How do you dress to make soap or candles? Are you covered head to toe in protective gear or are you be found in a t-shirt, shorts, and bare feet?
If it’s the former, you’ll want to read on to feel good about yourself or to make sure you’re doing things the right way. If the latter, well, consider this a lecture.
Making soap and candles comes with inherent dangers, mainly pertaining to heat and caustic substances. We’ve all heard stories about people being burned by lye, caustic soap getting in the eye, burns from a forgotten pan of wax. To be sure, things happen. Soap gets spilled on the floor, unnoticed. A pot volcanoes, sending soap lava out of the pot and all over the surface it’s sitting on. The candle wax heated up faster than you thought it would and flames appear. A properly suited up person is in a better position to react quickly and safely than one who isn’t.
If it seems like overkill, think about it as if you were an employee of a company or that one of your loved ones was. What if that company allowed its workers to be barefoot, making soap? What if your child or other loved one were put to work in that environment without access to safety gear? I can predict that you would rightfully expect that both you and your loved ones would be properly protected, so offer the same to yourself.
Chandlers, think you’re off the hook? Not so fast!. Hot wax is dangerous and cannot be removed easily, so as with soapmaking, shoes and socks and a heavy apron are essential equipment for protecting from splashes. Long sleeves and eyewear are also important.
Even in creating bath and body products, certainly safety rules must be obeyed. The first one that comes to mind is a mask to filter out particulates from powders such as cornstarch and powdered herbs. The second is to protect the skin from scent by wearing gloves.
Finally, wearing a respirator mask when working with scent, whether fragrance oils or essential oils, is just plain smart. We often worry about scent in regards to our customers, but tend to forget that we are exposed to much stronger scents, more frequently and for longer time periods than the average user and thus, are more likely to develop problems with scent than the general public.
My advice: get yourself suited up so you can safely pursue your craft!
Until next time,
May your days be filled with bubbles & wax.
Oil. I never thought in my life that I would care so much about oil. Animal or vegetable, organic or refined, it captures my interest. And for what reason? Making soap, of course! Now, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of oils and enjoy using many of them and experimenting with them in soap and other products. Do you?
Oil choices and percentages play a major part in making good soap and a soapmaker who wants to be knowledgeable simply cannot remain ignorant of each oil they use and its properties. Certainly, it’s possible to make soap out of 100% coconut oil or 100% olive oil, and it is common. In fact, some of the world’s most famous soaps are 100% olive oil. Yet, to my way of thinking, a truly wonderful bar comes from a mix of oils, each with properties that contribute to a bar that is moisturizing, cleans well without stripping the skin, lathers up well, and is hard enough to last in the tub or shower.
How do we find out which oils do what for soap? Research and experimentation is the answer. Begin with an established formula and tweak the oils until you reach what for you, is the perfect soap. It’s part of the process for becoming a confident soapmaker. Hint: recipes that you run across calling for a can of this and a cup of that are best ignored. Can sizes may change over time, so if it doesn’t state what that can size is by weight, move on. Cup and other types of non-weighed measurements are also potential problems. Why? Because even cup measurements from cup to cup can vary, so a cup of shortening might not weigh eight ounces, and lye calculations are based on the weight of each oil. You could potentially end up with either a very soft batch or a lye-heavy one. Soap isn’t as forgiving as cooking and the ingredients were meant to be weighed out.
But what about you? Perhaps you have a formula that you have used for years and you’re very happy with it, so you see no need to waste time or money on changing it. You admit that you know just so much about each oil that goes into your soap, but you do know how to produce a consistent product from batch to batch.
Where product production is concerned, I understand the need for a consistent formula, but couldn’t exist without my r&d (research and development) time, but that may not be true for all.
Weigh in (no pun intended). Are you an experimenter (mad scientist) type or a tried-and-true soap/bath and body maker?
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
It’s gardening time in North America.
Spring trees and flowers are blooming and even in the coldest areas, perennials are popping up out of the ground. Have you ever thought about planting a soap garden?
