Seizing, Ricing and Accelerating; Soapmakers in Crisis

Seizing, ricing and accelerating.  If you’re not a soapmaker or are a beginner, you’re confused.  If  you are a soapmaker, you’re probably recalling your nightmares. . . um. . . experiences, with each.  Few soapmakers survive their years without encountering any or all of them, causing instant crisis mode behaviors.  All three phenomena are caused by fragrance, and are caused by either fragrance or essential oils, but are most common with spice and floral scents.

 

Here’s the scoop:

 

Seizing:  aptly named, seizing takes place after adding fragrance to the soap.  It suddenly turns from a lovely, traced liquid to a hard block of Incredible Hulk-like material.  It seizes up and refuses to budge, hence the alternate term, “Soap on a Stick.”  Yes, I am exaggerating, but when it happens to you, it doesn’t seem that way.  Can anything be done to save the batch?  The best course of action seems to be adding cold water and stirring like crazy.  Pummel it into the mold as soon as possible.  After an episode like this, you will look as though you have just wrestled an alligator.  Consider this a win.

 

Ricing:  This sweet little phenomenon is a little better than seizing.  Upon adding fragrance oil, the mixture creates little rice-like bits in the mixture.  Unless you’re aiming for an attractive rice pattern, you’ll want to know how to counteract this one.  If you are surprised by the ricing, as in you had no prior knowledge of the possibility, stick blend like a mad person until you can mold your soap.  It may work.  If you know ahead of time that this fragrance will rice, then hold out a small amount of your soaping oils, warm them, and add the fragrance to these oils before adding to the soap.  Do not use a water discount with a fragrance that rices.

 

Accelerating:  Like a teenaged boy with the family car for the first time alone, upon adding an accelerating fragrance, the soap will speed up trace as if you floored the gas pedal, meaning you may have pudding or even mashed potatoes within seconds.  This makes fancy coloring, swirls, and anything artistic almost impossible.  Again, it is caused by fragrance.  You may find that adding cold water helps when it happens, but mostly, you just want to get that puppy into the mold.  Yes, you may add color, but taking a long time to make many colors and fancy designs that require pourable soap is out of the question.  This is when I personally resort to the “Glop Swirl,” slapping spoonfuls of soap into the mold.  This should only be done in a safe spot where no one or no thing will be hurt by flying, unsaponified soap.  Try the ricing remedies and be ready to work fast when you know a scent accelerates.

 

Soapmaking, not for the faint of heart!  If you have other remedies, please share them with us.

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

Is it Natural?

“Is it natural?”  If you make soap or body products, you’ve probably been asked this question numerous times.  How do you answer?  

 

This question is much more difficult than people often realize.  The average consumer is used to seeing the term, “natural,” several times each day, and seldom knows how to determine whether the product is truly natural or not.  In fact, they most often take it for granted that the natural product they’re buying is indeed, natural.

 

Those of us in the industry take a harder look at the issue, but may come away as confused as the average consumer.

 

Why is this?  It’s a simple answer to a difficult concept.  We have in the USA, no formal, uniform definition for the term, “natural,” where it applies to soap and body products.  Therefore, companies are in full compliance with FDA regulations when they call their products natural, no matter what is in them.  Yes, you read that right.  You may be appalled at what you suppose to be an oversight of government, but actually defining natural is harder than it appears on the surface.  Sure, we all think we know what natural is.  We may be hard-pressed to define it, but we have a “know it when we see it” idea of natural–except that it’s not that simple.

 

For instance, seeing dimethicone on an ingredient label, most of us would agree that it isn’t a natural ingredient.  Nevertheless, it began as a silica and is mixed with oxygen, carbon and hydrogen to get dimethicone.  If it is made from natural ingredients (albeit not plant-based), is it natural?

 

Let’s take a look at di-propylene glycol.  It began as crude oil, which is natural, but through many processes, becomes a clear, odorless liquid which is listed as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) and is used by the food industry?  Is it natural?

 

 You  might use cornstarch or its more processed cousin, modified corn starch or modified tapioca starch.  Some consider cornstarch to be natural, but not modified cornstarch; however, good old cornstarch is a processed product.  Are either of them natural?

