Before I get into the topic of this post, I’d like to express the thoughts, prayers and well wishes of everyone at the Saponifier for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Please know that we are supporting you as you recover from this devastating storm.
And now, for our blog.
We can usually group ourselves into a type of artisan, at least where our work habits are concerned. Some of you plan far ahead, writing an annual plan. On January 1st, you begin following the plan you drew up the previous year. You have each month and week carefully planned, with each day outlined. Little room is given for spontaneity or procrastination. Others of you fly by the seat of your pants, however, making what you feel like making when you feel like making it and selling what you’ve got or playing catch up throughout the season until December 25th. You often spend long hours while the urge strikes to create and produce.
Most of you, I suspect, find yourselves somewhere on the continuum between the ultra-organized and disciplined and the disorganized free spirits. You may plan out an annual calendar with monthly goals and then at the beginning of each week, choose what you can accomplish that week. Others of you simply work on your goals throughout the month, getting done what you can. Or you might just respond to your inventory, making more when it reaches a certain level so that you don’t run out of any particular item.
No matter how you look at it, planning ahead is a sure-fire method for avoiding panic and distress. The more we plan, the more we are likely to accomplish. What could possibly be wrong with an outlook like this? Sometimes, the ultra-planner is unable to see far enough ahead to deal with the reality that life brings and doesn’t respond well to customer demand or other market conditions. She has difficulty dealing with anything that disrupts her plan and may find herself discouraged about her inability to fulfill the goals she’s set.
Not all of us are built that way however, and some find their creativity is stunted by having to plan and to work by that plan. Believe it or not, I have observed that the “seat of our pants” kind of approach is often nearly as successful as the plan written on January first and followed as close to the letter as possible. These free spirits accomplish a great deal while in the mood and what they churn out is their best work. The downside of that is the example of the pretty cold process Christmas soap that they have the inclination to make on December 10th. The soap won’t be ready in time, and even with shortcuts, won’t get properly promoted for those crucial and time-sensitive holiday sales.
What’s an artisan to do? It’s important to look at yourself and decide where you fit on the continuum and how it has affected you. If you find that you’ve missed opportunities by being inflexible, plan for 2013 to leave yourself a little leeway. Promise yourself that you will review your goals and readjust your priorities when it makes sense. On the other hand, if you realize that you’re not accomplishing your goals and instead running after this and that, you know that a planning session is in your future, including a plan for further planning on a regular basis.
Where are you and what can you do to make your “artisan life” better? We’d love to hear your views.
*Note: watch your mailbox. It’s just hours before your copy of the Nov./Dec. issues arrives! It includes our favorites and the annual Raves for Faves Survey!
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Beth Byrne for the Saponifier
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!