Bath or Shower?

Bath or shower? Which do you prefer? What about your customer base or friends and family?

 

Personally, I love a relaxing bath with herbs, milk, fizzy and other goodies, but the truth is that I rarely take one. I suspect that these days where most of us are rushing here and there or spending our days just trying to keep up with one task after another, bathing just seems like a time-consuming indulgence that we cannot afford.  That being said, my suppositions may not be true for your audience, and finding out is your job.

 

If you’re already considering scent and color, but forgetting about your customers’ preferences when it comes to showers vs. baths, you may be creating products that they don’t really use rather than creating the goodies they’re clamoring for.  Of course, it’s less crucial to concern yourself if you’re a hobbyist; yet the knowledge comes in handy at gift-giving time, when you give a gift they’ll really use!

 

So, how do you find out what your customers want? Ask!  Most will be very forthcoming about their preferences. Ask casually when conversing, form a focus group, conduct a survey or find your own unique way of getting information.

 

Of course, taking a little extra time for yourself is a good idea as is encouraging your customers and friends to do the same, but it’s easier to sell something they already know they want than to convince them they want what you’re selling.

 

 

PS: The upcoming issue of the Saponifier features cosmetics, all sorts of them! Not a subscriber? You can fix that: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

 Also, are you working on replicating the designs found in our Design Mania issue?  Take photos because our contest is coming! Details in the July 1st issue.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

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!

 

If you want valuable information at your fingertips, subscribe to the Saponifier: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

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

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

Soapmaking Oils: What are They all About?

“I am out of shortening. May I substitute another oil? I don’t want to use palm oil anymore. What can I use instead?”

 

These and similar questions are not uncommon among soapmakers. The answers are at times, simple, and at other times, not so simple. For instance, good 1:1 substitutes for shortening are tallow, lard or palm. Not so simple? The person who wants to substitute shortening without using any of the aforementioned oils! At this point, the soapmaker may have to rework his formula to find one that yields a similar bar.

 

In order to substitute oils, rework formulas or make up our own formulas, we need to know what each oil contributes to soap. This is best accomplished by learning about the fatty acids that make up each oil. The fatty acids that we track for soapmaking oils are: lauric, myristic, linoleic, linolenic, oleic, palmitic, stearic and ricinoleic.

 

Wait! Don’t let your eyes glaze over yet. Stick with me and I’ll try to make it easier.

 

Oils high in lauric and myristic acid contribute to a hard, lathering bar of soap. These include coconut, palm kernel and babassu oil.

 

Oils high in palmitic and stearic acid give us hard bars. These include palm, tallow, and shortening (the hardening which is further enhanced by hydrogenation). Additionally, butters such as cocoa, mango and shea, among some lesser known as illipe and mowrah butter.

 

Finally, oils high in conditioning are high in oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids. This encompasses a large number of oils such as sunflower, safflower, olive, sweet almond, and apricot kernel oil. Although these oils are primarily used for conditioning, they are thought to make soft soap. More about that in our next installment.

 

Learn your oils and you hold the key to creating the perfect soap bar!

 

Want more help with soapmaking? Subscribe today!

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

Oils, What’s Not to Like?

Oils. Who loves oils more than those who make soap and body products?

 

Many of us try as many oils as we can get our hands on (or afford), eagerly reading the fatty acid profiles and attributes of each oil while planning which products would be the best use of our precious oils.

 

To be honest, previous to soapmaking and bath and body, I never paid much attention to oil. I’d use it in cooking, but I never wanted it on my skin. Once I began my journey in producing skin products however, I saw oils in a totally different light. Oil was good. It was pure and was beneficial. It nourished my skin and helped me to heal. It had vitamins! Oil was in nearly every product I created, from soap to salves to lotion and more. What’s not to like?

 

And yet, the subject of oils causes a great deal of consternation among soap and bath and body makers. Which oils should I use? Which oils are good for soap or lotion or shampoo or liquid soap? Indeed, there is so much to learn that I feel as if I have only scratched the surface. I think I have a grasp on the breadth of oils available to me and then I hear of another one I never knew existed. Isn’t the continual opportunity to learn what makes this job or hobby so much fun? By the way, for the purposes of this discussion, my use of the term, “oils,” pertains to fats, as well.