 

How about fractionated coconut oil?  Some consider it natural, while others do not, citing the processing necessary to separate the long chain fatty acids from the short ones.  What’s your opinion?

 

Some believe that even essential oils are not natural, due to the efforts involved to distill or otherwise obtain the essence of the plant.

 

Confused?  The subject is confusing, for sure. Given the complexities, which I believe shall prove to be more common as science and cosmetics develop, discerning natural will only become more difficult.

 

It is true that a few organizations for natural products do exist and that they have set down standards to which their members adhere, but the organizations are entirely voluntary and hold no power of regulation.  You may even find, if you were search them out and read their standards, that you may or may not agree with them.

So, what is natural?  I think I’ll leave that to you to decide!

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles & wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Creating Your Signature Soap

Creating your own soap formulas; does the very thought appall you or does it excite you?  Perhaps you’re shrugging your shoulders saying, “I do that all the time.”  or “Been there, done that.  I worked and tweaked and found my own formula a long time ago.”  

 

If you identify with the former, read on.  If it’s the latter, well, read on to see if  you agree.

 

My opinion is that every soapmaker should eventually develop her own formula(s).  It’s fine to start out with a well-designed, simple formula, but somewhere along the line, she should become curious about other oils and percentages and manipulating them to create a signature soap that she loves.  Yes, some of us get a bit carried away with this concept and never stop tweaking, but that’s another story for another day.

 

I’ve known soapmakers who enjoy the experimentation part more than any other component of soapmaking.  I’ve also known a few who found a recipe in a magazine twenty years ago and have used that formula since and that one only.  I suppose that isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s a good formula, but you’ll be a more knowledgeable soaper if you step out of your comfort zone and learn more about various oils and methods by doing some research and experimentation.

 

If you’re a brand new soapmaker, by all means, get a good formula, follow the directions, and make soap (after after putting your formula through a lye calculator).  If your first batch turns out well, it will encourage you to keep going.

 

Once you become more familiar with making soap, study various oils to learn more about what they have to offer soap.  Some oils produce lather, some harden the bar and others are skin conditioning.  A balanced bar will include good percentage of each.  From there, you’ll probably look for formulas for specialty soaps, such as facial bars and mechanics soap.  That’s where knowing your oils will come in handy and will save you valuable time and supplies in formulating those bars.

 

After some time and trials, you’ll consider yourself a knowledgeable soapmaker.  You’ll realize how little you knew at the beginning, and even though your soap was good then, you’re just so much smarter now!

 

Have you created your own formulas yet?  Are you fearful of doing so, or have you enjoyed the process?  Share with us what you’ve learned.

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

How Will Your Personality Type Affect Your Business?

It’s January.  A new year is upon us, full of hope for the future.  It’s time to let go of any failures, mistakes or bad attitudes of 2012 and spend 2013 pursuing our dreams.

 

It sounds good, doesn’t it?  We can let go of time wasted, attempts that we aborted and opportunities we let slip through our fingers.  Depending upon how you tend to look upon the world, it may or may not be true.  So, how does your personality affect your business?

 

If you’re a glass half full person, you’re probably charging your way down January’s road with glee and with the proverbial stars in your eyes.  You quickly forget problems of the past year or are able to chalk them up to experience as you make new plans to rule the soap/candle/bath & body world.  We’ll call you Olga the Optimist.

 

On the other hand, if you’re a glass half empty type, you may be feeling a bit depressed, unable to let go of  how this last year wasn’t what you wanted.  You realize all too well your faults–you’re too shy, not motivated enough, a poor sales person, your products aren’t quite as beautiful as the next person’s, you hate bookkeeping; they all haunt every potential plan.   You’re destined to repeat 2013, no matter how well others think you did.  We’ll call you Paula the Pessimist.

 

If you’re a realist, thinking about how the glass is both half full and half empty, you know that things can be very, very good or very, very bad, or anywhere in between.  You tend to set realistic goals and make contingency plans.  You don’t reach for the sky, but you’re not hiding in a corner, either.  You know that hard work and perseverance will get you to a certain place.  Your moniker is Roy the Realist.

