Jekyll & Hyde in the Herb Garden

Do you grow Barberry?

Some would call the European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) a weed shrub, but thanks to Elizabeth Sockol, we know that although it is weedy, Barberry is also a useful shrub.  Along with its close relatives named in her article, we now know that its berries are edible and loaded with vitamin C.  Additionally, it had been used in the past for a long list of ailments.  Nevertheless, this attractive shrub has a dark side due to the fatal fungus that resides within–a fungus that very nearly wiped out wheat and barley growing in the US.

Intrigued?  Make sure you read this most fascinating article and tell us if you don’t agree that Barberry might be called the Jekyll & Hyde of the herb world.

Fortunately, we can turn to one of my favorite herbs, indeed an favorite of many, Calendula (Calendula officinalis).  This lovely, cheerful annual is not only delightful in our flower gardens, but an extremely useful herb, as well, Lindalu Forseth explains.  She talks of Calendula infused in oil, teaching how to grow, harvest, and infuse it for use in a variety of ways.   It’s a known anti-inflammatory, helps heal wounds, and may even be useful as an anti-cancer and anti-viral.

Many soap and b&b makers love Calendula for its skin-loving qualities.  After reading this article, you’ll want to give it a try!

Do you have questions regarding what you’ve read in this issue of the Saponifier?  Did you like particular articles, finding them helpful in your soap, bath product, or candle making?  Let us know.  We love to hear from our readers.

Lastly, be sure to drool over the photos sent in by our readers, and to read the bio of Maria Sarafi from Greece.  You’ll be inspired!

What did you learn from reading this issue?

Recycling and Social Media: What About You?

All those bits and ends of candles, you’d like to find a way to use them, but how?  Erica Pence comes to the rescue in Recycled Candles, explaining just how easy it is to remake those stubs into tea lights, votives and even decorative candles.  She even gives simple directions for making candles in pumpkins and other seasonal produce for a lovely holiday theme! Naturally, I purged my leftovers not long ago, but will save them again so I can give Erica’s advice a go.

Have you tried this yet?  Let us know how it went.

In this day and age, you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Social Media.  Clearly, the buzz phrase of the decade, Social Media brings to mind probably at least a couple of types.  The question is, how well do you make use of it as a tool for marketing your business?  Is the entire topic an unknown that you’re afraid to explore?  Or is it a lake that you’ve dipped your toe in, but you’ve been afraid to jump?  Perhaps you feel as if you have jumped in, but belly-flopped.  Read, Five Steps to Social Media Success:  An Interview with Donna Maria Coles Johnson, written by Beth Byrne.  In it, dM as she likes to be called, outlines the major Social Media types, as well as a few not so major, and helps us to both understand them, their purpose, and how to use them effectively in our businesses.  Ever amazed by dM’s knowledge of the latest and greatest in marketing and technology, I just know you’ll find her thoughts helpful in your own efforts.

Have you implemented any of the strategies mentioned in the article?  Share with us how it’s working for you!

Until next time, happy bubbles!

Oils, Oils, and More Oils!

Do you feel comfortable using essential oils?

If the answer is no, but you would like to learn, Marge Clark on The Essentials of  Essential Oils is for you.  Beth Byrne interviewed Marge to get the scoop on essential oils, from what they are to how they are obtained.  She explains the production processes, how to choose oils of acceptable quality, and questions to ask suppliers to ensure pure, good quality oils.  She also talks to readers about proper and safe use of essential oils.  Read the article and arm yourself with the knowledge to make appropriate buying decisions!

What are your favorite essential oils for your products, and why?

No doubt you know of a soapmaker who has sought an alternative to palm oil–maybe one of these soapmakers is you.  The reason?  The rampant burning of the rainforests in order to create farmland for palm trees to satisfy the needs and desires of the world.  The effects of this uncontrolled practice are widespread and alarming, and who could look at Orangutans losing their habitat and not feel a pang of guilt?  Erica Pence, in The Search for Sustainability, aptly explains the situation, not simply for palm oil and Orangutans, but also for other products and causes, and urges us to search for sustainable products, instead.  She makes a compelling case and even provides us with two formulas to try out.

Have environmental or social global concerns affected the way you do business?

Carrier oils, how much thought do you give them?  Except for getting the right balance for soap, do you pay attention to them?  I admit to being an oil afficionado, so Sherri Reehil-Welser’s article, The Beauty of Carrier Oils, was on my must-read list.  She reviews a long list of oils, ranging from the most common such as olive oil, to a few that are more obscure, namely Tamanu and KuKui Nut.  She informs us as to the vitamins and other properties of the oils, as well as their effects and what products or conditions to use them for.

How many of your favorites were mentioned?

Until next time, may bubbles be part of your day.