Read, How Does Your Garden Grow? A Soapmaker’s Garden, by Beth Byrne, and then tell us what you’re growing or planning to grow in your soap garden.
In a completely unrelated topic, what do wars have to do with soap and candlemakers? Quite a bit, actually, if you sell them. Tamara Dourney explains in, Remembering the Post-War Era why and how the various war efforts affected the economy in the past, and speculates on the possibilities that may take place once the current war that the US is involved in is over. Prosperity or doom? While the outcome is yet to be determined, you can prepare and position yourself for either scenario.
On the formulator’s front. . . a natural preservative, how many of us wouldn’t want something all natural for our lotions and creams? Does one exist? Erica Pence gives us the low-down in her article, The Great Debate: Is There a Natural Preservative? Not surprisingly, the jury is largely still out regarding the new, natural preservatives, but we do get to read about some of them.
Denise Marks gets our wheels turning in, Spin for Success. In an entertaining way, she teaches us about business and life, helping us to overcome failures and obstacles while taking advantage of our good ideas. Be sure to read this one if you haven’t already.
Until next time, happy bubbles and wax as you spin your way through life!
Woot! It’s here. Did you check your email? The May/June edition of the Saponifier is ready for download.
With its emphasis on futurecasting, you’ll find this issue very informative as you learn to negotiate business. Tamara Dourney jumps right in with her article, An Introduction to Predictive Analytics: What is Futurecasting? She describes Predictive Analysis and all of the concepts and terminology involved. Embrace it and you’ll find yourself able to see where you are now, identify what your customer base wants, and how to provide it at lowest cost and in the least amount of time possible.
Marla Bosworth and Jennifer Kirkwood expand on the theme with their article, How to use Forecasting to Spot Trends and to Develop Products. Being small means being nimble, or the ability to watch for trends and to jump on products that meet those needs and wants. This is something that is extremely difficult for large companies to do, but not small ones. Stay ahead of the pack!
How do we find out just how well we’re doing? Well, besides the obvious measure of money in the bank account, each business should follow the advice that Alexander Sherman doles out in, Measuring Returns. Teaching us how to calculate ROE (Return One Equity) and ROA (Return on Investments), Alexander shows us that we can judge how efficiently our businesses are using the capital that we pour into them.
If one of the trends you spot is candlemaking, check out Beth Byrne’s, Book review: Candlemaking for Profit. This no-nonsense treatise written by famed candlemaker, Robert Aley, is a gem when it comes to starting a candlemaking business. You’ll want to find out why and how to get your copy. Actually, if you’re planning to start any handcrafted business, you’ll find value in this book.
Are you a technology maven? You’ll be sure to enjoy, Web 3.0, by Cindy Noble. Even if you aren’t among the tech savvy, you’ll enjoy learning about the new version of the internet–yes, there are versions!
Until next time, happy reading.
If you’re like me, spring brings with its arrival a new excitement.
As the days lengthen and the sunshine warms, I too, come back to life. That carries through to my soapmaking and body products. I want to try new colors, scents, and techniques. Admittedly, some work out better than others, but the not-so-good results do not discourage me too much because I keep at it.
On the other hand, how many times do we realize our mistakes could be better termed, serendipity? That’s what I love about my craft. I don’t always get in reality, what my optimistic mind imagines, but it’s almost always good, even if only for family use. Sometimes, it’s even better than I imagined. It’s at these times I’m most pleased.
It used to be that when a soapmaker made her first batch, or even when a more experienced soapmaker made an exceptionally good/beautiful batch, that we said we were doing a “Happy Soap Dance.” I don’t see that often anymore, but it still exists! I do the HSD after a good batch, if only in my head. I’m quite sure I also wear a great big grin.
What about you? Do you still get excitement and immense satisfaction from each (or nearly each) batch? Chandlers, do you look forward to trying new things? Or has soapmaking and candlemaking become routine, a chore that needs to be finished? Tell us how you feel.