 

People think that Olga the Optimist will go far, and indeed, it’s often true.  She is able to let go of past mistakes and continue on.  Nevertheless, her enthusiasm at times gets in the way of good sense, and her ability to forget compounds her mistakes because she doesn’t always learn from them.

 

Paula the Pessimist I liken to Eeyore, the donkey of Winnie the Pooh fame.  Eeyore types always remember the bad and never think things will work out well.  On the plus side, they see the pitfalls ahead and are very good at planning, often with some coaxing from a more optimistic person.

 

It would seem that being like Roy is best because he or she is, well, realistic.  However, this type of person usually doesn’t reach as far as the optimist would and is in danger of not accomplishing all the he could in his endeavors.  Not that there is anything wrong with being realistic, but a little dreaming is good, too.

 

You know what comes next–which one are you?  More importantly, is there any help for the negative parts of our personalities?

 

My answer is yes, of course!  Knowing yourself, the good parts as well as the not-so-good parts, is key to success.  You can teach yourself to hold back, to push forward, or to overcome other obstacles you face.  You can partner up with someone as a mentor who will compliment your personality and help where you are lacking.  You do possess what it takes to dream and make your dreams come true.

 

It’s January.  Go get ‘em!

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth  for the Saponifier.

It’s Scentsational!

Have you been too busy with after-holiday chores to sit down with your newest edition of the Saponifier?  Well, do as I did.  Pour yourself a nice cup of tea and sit down for a bit to rest and rejuvenate for 2013.  

 

This issue (January/February 2013) is a particularly enjoyable one because it’s all about scent, and few topics interest soap and candle junkies as scent does.  From the lovely cover photograph that sets the tone to Aaron Polczynski’s advice on selling more of your wonderful, scented creations in, Tips for Soap Sales at any Venue, to a cupcake tutorial (and don’t we love the smell of cupcakes?) authored by Loyce Henderson, you’ll be treated with a great read.  Of course, since you’re this far in, you’d might as well also read, Tammy Lane’s, Holidays You’re Going to Love.  It will help you plan ideas for producing and uniquely marketing all of those wonderful items you can give or sell  this new year.

 

If you’re building a line of scents and are looking for advice, be sure to read, Creating a Scentsational Line by Beth Byrne.  She interviewed Jo Lasky, who is a treasure trove for all things scent and most generously shared some of her knowledge with us!

 

If you’re a soap history buff, you’ll devour Melinda Coss’, Savoir Faire, where she describes the history of soapmaking in France, as well as explaining the current situation that soapmakers face there.

 

What scent could be more wonderful than the scent of herbs?  If you’re hankering to begin an herb garden this year, let Wayne Gorman help in his article, Herb Gardening 101.  

 

Isn’t this the perfect time for trying new formulations in body butters?  Marla Bosworth treats us to formulas and instructions for, Winter Comfort:  Slip Into Rich Cocoa and Vanilla Body Butters.  Mmm. . . I can smell them already!  This is also the best time of year, at least in my hemisphere, for enjoying candles.  You’ll find Lyschel Bersch’s Testing for Wick Size in Candles to be informative and helpful.

 

When it comes to narrowing down a scent line, you’ll enjoy Victoria Donaldson’s survey of friends and  family in, Because it Smells Good!  Armed with the most popular scents of our 2012 Raves for Faves article, Victoria describes how various individuals decided upon their favorites and why.

 

Other than making all of the goodies, what could be a better way to spend a little time than reading about them?

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

What Does 2013 Look Like to You?

 

Hanukkah is over and Christmas is almost here!  By now, if you celebrate, you’re probably checking your lists and making last-minute purchases or creations, decorating your home or attending the season’s festivities.  In all your doing, don’t forget something very important to your business.  You may be thinking, “I know.  I need to get my tax receipts ready,” or,  “I need to notify my customers that I am taking a vacation,” or even, “I just have a few orders to fill.”  They’re all important, for sure, but not what I’m talking about today.

 

The most important activity you will undertake for your business is a review of 2012 and planning for 2013.  Start with reviewing your business plan.  Does it need revision, or do you simply need to review it so as not to lose sight of your goals?  Next, take a look at  your activities for this past year.  What worked and what didn’t?  What propelled you toward your goals and what made you stray?  Did you find that you fulfilled your plans or did you fail to make them?

