In my neck of the woods, summer weather is all but upon us. No promises, but it’s possible we’ll have no more frosts until October. The kids are getting antsy in anticipation of being out of school. Neighbors start talking about their summer vacation plans. We roll out our favorite summer scents.
If you sell or make for yourself special scented items to celebrate summer, what are they? Some like the fruits of summer–berries of many kinds, melons, tropical mangoes, papayas and pineapples. Others like summer flowers such as roses, lilies, iris and sunflowers. Still others think of grass, herbs and other “green” scents. If that’s not enough, think of the rain and ocean types of fragrances that remind us of a soft summer rain or that camping trip we took oceanside. Oh, and don’t forgot other fanciful food scents such as toasted marshmallows, cotton candy and ice cream.
Makes me wonder how many people have bitten into a soap or candle, hoping it was something more tasty!
If not special summer scents, then perhaps you offer products for summer use, such as after-sun lotion or an extra light moisturizer.
Candlemakers, do you find that as temperatures soar, sales drop? If so, do you notice that offering special summer scents or products appeals to your customers’ summer frame of mind so that you can keep those sales up?
I confess that for myself, lighting a candle seems less inviting on a hot, humid evening than it did on a cold one in January. Still, for an outdoor evening soiree, I could be convinced to burn a tabletop full of them.
No matter how you look at it, the dog days of summer will soon be calling. Will you be ready?
Until next time, may you be happily entrenched in bubbles and wax.
I’ve been checking out hundreds of photos of soap recently and I’ve been so impressed with the artistry that has been displayed by my fellow soapmakers.
I thought back to the days when I first began reading about making soap. Not only were pictures harder to come by, but soapmakers just were not doing as much with their soaps. Yes, they were adding color, spices, herbs, and scent, but not the lovely designs I’m seeing now.
Also, the first design, it seems to me, was the swirl and we saw lots of one color swirls out there. Shortly thereafter, we began seeing multi-color swirls. It didn’t take long for even more ideas for beautiful designs to be employed. We began seeing soaps that looked like desserts, layers, brand new types of swirls, and so on. I like to think that the Saponifier, among other sources, assisted soapmakers in inspiring one another to kick things up a notch. What I see now is nothing less than astounding!
And yet, a handcrafted bar of soap is beauty in its own right, whether it’s a plain castile bar or a more primitive looking bar.
I know that some soapmakers feel frustrated at not accomplishing a design that is as beautiful or as artistic as that of another soapmaker’s. That feeling is unnecessary, however, because creating a good quality bar of soap is the goal. Further work to make it even more visually appealing is simply icing on the cake.
That is not to say we shouldn’t be challenged to try new techniques or to create our own, only that we shouldn’t lose sight of what is truly important, a good soap. If you’ve gotten to that point, you are already a master.
Therefore, now that you are a master, forge your own path. Do you find swirling hard to do well? Try something else! Let your imagination wander and free yourself to experiment. You might come up with the next new trend! And even if you don’t, know that the fact that you make great soap is enough.
Until next time, keep yourselves in bubbles and wax!
Education. Do you think of stuffy classrooms where you struggled to stay awake, or was your experience a positive one of engaging discussion and good test results? Do you prefer a formal or an informal mode of education? And why am I talking about education at all on the Saponifier blog?
If you hadn’t noticed, the new issue is all about education, in particular, educating ourselves about soapmaking, candlemaking, and related topics–herbs, chemistry, art and design, and so on. If we sell product, we can throw in accounting and marketing. Fortunately, we can continue educating ourselves, whether we physically go back to school, we learn online, or we learn informally through books and other research.
Tamara Dourney filled us in on some exciting methods of formal education, by way of online learning in her article, Open Source Scientist. If your opinion of this modern way of being educated is negative, think again. Many opportunities for study at recognized institutions are available, and they continue to evolve and develop, making it easier for artisans to increase their knowledge of subjects important to their crafts. Tamara also wrote about various potential career paths that are related to our crafts in, Career Day: Five Options for Continuing Education.
If you prefer doing your own research on a specific topic, Erica Pence’s, Natural Resources and her second article, Candle Resources, both filled with good books for learning soap and candle making, essential oils, herbs, botanicals and other body care products. Your knowledge base is sure to greatly increase by studying them.
If you find yourself wishing to take a class, be sure to read Marla Bosworth’s, 10 Tips for Selecting the Right Soap and Skincare Classes to Match Your Needs. Heeding her comments may mean the difference between a wonderful class you’ll think was worth every penny and one that was a waste of time and money.
In this issue, you’ll even find an educational herb monograph on the lovely Glacier Lily, more commonly called, Dog-Toothed Violet or Trout Lily in my neck of the woods. I had no idea of the food and medicinal uses for this early spring treasure!
Whether you are a staunch believer in conventional education and desire to pursue a degree or you are looking for something less formal, but no less educational, you’ll find ideas in the above articles. Tell us how YOU like to learn.
Until next time,
Happy bubbles & wax adventures.
We soapmakers love our oils, do we not?
Many of us like to try a wide variety of oils and become connoisseurs, learning the color, viscosity, and nutrients found in each of them. Those of us who make other bath and body products, even more so. We want the best oils for a balanced bar of soap, for the perfect consistency of lotion, for massage, and a host of other products. They are, indeed, a mainstay of our businesses or hobbies.
One of my favorite oils for soap and for other body products is sunflower seed oil. When we visited my city’s farmers’ market this summer, I gazed lovingly at the bottles of golden liquid sunshine offered there and had an interesting discussion with the vendors about how nice it was for soapmaking, as well as for cooking.
