To Scent or Not to Scent, That is the Question

The question of scent is uppermost in the mind of anyone who makes soap, candles or bath and body products. Which scents should I use? Should I make products with seasonal scents? Should I use only natural scents or should I use lab made scents? How much do I use? Should I use scent at all? Yes, these scent questions concern each one of us.

 

We should use the scents that those we create products for desire, whether they are ourselves, our friends and family or our customers, right? It is easier said than done, however as the human nose is just so picky. Hmm. . . that may have been a poor choice of words, but I digress.

 

Some insist on no scent at all, while most others have distinct preferences–the patchouli haters, the floral haters, you know what I mean. Certainly, no universally loved scent exists; but get a head start by noting the ten best selling scents in the Raves For Faves article found in our next issue coming out on November 1.

 

Beyond that, try limited editions and small batches to judge how they appeal to your customers or friends and family before diving into anything, because making ten pounds of soap in a scent nobody likes is not a good idea.

 

If you question whether you should scent your products at all or not, it may be a good niche. A business that creates non-scented products for the niche market who is sensitive to or dislikes scent fills an important segment of the market. And think of how much room they have on their shelves without all of those oils! But again, I digress.

 

Natural scent vs. lab made scent is another choice that we each make, and the answer is determined by your market, whether it is you and your friends or your customers. Remain true to your mission and consider those who will be using your product.

 

What to do about seasonal scents? This is a tough one because we often like these special scents, yet we need to know if they will pay off. Ask your customers if you can, or dip your toe in the waters to test them. In any case, do not be persuaded by the gorgeous photos you find on social media to create batches and batches of seasonal products until you’ve proven they will indeed be to your customers like truffles to pigs.

 

We’ll talk proper usage rates in our next blog post.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

PS – The Raves for Faves issue is released on November 1st. If you have not yet subscribed or need to renew, simply follow this link: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

Design Mania, Cosmetics Issue and a Job Offer

I’ve been hinting for awhile now, and it’s time to announce our Design Mania contest!

 

I trust that many of you have been trying your hand at the designs presented in the May/June 2014 issue, and I’ll bet that you have one or two to show off. Now is the time. Here’s what you do: try the designs if you haven’t already and submit photos of your best one or two. Your photos will be uploaded and voted on by the public. The person who gets the most votes overall will win the grand prize, and it is grand, indeed! The winners after that in each technique category will win a package of prizes that you will be thrilled to receive. Complete details and the entry form may be found here:  http://saponifier.com/enter-design-mania-contest-2014/

 

I am so excited to see what you have to offer, I can hardly wait! Once the entry deadline is reached, I’ll be back with voting information. Take a look at the prizes; they are awesome. Many, many thanks to our generous vendor partners who are participating with us.

 

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Speaking of soap, I could look at soap designs all day long. The artistry of some of my soapmaking colleagues is nothing short of jaw-dropping–far more intricate and creative than I could ever hope to attain. Even so, I am just as pleased to use a rather Plain Jane or primitive looking bar as long as it performs well. I guess it’s true that if you love soap, you love all of it. Well, almost all of it, anyway. It never ceases to delight me that we can combine various oils and lye to get a bar of soap. I hope it never does.

 

What about you? Will a plain bar of well-made soap be as pleasing to you as a fancy, artistic one?

 

Also, it’s just a short time until July 1st, when our next issue comes out. I can’t describe to you how I anticipate actually seeing the magazine! I’m like a kid at Christmas. This issue concentrates on cosmetics, an important subject to many of us, so I hope you’ll enjoy it if you’re a subscriber. If not, we’d love to have you aboard.  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

Finally, we have an opening for a writer at the Saponifier. This person’s regular column would center on the “That’s Life” and “Wit & Whimsy” side of soap, bath and body and candlemaking. You see the humor in everyday life with your craft and don’t mind sharing. This might include your mistakes or crazy things that happen when you’re selling or other events that we can all relate to. Interested? Contact beth@saponifier.com

 

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

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

And the Winners Are. . .

Just in case you hadn’t heard who won in the five categories of our Design Mania Contest, you’ll want to read on.