Until next time, Happy bubbles and wax!
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!
Have your customers asked you about Bath Salts?
They may mistakenly believe that your product is either illegal or should be illegal, a dangerous drug of choice for young people. If you’re fortunate, they may only ask you what the truth of the situation is. If you’ve been unclear yourself on the specifics of this situation is, be sure to read, The Dangers of Bath Salts, by Stacy Reckard. She explains what the drug, Bath Salts, is, why it’s dangerous, and how to deal with the situation as a business owner.
What do your goals regarding soap, candles, or body products entail? Whether you’re looking to start a business, expand it, or simply try new products, you’ll want to read Beth Byrne’s, What’s New for 2012? You’ll even find help for making your operation more efficient so you can sell more! Find out what’s new so you can jump on the newest thing.
Have you noticed that the soap and cosmetics market for teenaged boys is less than saturated? Have you been tempted to fill a portion of it? You’ll be happy to know that the marketing research has already been done for you by Tamara Dourney. She explains in, Joining the Teen Boy Bandwagon, how she was able to capture and keep the attention of a group of young teen boys to find out what kinds of products, scents, packaging and fonts work for them. Read the article and you’ll have a head start!
What are you waiting for? Take that next step.
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Have you been pouring over your new issue of the Saponifier? I have.
Thanks to those who participated in the Raves for Faves survey (by Beth Byrne) by taking the time to vote honestly and carefully. How did your favorites match up to those that placed? Were you surprised at the outcome? Of course, we all know that many amazing companies serve our industry; still, it was fun choosing the top three in each category.
It was interesting, also, to see how much or how little popular scents and products change over the years. How does your product line compare? Do you find your customers enjoying new products and scents or do they stick with the tried-and-true?
Reading, A Day in the Life of a Natural Perfumer (Marla Bosworth) gave me a new respect for perfumers, as well. Although I do enjoy blending scents fairly frequently, Sharna Ethier’s knowledge and how she puts it to work was fascinating to me. I also found it remarkable how young she discovered that she had a keen nose for scent. Including the recipes was icing on the cake! Do you see yourself as a budding perfumer?
The Art of Distillation: From History Directly to Your Backyard, by Cindy Noble, was one that I was looking forward to reading. I don’t think my life will be complete until I have my own distillation unit! What about you? Knowing more about the ancients and their love of distilled herbs and other materials was compelling, as was the information gleaned from Copper-Alembic, which manufactures these beautiful devices.
I hope I haven’t given anything away that would spoil your reading, but I did want to whet your appetite if you haven’t had a chance to sit down with it yet. You’ll be glad you did!
Until next time, Bubblingly Yours,
What’s New? Well, almost new. More accurately, the question is, what’s coming up in the Nov./Dec. edition of the Saponifier?
You voted, you waited, and it’s almost here–the Raves for Faves, 2012 results! Find out your colleagues’ favorite suppliers, form of communication, scents, products, and more! Will you be surprised by the results or will they be what you expected? No hints today. You’ll have to read the article by Beth Byrne to find out!
As if that’s not enough, you’ll also find. . .
Sustainability in the Aromatic Market
As a soapmaker or chandler, the scent aspect of a product is essential to developing not only a cohesive retail line but also in the development of a loyal customer base. In layman’s terms, scent is extremely important to everyone involved in the toiletries and cosmetic industries. Yet the production of scent, the very building blocks of the aromas relied on by so many, is affected by numerous outside influences. As researchers across the globe turn their
attention to the aromatic market, they all echo the same sentiment: Will our current actions lead to a day when it is impossible to create
a scented product?
Just as you can use essential oils to scent your soap and bath products, you can also use essential oils to create all natural perfumes. First you need an understanding of some of the basic elements of perfume. In this month’s Herbal Wisdom column, Erica Pence walks us through the building blocks of a natural perfume, giving us the tools to begin producing our own custom essential oil blends.
Just a few more days and you’ll be reading your very own copy!
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!