Why do I like it so much? One reason is because it has a nice skin feel, being light and not too greasy. It contains tocopherols, vitamin B, and trace minerals. Sunflower oil is a beautiful color and creates an almost-white soap used alone. The imagery of fields of golden sunflowers lifting their face up to the sun is warm and inviting, and cheerful, at the same time. What’s not to like? The fact that it is readily available and cost-effective helps, as well.
What about you? Tell us about one of your favorite oils.
Dealing with the public, any of us selling soap, body products, or candles do it.
We all get comments about our products that are inaccurate or even rude.
”That lye soap will take your hide off!”
”I’m not going to pay for that when I can get the same thing at the store for a dollar.”
“That (insert ingredient) is junk/disgusting/unhealthy.”
“I can make that for half the price.”
Other times, you may be asked, “How do you make that? Where do you get your supplies?”
I can see you shaking your heads now. You’ve heard it all.
On a more positive note, you may be asked, “What makes your product better than what I can buy at the store?
Admittedly, it can be a challenge. Situations arise that we are unprepared for, leaving us groping for replies. If you’re like me, you don’t always feel that you’ve dealt with their comments or questions well.
What can we do? Lashing out at the customer or running into a corner to cry is not a positive response, no matter how tempting. However, thinking about the questions ahead of time and preparing yourself with answers is key to diffusing tense situations as is adequately explaining your product so that your customer understands how special your goods are and how fortunate the public is to have access to them.
I welcome shoppers asking what makes my products worth the money I charge because it’s a perfect opportunity to explain the ingredients and the process I use, and also the care I take in creating my goods, often convincing a skeptic that she wants to purchase what I have to offer.
The rest is a little more difficult, but if we’re in the trenches with the public, we must learn how to deal with comments and questions with grace and tact, perhaps even a bit of humor.
What do you say to rude comments that degrade your product? I’ll get us started. To, those who claim “lye soap” is harsh, I counter that it often was true in the past, but today, you’ll find soap to be a very gentle cleaner in comparison. I then hand them a sample to prove my point. I haven’t actually found that to sell soap to this group, but if I can get a few people here and there to understand the difference between old-fashioned soap and modern soap, we’ve all gained.
Your turn. Choose any of the above questions and comments and tell us how you reply. Let’s help each other!
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!
Silly Season is nearly upon us. You’re either shaking your head up and down in the affirmative, or saying, “Huh?”
Let me explain. Silly Season refers to the flurry of activity involved in selling your products to holiday buyers. Most of them are shopping for Christmas, but also for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa–did I miss any holidays?
If this applies to you, I am guessing that you’ve already taken stock of what you want to produce and what you’ll need to purchase to produce it. If you’re really on the ball, you’ve purchased your supplies already and are working hard to shore up your stock to make it through that crazy time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Ideally, I like to make my soap in the summer and then everything else–lotions, body butter, etc., in October. I make m&p soap in seasonal molds and scents.
What about you? Do you plan well ahead or do you find yourself perennially rushing to keep up? How do you decide what to make and how much? Share your secrets with us! We can learn much from each other. And if you don’t sell, the same principles probably apply to your hobby and holiday giving, so don’t think you’re off the hook. Tell us how you plan ahead and prepare for a more controlled holiday season.
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!
Coming September 1st! Calendula, what do you know about it?
This lovely, prolific herb is just waiting for you to try it. Easy to grow, Lindalu Forseth shares why Calendula (aka Pot Marigold) is the perfect herb to grow and use in soapmaking, whether you’re an experienced gardener/soapmaker or a novice. Look for her Monograph and be amazed at what Calendula can do for your products.
Do you make use of Social Media in marketing your products? Be sure to catch Beth Byrne’s, Five Steps to Social Media Success, where she welcomes back contributor Donna Maria Coles Johnson. Founder of the beauty organization, Indie Beauty Network, dM focuses on helping her members navigate the complexities of building their businesses. Embracing technology and using it as a marketing tool by communicating with customers is an ideal tool for the small business owner. Learn about the various forms of social media and how to use them successfully in your business.
Picture yourself surrounded by the glow of candlelight. Doesn’t it sound romantic and cozy? Picture yourself with the bits and stubs of wax left over from your candle burning. Ugh. Is there anything to be done with them besides the trash bin? Erica Pence has the answer in, Recycled Candles. She explains the process of sorting the candles into similar batches and magically creating new and amazing candles! As if that’s not enough, Erica also explains how to make a lovely autumn tabletop candle from your scraps.
Authors and editors are working hard on the next issue of the Saponifier! It’s due to be released on September first, but here’s a sneak preview:
Have you been hearing about Argan Oil recently? It’s one of the trendy oils, but for good reason. Read Marla Bosworth’s article, Moroccan Gold: the Beauty of Incorporating Argan Oil in Soaps and Skincare Products, to find out what’s behind this newly re-discovered, yet ancient oil. It’s use in the Middle East continues, but is fast becoming popular in the US. You’ll even find formulas for face, body, hair, scalp and soapmaking.
Start your own product line with this goldmine!
You might remember guest author Larry Strattner, and his humorous article involving learning to make soap. You’ll be happy to note that he is back again with yet another article, My Soap Went Up in Smoke. A title like that will lead your imagination everywhere! I can’t wait to hear about his latest episode in soapmaking with his mentor, Liz.
Stay tune for more previews!