, offering to-be-used, but plainer soaps or votives and tealights?
At first, I made melt and pour soap and loved coming up with new ideas for making beautiful soaps. People purchased them as gifts or to display in their bathrooms, for the most part. Later, I learned CP soapmaking but still wanted to make artistic soaps. In talking with a fellow soapmaker, however, she offered her observation that plainer soaps sold better. The purchaser was more likely to use them and come back for more, not to mention the fact that they took less time to make so there was more profit to be made. Since I was having trouble mastering the swirl, I quickly decided the plainer but more profitable, artisan route was for me. I did miss the fancy m&p soaps and decided to make them in a few seasonal soaps if I got around to it, and I’m still working on my swirls and other techniques that challenge my creative side, but that is no longer my focus. Part of me wants to do more, but the business side tells me to concentrate on my main product.
I am not a chandler, but have seen others’ work, and the artistic vs. artisan influence is certainly at work there. I admire the candles that look like sumptuous desserts, for instance, but are unlikely to be burned, and I also admire a nicely made candle in a tin or a votive that burns well and makes the room smell pleasant.
One is not intrinsically superior to the other; it’s more of a preference, a market, and what one finds fulfilling, but just in case it’s not clear, here is how I separate artistic from artisan:
Artistic: not the basic bar or candle; features colors, swirls, shapes, and other visual appeal designed to delight the eyes.
Artisan: more of the basic geometric bar or candle. Although visually appealing, not designed for artistic market. Designed for everyday use, instead. Focus is on the performance of the product.
Of course, both are artisans. Neither one is intrinsically superior to the other; it’s a preference, a market, or what one finds personally fulfilling.
So, here’s my question: what do you do? Do you strongly prefer artistic soap and/or candle making or are you an artisan? Perhaps you’ve combined the two?
Until next time, happy suds and wax!