 

If, for instance, you find that the small craft shows you did were a financial loss, ask  yourself why.  It may be that this is not the venue for you or that your customers are not there–at least not at the ones you were at.  It may be that your booth needs an overhaul or that you need to work on your sales skills.

 

Perhaps you’ve been wanting to secure wholesale accounts, but have been afraid to take that step.  Now is the time to research the subject so that when you approach a business owner, you will do it with the knowledge and confidence of a seasoned professional, thus providing an attractive product that makes it hard to refuse.

 

You may want to get serious about business by developing a website, a Facebook presence and joining a professional organization.  You’ll need to research, plan and work, which will take time and resources, so good planning is critical.

 

Have you missed the boat once again on holiday products because you didn’t start them early enough?  This is where planning comes in!  Think about how much time you’ll need to get a product ready to roll out and write in on a calender.

 

Of course, planning is essential even to hobby soapers/chandlers.  Doing so will increase your productivity and decrease your last-minute stress, and who doesn’t value that?

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions and advice, but be careful whom you ask.  The help of professionals such as accountants and lawyers will be invaluable, as will your customers’ and even others in your field or other small business owners.  Be careful of naysayers, however, who will dissuade you without having the basis to do so or those who haven’t the background to advise you in crucial matters.  Gather up your research, opinions and advice and make your informed decisions.

 

Seriously considering all of these factors will serve you well as you embark on the new year.  Granted, it’s actually a little late if  you haven’t begun already, but better a little late than not at all!

 

What does 2013 look like to you?

 

Wishing happy holidays to all,

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Eureka!

As I was decorating our Christmas tree, I thought about how I’d chosen ribbon, bulbs and other decorations to suit my tastes and my chosen color theme.  To be sure, our tree is no “designer tree,” as I hang any ornament that is given to us or that I make or purchase just because.  I do,  however, try to keep some semblance of order by using like elements that create a tree that looks coordinated, yet pleases my family and me.  Nevertheless, not everybody’s tree is like mine.  Some are country primitive, others are Victorian, and yet others are modern.  Some are even made out of peacock feathers!  I thought back to our family tree as a child and how one year after my whole life of the usual real tree with a motley assortment of decorations and tinsel, my parents bought an artificial tree and Mom decorated it with silk balls and little elves.  She was quite pleased with the looks of her tree and it suited her, although I would have preferred using our old ornaments and the ornaments that had previously belonged to my grandfather.

 

What does this have to do with soap, candles and bath and body,  you ask?  It’s individuality!  We use our creativity and individuality every time we make a batch of soap, candles, shower scrub, whipped body butter, or anything else we do.  Yes, we may carefully copy someone’s else’s formula and directions the first time, but we usually have to try out many variations and tweak them before we hit upon the One That We Love.  Doing the Happy Dance, we feel as if we’ve just reached the peak of Mt. Everest.  We’ve arrived, yes we have.  And that’s the way it should be.  We should go through a learning period; we should have to try different ideas; we should have to tweak.  That’s what makes us unique and our products, proprietary, because we’ve put our heart and soul into their formulation.  Our products don’t look like or perform exactly like someone else’s.

 

Of course, it doesn’t end there.  We still must find out what our customers think.  We have to package and we have to market before we can reap all of the benefits of product development.  Nevertheless, the most satisfaction we get is likely to be that moment when we test our own formulations and find that we’ve created something truly wonderful.  Eureka!

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Eight Ways to Sell Your Products

This is the time of year when most of us sell the greatest volume of soap, body products and candles of the entire year.  Moreover, most of us want to capitalize on that and sell the most we possibly can.  We also have many choices for selling our goods.

Farmers markets are popular among vendors and offer several advantages.  They are generally inexpensive and attract a good source of customers who appreciate the natural goodness of soap, candles and body products. They can be an ideal place to begin.

Craft shows run the gamut from inexpensive to expensive, customers who fit your niche to those who don’t; well run and attended to, well, the opposite, they are popular choice for the beginner and experienced, alike.

A number of those in cottage industries sell via consignment shops, where others won’t consider them.  Renting shelf space is sometimes an option, as well, and may be a good option.  A storefront allows the owner to do whatever she desires, but takes capital, inventory and business sense to succeed.