 

Consider CP/HP soapmaking, for example. We have a hundred oils we might use, but we need to narrow our choices down to a manageable few. So, what do we choose? For a long time now, I’ve been convinced that if we were to choose our soapmaking oils and fats according to their fatty acid profiles and properties, we’d choose much differently than we often do and would value certain oils more than others because our opinions had no base in cost.

 

Nevertheless, we are usually restricted by price and availability, which may seem like a bad thing, but it isn’t. There is no shame in using inexpensive oils that are easily available. In fact, many would argue that using expensive luxury oils in soap is a waste of money since it’s washed off almost as soon as it’s applied. Others insist that certain oils, albeit pricey, give their soap a luxurious performance that cannot be matched with “everyday” oils.

 

I tend to side with the former, believing that some humble, commonly found oils are actually excellent oils, providing us with lovely soaps to bathe with.  What about you? Do you enjoy using more common, less expensive oils, or are you a person who appreciates oils more when they’re rare and expensive?

 

Either way, it’s a discussion that ends with, oils. . . what’s not to like? Want to learn more? Subscribe to the Saponifier!
 

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

 

Beth for the Saponifier

Hope That Works

Hope.  What do you think of?  Generally, we think of it as fulfilling a desire of some kind.  For instance, I hope you had a great holiday season, that you made the amount of money you projected, that you enjoyed the season and that you remained sane.  I hope you didn’t gain weight.

 

I was reminded, however, of a more archaic definition:  trust and confidence.  I find that I like that definition even better.  We have a trust and confidence in something coming to pass, whether it be in our businesses, our relationships, our bodies, spirituality or any number of facets of our lives.  Rather than a pleasant, but ineffective kind of “best wishes” hope, we have trust in the future.  I call it, “hope that works.”

 

I then ponder what it takes to produce confidence in the future.  Is it merely an idea of what we’d like see come to pass?  “I’d like to sell more product in 2014.”  How far will that get us?  Like most of our New Year’s Resolutions, they’re nice ideas, but not enough to move us, especially not for the long haul that 2014 will prove to be.

 

Therefore, rather than uttering general hopes, let us make them concrete and attainable.  Instead of, “I’d like to sell more product in 2014,” set a goal and a plan for getting there.  How much soap would you like to sell?  How will you accomplish it? What do you need to do to get ready?  Don’t forget to set realistic dates for each activity to keep yourself moving!

 

It’s more work than a wish, but it’s hope that works.

 

Don’t forget to put a Saponifier subscription on your to-do list for 2014.  You have just a few hours left to subscribe for a 25% discount:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/Saponifier

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Holiday Hopes

You’ve survived the holidays.  If you’re in the US, you stuffed yourself for Thanksgiving, and then partied and celebrated your way through Christmas or Hanukkah, etc.  Hopefully, in this time period you also sold soap, bath and body products and candles or gave your best efforts to friends and family.  What were your results? I hope that your experiences were all positive!

 

I’m always interested in finding what people like.  The best part to me of doing shows is to observe customers’ reactions upon seeing and smelling products.  I also like finding out what my loved ones like, whether they love lavender or are more partial to citrus.  If you’re a smart business person, you’ll watch and keep notes of what people like so that you make better product decisions in the future.  If you’re a smart gift-giver, you’ll want to keep notes of what your giftees like and what you gave them so that you can continue to give gifts that make them feel special.

 

In spite of the fact that the holiday season is when most retailers make the bulk of their money for the year, I do hope that you got more out of the season than money.  I hope that you were blessed by the love of family and friends.  I hope that you gave back to them and to your community.  I hope that you gave hope this year.

 

More on hope tomorrow.

 

Don’t forget.  Tomorrow is the last day to claim a subscription to the Saponifier for 25% off!  http://www.etsy.com/shop/Saponifier

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Happy Holidays – Our Biggest Sale of 2013

Happy Holidays from ALL of US at Saponifier!!

The sale is only available via our Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/Saponifier

25% Off Everything!

Discount Code: HOLLY25

Expires Dec 31st

Thanks

As the Thanksgiving weekend draws to an end, I think of all I am grateful for.

 

Many of you spent time each day in November to acknowledge something you are grateful for in your lives, and so did I.  Today, however, I’d like to think about all I have to be thankful for regarding our industry.