What do You Really Know About Fragrance Oils, and Other Goodies for Soapers

I was happy to read Cindy Noble’s, Understanding Fragrance Oils:  From Blending to Safety.  Learning about the building blocks of fragrance oils, terpens, carriers, alcohols, and chemical compounds helped me to understand what a fragrance oil is other than a bunch of chemicals mixed together with a carrier to make them skin safe.  Many of the terms I was familiar with, but not in the defined way Cindy presented them.  Some of it, I admit, was a little shocking, but fascinating, nonetheless.

In the delightful article, My Soap Went Up in Smoke, Larry Strattner regales us with his tale of his soap adventures and his good friend, Deb.  Through them, we learn that some basic rules and tricks of the trade would be useful for us to share with our customers.  This one was how we could help our customers keep their soap longer and proper storage of soap bars.  Your customers would be pleased to learn this information!

H.R. 2359:  heard of it?  How about its title, Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011?  If you haven’t, you need to read, An Update on H.R. 2359:  Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011.  In one page, it sums up what the bill is about, its status and popularity, and commentary on why some support it and others oppose it.  It’s something you need to know about!  This bill was not sent to the House for a vote before their session ended in June, but may be brought up again when they reconvene, so any soap/cosmetic maker would do well to become familiar with the bill and track its progress.

Which article was most helpful to you?

Moroccan Gold and Wholesale for You?

Have you finished reading  your Sept./Oct. edition of the Saponifier yet?  I confess that I haven’t either.  Not from lack of interest, mind you, simply from a lack of time!  What I have read, however,  has been fantastic.

Having recently purchased argan oil, the Miracle from Morocco, I couldn’t wait to read Marla Bosworth’s, Moroccan Gold:  The Beauty of Incorporating Argan Oil in Soaps and Skincare Products.  She reminded me why I wanted this oil so badly, given its high vitamin content and polyphenols, not to mention its cachet in high-end cosmetics!  You too, will enjoy learning about this amazing oil and trying out the formulas she provides.

I was actually excited reading, Growing as a Soapmaker, by Jean Broughton.  It’s a little sappy, I guess, but when I read of another soaper’s success, whether a good first batch of soap or a big account like Joan’s, it just makes me smile.  Joan’s frank account of her experience, from first phone call to delivery, was thrilling to read.  It was instructive too, you’ll find, as she recounts the steps involved and doesn’t hesitate to inform us of just how hard she worked and how much help she needed to pull it off.

Have you read these articles?  Tell us what you think!

Water Soldier and Neem, What did You Know?

Wow, so much meat in this issue!

I enjoyed Elizabeth Sockol’s insights into a previously unheard of herb for me, Water Soldier.  It’s hardy to zone 6, so there is some possibility that I might find it where I live; I just need to go looking.  I’d better hurry, though, as summer isn’t going to last much longer.  Given the article’s warning about not using it for products, I won’t try it, but I would like to know if it’s around.

Neem Oil, what do you know about it?  Do you use it?  If not, I hope you’ve read Lindalu Forseth’s article.  This powerful herbal oil has potential for many useful products, from soap to garden insecticide.  Interestingly, it is also known for its ability to increase skin elasticity.  Be sure, however, to pay attention to its precautions.  Like most herbs, although it can be used safely, we need to know its potential for danger when misused.

Have you checked out the Readers Showcase Gallery?  It’s one of my favorite features of the magazine,  as I enjoy reading about other companies and seeing their creations.  This issue’s gallery is not an exception!  I’m inspired by Janie Clark’s (Selkies Artisan Soap Co.) successful business and Ann Stoermer’s Pitter Pattern Designs.  Her goodies look yummy enough to eat!

Finally, be sure to notice our fine advertising companies and check them out!  They offer quality products that you’ll be sure to enjoy.

Four Good Summer Reads. . .

By now, I’m sure most of you have read your July/August 2011 issue cover-to-cover and packed with helpful articles and ideas to implement in your business.

Are you a maker of natural products?  The term, “natural” is extremely popular right now, embodying products full of synthetic ingredients to those made with entirely earth-based ingredients.  With the marketplace saturated with natural, how can you promote yours?  Erica Pence details the difficulty of defining natural in her article, Promoting Your Natural Products,”  as well as properly labeling your product so that it will stand out. You will gain confidence in marketing once you understand the ins and outs.

Interested in perfumery?  Read, Perfume Oil Blending 101 – The Fragrant Body, by Sherri Reehil-Welser, to learn fragrance notes, blending mediums, and even a blend recipe for a “Daily Devotional” blend.  Go ahead, try it.

If you have thus far resisted the temptation to make candles, beware that reading Erica Pence’s, Marbling:  Torching, Hammering, and Painting Your Candles, may just change your mind!  She explains the various techniques in detail, so if you’ve been thinking that your candles are a bit on the boring side, you can remedy things.

