Artist or Artisan, Which are You?

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!

 

Beth Byrne

Silly Season Suggestions

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.

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!

Coming: Calendula, Social Marketing, and Recycling!

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.

Coming Up: Argan and Larry

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!

Breaking Legislative News!

Have you seen it?  Some very good news for the United States soap and cosmetics industry has just been released!


First, some background:

As you may already know, the Safe Cosmetics Action of 2010, if passed as originally written, would have stifled the small business soap and cosmetic industry.  Its labeling, registration, and other requirements were an undue burden that literally would have put many out of business.  It was then that many of the leaders in our industry began meeting  with lawmakers to let them know that small soap and cosmetic businesses existed.  These businesses were adding to their local economies and providing income for many families while providing safe products to their customers.

It wasn’t long, however, before the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild (HSMG) realized that to negotiate the system in Washington, they would need to hire lobbyists to lead the effort.  They were joined by business people in the field of soap and cosmetics, suppliers, as well as  associations, and so on.  Through the efforts of the lobbyists and others, they eventually paved the way for our industry to gain a seat at the table in writing legislation that would ensure that small cosmetics businesses were represented.

As a result, the House has a bill that is considered to be very fair to our industry, and leaders are behind it as it is currently written.

Does that mean we can all sit back and relax?  Not quite!  The bill is not law as yet, so it behooves each one of us to contact our federal legislators, letting them know our thoughts on the topic.  They need to know that you care and what you think.

A synopsis of the House bill can be found here:  http://blog.wholesalesuppliesplus.com/2011/06/legislative-update.html.  You will also find updates and opinions on the blogs of other major suppliers, such as Essential Wholesale and Bramble Berry and others.  HSMG’s blog contains factual information, as well.  If you sell product, you owe it to yourself to research the bill and to do your part if you support it.

After many years of efforts, it seems quite possible that we will soon see legislation passed that will allow small businesses to continue operating and growing without undue government intrusion.

What do you think?  Have you been following the issue?  Is this a bill you can live with?

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!

Soap & Candles, or Candles & Soap?

With our recent candle discussion, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

How many of our readers create both soap/bath & body and candles?  Which came first, the soap or the candles?   What led you from one to the other?  Which sells better?

Other than the historical precedence of a local candle/soap maker supplying the town with their goods, what ties the two crafts together?  Is it the fragrance, or something else?

Since soapmaking and candlemaking are two very distinct processes, we certainly cannot assume that one leads to the other on a knowledge-based level.  Knowing how to make soap, for example, does not uniquely qualify an individual to make make candles.  Nevertheless, something certainly entices many to expand their skill sets from one to the other.  Is it that mastering another craft that uses fragrances already owned  makes sense?   Is the motivation for learning a new skill the realization that  offering more  products in a certain scent to give prospective customers more to choose from?

Curious minds want to know!  Please share your story.

Confessions of a Soap Foodie

We’ve talked about adding milk and herbs to soap, but what about vegetables and fruit?  Perhaps you add a few other foods, as well.

In my soapmaking adventures, I’ve added many.   Cucumber is a mainstay;  it’s cooling effect a real favorite for myself and others.  Others I’ve used include, in no particular order:  strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, zucchini (and who doesn’t need another way to use zucchini?), tomatoes, apples, egg yolks, and pumpkin.  As if that’s not enough, I’ve got pureed carrots in my freezer at this very moment,  just waiting their turn.

Why do I add them?  I add them for a few different reasons, such as the texture they add, the “good stuff” in the food, and even as a marketing tool.  If it adds a cleansing or cosmetic feature to my soap, it’s fair game.  Medical claims, of course, are off-limits.  The color they add is sometimes a plus, but not always.

Let’s take, for example, the cucumber soap I spoke of previously.  I prefer to scoop out the seeds, but leave the rest intact, and find that the specks of peel lend a lovely effect to the soap, as well as making it feel fresh and clean.  Soap is even more delightful with cukes.

Are you a fan of adding foods to your soap?  What do you add, and why?

Three Methods for Using Herbs in Soapmaking

Adding herbs to soap is nothing new, but always fun to experiment with!

They are added for the color they impart, as well as for the attributes they contribute to soap.  They can be added using several different methods, as well.

Among the herbs I’ve used in soapmaking, using one method or another, are the following.  In parentheses are the reasons I’ve used them.

  • Comfrey (skin)
  • Parsley (color)
  • Dill (color, exfoliant)
  • Marshmallow Root (mucilage, exfoliation)
  • Calendula (skin, color)
  • Chamomile (skin, exfoliant)
  • Sandalwood Powder (skin, color)
  • Cornsilk (skin, color)
  • Plantain (skin)
  • Chickweed (skin)
  • Turmeric (skin, color)
  • Paprika (just a touch for color!)
  • Lavender (skin)
  • Annatto Seed (color)
  • Green Tea (skin, color)
  • Rooibos Tea (skin, color)
  • Poppy Seeds (exfoliation)
  • Cornmeal (exfoliation)

The methods for using herbs in soap:

1.     Make a tea with the herb and use it as the water amount.

2.     Powder the herb and add it at trace

3.     Make an oil infusion with the herb.  Make it 4 – 6 weeks ahead by infusing the herb in the oil and then using it as one of your soaping oils, or add the herb as you heat the soapmaking oils and remove the herbs once infused.

You might be asking why soapmakers use different methods, rather than choosing one.  The answer is complicated, but in short, the method is chosen because it yields the best results–the best color, the strongest infusion, or is easier to use a certain way.

For instance, Marshmallow root is best extracted in water, so soaking the material in water overnight yields the best mucilage that will make the soap most gentle on the skin, rather “slippery,” if you will.  Of course, powdered root will add exfoliation, so if that’s your goal, simply add it at trace.

The possibilities for using herbs in soapmaking are virtually endless.  We’d love to hear what herbs you use and how you use them!

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