 

For me, handcrafted soap and body products has afforded me many opportunities.  From creating to selling and making a business of what I love to the related positions I have taken part in and will be involved with in the future, this has been an exciting roller coaster ride–and it isn’t over!  So many of you share the same, although you may include candles in your repertoire.

 

Of course, I must thank our readers who have chosen to spend some of their hard earned cash to subscribe to the Saponifier and who read it faithfully, from cover to cover.  We wouldn’t exist without you and assure you that we strive to make the magazine the best publication for our industry .

 

Isn’t it wonderful how something as simple as an artisan soap, candle or body scrub can change a person’s life?  How has it changed yours?

 

So, now that December is upon us, and we rush headlong into that season called, “The Holidays,” let us continue to remember how fortunate we are to have found such an enjoyable art, whether it be a hobby or a job.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Go Forth and Color: Ultramarines and Oxides

 In three installments, we have reviewed the various types of colorants that can be used in soap and bath and body products.  We’ve talked natural colorants, such as spices and herbs, as well as FD&C dyes and micas.

 

Finally, in our series on colorants, we explore ultramarines and oxides.  Many soapmakers think they are “from the earth” natural, but that isn’t quite true, and it’s a good thing!  At one time, these colorants were used, but it was found that they contained contaminants such as arsenic.  Since then, they have been lab-created, free of toxins, to be what is termed, “nature identical.”

 

 Ultramarines and oxides have long been used in soap and cosmetics.  Users like them because they generally remain true to color in products and are inexpensive considering the amounts needed to provide color.  Use a small amount for pastel color and more for intense color.  These are matte colorants.  Mix ultramarines in a bit of water or glycerin before adding them to your soap base and add oxides to a bit of your soapmaking oils before adding them to your base so that they don’t clump or speckle.

 

They are used for mineral makeup and for bath and body products, but again, test them before you sell to make sure you’re product is not oozing color all over the tub, shower and washcloths.  Customers are not generally happy when that happens!

 

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is often included in this category, but it is unique in that it occurs naturally in minerals and is extracted for use in dozens of applications other than bath and body, from food to siding to paper.

 

Now, you have it.  Go forth and color!

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

The Soapmaker’s Sweet Spot

What kind of soapmaker are you?  Do you plan out your offerings far in advance?  Do you spend time developing intricate designs and precise colors?  Or, do you make soap as the spirit moves you?  Do you prefer soap with simpler colors and patterns, either because you’re not the fancy kind or to speed production?

 

A more important question to consider is whether it’s important or not to plan far ahead, to make artistically designed soaps, to be a free spirit or to keep it simple.

 

The answer, of course is, it depends–on a number of factors.

 

For some of soapmakers, simply making soap is the satisfaction, be it fancy or simple, unusually shaped or rectangle, scented or not, it doesn’t matter.  The magic of combining the alkali and oils and getting lovely soap is a reward unto itself.  For others, the design part of making soap is a large part of the attraction.  Artistic souls are moved by the possibilities of making patterns in striking color combinations and it keeps them going.

 

As for planning, well, planners know whom they are and free-spirits know whom they are!  For some, planning is painful and stifles creativity, so they make what they want when the spirit moves them.  Others find that careful planning  is the only way to get soap made and made well.

 

So then, should we all be striving for the same outcome?  Absolutely not!

 

If you’re selling soap, you realize that all things about your nature must be tempered by business demands.  It’s a simple fact that you cannot run a successful business without a good degree of planning, regardless of whether you enjoy it or not.  You also realize that you need to produce soap as quickly and as efficiently as possible in order to maximize time and thus, profits.  This realization usually forces us to streamline our creativity into something that we can do easily and can reasonably replicate.  Hobbyists, on the other hand, you have the freedom to spend as much time as you like to develop your skills and put your artistic abilities to work.

 

Even so, I hope that each soapmaker finds his or her “sweet spot.”  Gorgeous or utilitarian, rectangular or round, full of additives or not, well-planned or by-the-seat-of-your-pants, all have a place and a purpose.  Finding your purpose and working with your personality is the key to success, however you define it.  The Saponifier’s goal is to open you up to the possibilities to help you on your way.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

 

PS – Subscribers, watch your inbox today for the 15th anniversary issue!  If you’re not a subscriber, quick!  You have a little time to make sure you get in on the fun:  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

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