If one is willing to put the effort into a website, she stands to expand her business to virtually anyone, anywhere.  The same is true with internet handcrafted sites such as Etsy and Artfire.  All require, however, fees for listing or selling or monthly costs, as well as the added job of shipping goods.

Finally, some choose wholesale, although it’s usually a choice of those more experienced in selling of course, for several reasons. The requirement to produce in large batches, the tight deadlines in getting product ready, and the ability to negotiate contracts require a skill that most who are new to selling, lack.

How do we like our options, and how do we decide which ones to pursue?  To be honest, it’s often simply a matter of which opportunities fall into our laps.  We use the trial-and-error method until we find those that best fit our products and our needs.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can take some time to find our groove–the choice that works best for us, individually.  Others of us determine our niche and goals and realize from inception of the business which selling venues will best help us reach our business goals.

Which methods do you prefer, and how did you get to where you are?  What is one piece of advice you would give to the hobbyist who is working on turning her hobby into a business?

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Wanted: Emulsion Junkies

I admit to being crazy about emulsions, especially as they pertain to soap, lotions and creams.

 

A scientist I am not.  I was never fond of chemistry until I embarked on this soap and stuff adventure a number of years ago.  I actually remember my first lotion emulsion.  Following the directions in The Herbal Home Spa, by Greta Breedlove, I warmed my water with a little borax and in another pan, warmed my oils and beeswax.  I slowly poured the water phase into the oils phase and voila!  I had lotion.  I went on to experiment with other emulsifiers such as lecithin.  Soon, I discovered e-wax and was really on my way in having obtained a stable emulsion.  I experimented with various oils and water amounts and later, with BTMS and other emulsifiers.  It was fun.  To be truthful, I can’t say my mistakes were fun.  The time I forgot the borax that was to accompany my beeswax and I ended up with a separated mess was not fun, but I did learn a valuable lesson about a borax/beeswax emulsion.

 

Later on, I got up the nerve to make cold process soap and again, was fascinated with emulsions.  That combining sodium hydroxide and oils could produce a hard bar of soap was fascinating and I couldn’t get enough.  I still can’t!  When that separating oil and water becomes one at trace, I get a little thrill of wonder and success.  Although I don’t do it often, hot process is just another variation of that process that amazes me with its results.

 

I am writing this because I just know that I am in no way unique.  You likely share a similar story or we would have no need for the Saponifier.  We have our individual differences–you may have begun with soap and then moved to lotions, or you may make only lotion or soap; nevertheless, if you enjoy making one, you’re an emulsion junkie just like me.

 

So, how about it?  Do you declare yourself an emulsion junkie?

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

New Issue in Review!

Have  you devoured your November/December issue yet?

We at the Saponifier have done our best to bring you all of your favorites.  From your favorite suppliers, scents and products, to recipes revisited and those for winter, you’ve likely enjoyed reading about them and perhaps have even tried some of the recipes.  Were your favorites mentioned in Beth Byrne’s, Raves for Faves article?  Have you sampled tried and true recipes from, Favorites Revisited:  Saponifier’s Best-Loved Recipes, by Tamara Dourney, ornew recipes in,  All-Time Winter Skin Favorites:  Scrubs, Creams and Lotions, by Marla Bosworth?

 

We’re certain you enjoyed other helpful articles that will allow you to manufacture more efficiently and profitably, such as Victoria Donaldson’s, Personalizing for Small Orders.  Or perhaps, you’re working up new formulas for scrubs of any kind, so you loved, Natural Exfoliants, by Erica Pence.  What are your favorite exfoliants?

Are you looking for something new and exciting for candlemaking?  If so, you’ve likely made plans to try Fire and Ice candles, by Erica Pence.

We’re sure you found exceptional business advice by Melinda Coss, in her new column, Savior Faire and Consistency–the Mother of Success, by Alexander Sherman. What did you find most helpful?

I found myself already thinking spring with Elizabeth Sockol’s, Wake Robin!  Were you as fascinated as I was by the many uses for this lovely herb, as well as its history?

Let us know how you’ve enjoyed this issue and used the knowledge you’ve gained.

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

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