Are your marketing strategies less effective than you would like them to be?  Perhaps you’re struggling with determining the best way to turn interest into dollars.  Tamara Dourney explains the kind of demand that customers display will decide the type of marketing you choose in order to convert more “maybe” into “yes.”

Have you thought about or implemented any of the business actions outlined in this issue?  Have you made the booth bunting?  What do you think?

If you’re participating in or gearing up for fall craft shows, and want to set your booth apart from the competition, you’ll need something unique.  To the rescue comes Rachel Wolf  with Creating Your Own Booth Bunting.  With just a little time, a bit of fabric, and a dose of creativity, you too, will create a bunting worthy of your product line.

You Tube and Salt Bars, What do you Know?

Have you ever viewed anything on You Tube?  

I’ll bet the large majority of us have, whether it was something funny that another person shared with you, performances of your favorite musicians, or to see something done, you’ll find it all there.  But have you ever used You Tube for your business?  If you haven’t, author of Filming Your Way to Success:  How to Use You Tube for Your Business, Kelli Whitley, urges you to get to it!  Her article is a veritable manual for learning what You Tube can do for your business and how to develop a business strategy using it.  You won’t want to miss this one.

If you have a hankering to make salt bars, then Amy Kalinchuk’s, Salt Bars, is for you.  She provides a formula and complete directions that will have you dying to start your own batch.  You really have to try it!

If you haven’t read, From the Ashes, by Lindalu Forseth, you owe it to yourself to do so.  It is both a difficult and poignant story of one soapmaker’s bad fortune and the results.  Although you will feel for Sue, you will cheer for her and her supporters, and it will make you think about what you would do in her position.

Are you using You Tube?  Do you make salt bars, or have you been wanting to but didn’t know how?  Has any calamity befallen you or have you thought about what could happen and taken steps to prevent or recover from it?  Let’s hear from you!

Are You Business Savvy?

Have you been reading the new issue of the Saponifier?

I’m sure you’ll agree that our writers have outdone themselves this issue, especially if you own a business.

Niche?  Target audience?  What do these terms mean to you and your business success?  Read Marla Bosworth’s, Identifying Your Niche and Target Audience,” to find out!  If you don’t have one, you need to get one.  Marla warns us that instead of trying to be everything to everyone, we need to find a niche market to concentrate on.  But don’t forget to peruse the article, or you’ll miss out on some very helpful information.

If you want to keep it local, read Cindy Noble’s informative article, Backyard Marketing.  Find out how to put together a business prospectus, how to find the right demographics for your product, and how to get ready to market your business.  Additionally, get ideas on where and how to find good advertising sources so that your market can find you.  Cindy tells us that although the focus these days is on globalization and international markets, we can still find a foundation at home.

Did you attend the HSMG Conference in May?  If you did, read Beth Byrne’s review, Miami Bubbles with Soapmakers, to relive the excitement and energy.  If you didn’t attend, read it anyway to see what you missed!   Read who came to speak, who came to learn, vendor-sponsors who support us, and much more. You might even find yourself in a photo!

Happy reading!

Miami, Purple, and Inspiration

I recently had the privilege of attending the HSMG (Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild) conference in Miami, Florida.

Not only was it a treat to visit the warmth and intriguing culture of Miami, but it was also a treat to meet with some of our readers.  You were all very kind in sharing your positive comments about how you loved the Saponifier, and it was very gratifying and encouraging to hear.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, take the plunge and join the Saponifier family!

So, have you learned what Purple Salsify is yet?  I was curious to find out about it as it is a new herb to me, and was excited to read that it would probably grow in my climate!  Now, just to find some of this elusive and uncommon herb. . .

Eucalyptus Oil is one that the majority of us are at least somewhat familiar with.  If you don’t use it for soaps, cosmetics and medicinal products, you’ve probably used the cough drops when suffering with upper respiratory infections.  Thinking I wouldn’t find much new information about this common essential oil, I was surprised to read that it is being grown outside of Australia.  To see that it is grown in Tasmania is one thing.  To learn that it is also grown in southern Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal is quite another!  As with any essential oil, but sure to do extensive research on its safe usage before employing it in your products.

Did you see the Soapers’ Showcase?  Wow!  Silvia Victory’s (Indulgence by S.V. Soaps, Idaho) creations are indeed unique, and her use of color and texture, exhilarating.  Amber West’s (Bambu Earth, California)  natural soaps were simply inspiring.  And to think, they are all naturally colored.  Her labels are plantable, too.  These ladies are exhibiting the very best in beautiful soapmaking.

Until next time, happy bubbling and waxing!

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