 

To recap, our July/August issue was entitled, Design Mania, with tutorials on beautiful soap designs, written by some of the best in the business.  Following that, we asked readers to do their best at replicating those designs and then we let you vote on them.  The results were astounding.  Not only were all of the entries spectacular and artfully done, but we were delighted with the world-wide representation among those who entered.  Of our five winners, two were from the UK, one from Ireland, one from Italy and one from the US!  The winners are listen below, in no certain order:

 

 Giustiniano Francioso, Italy, Drop Swirl (tutorial by Celine Blacow).  Guitiniano is rather new at soapmaking, but his talent is remarkable.  He stated, “It’s my first time to take part in a soap challenge and it was really fun! I never expected to be a winner in a section, so I’m surprised and very happy!I’ve been making soap for one year and this kind of swirl is one of my favorites and  easy to create according to my capacities.

I thank the Saponifier that gave me the opportunity to participate and I thank all those who voted for me.  I hope in the future there may be other occasions like this.  Thank you all.”
Tanya Bainbridge, UK, Paint Chip (tutorial by Cathy McGinnis).  Tanya hit this one out of the park and explained, ”A huge thanks to everyone who voted for my soap – such a lovely surprise!  I really enjoyed the idea of the Paint Chip Challenge.  I’d not thought about getting inspiration from a paint swatch before Cathy originally demonstrated it using Design Seeds’ colours, but what a fabulous idea – it’s one I shall continue to go back to.   I love the magic revealed at the cutting, and how the colours swirl and work together.  I found that one of the most challenging things was being able to match the soap colours as closely as possible to the original swatch – lots of tweaking required; oh, and hoping that the soap didn’t set up too quickly while working on the layers (it was somewhat temperamental in this instance!)”
Carma Wood, USA, Squeeze Bottle (tutorial by Michelle Rhoades).  Carma enjoyed replicated Michelle’s design.  She related, “I loved trying this design!  It was a lot of fun and exciting to cut my soap, because I didn’t know exactly what it expect with this design.  Each slice turned out differently, but unique and beautiful :)  Thank you so much for the contest!  I’m so surprised and happy that I won!  Thank you again!”
Rebekkah Hay, UK, Peacock Swirl (tutorial by Amanda Griffin).  Rebekkah won our voting public over with her fabulous rendition of the Peacock.  She exclaimed, “Thank you very much to everyone who voted for me. I feel very blessed and encouraged. I had so much fun trying this technique and am looking forward to learn more.  Thanks again, I will now continue my happy dance.”
Celine Blacow, Ireland, Tiger Stripe (tutorial by Kendra Cote).  If you’ve seen Celine’s handiwork through the photos she posts or her You Tube videos (iamhandmade), you wouldn’t be surprised that she has won a prize in this contest.  Celine happily stated, ” Oh wow!!!  Thank you SO much, I’m really delighted!!”
Be sure to check out these artists’ work here:  http://saponifier.com/vote-design-mania-contest/.  To see the tutorials, you’ll have to purchase the July/August 2013 edition of the magazine:  http://www.etsy.com/listing/157577754/saponifier-back-issue-julyaug-2013?utm_source=connectionwithetsysh&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api.  For soap colorants, check out these companies:  www.celestialcolors.com and http://www.elementsbathandbody.com/Colorants-c-274.html.  See Michelle Rhoades site at:  www.mossycreeksoap.com.
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/

Creating Your Signature Soap

Creating your own soap formulas; does the very thought appall you or does it excite you?  Perhaps you’re shrugging your shoulders saying, “I do that all the time.”  or “Been there, done that.  I worked and tweaked and found my own formula a long time ago.”  

 

If you identify with the former, read on.  If it’s the latter, well, read on to see if  you agree.

 

My opinion is that every soapmaker should eventually develop her own formula(s).  It’s fine to start out with a well-designed, simple formula, but somewhere along the line, she should become curious about other oils and percentages and manipulating them to create a signature soap that she loves.  Yes, some of us get a bit carried away with this concept and never stop tweaking, but that’s another story for another day.

 

I’ve known soapmakers who enjoy the experimentation part more than any other component of soapmaking.  I’ve also known a few who found a recipe in a magazine twenty years ago and have used that formula since and that one only.  I suppose that isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s a good formula, but you’ll be a more knowledgeable soaper if you step out of your comfort zone and learn more about various oils and methods by doing some research and experimentation.

 

If you’re a brand new soapmaker, by all means, get a good formula, follow the directions, and make soap (after after putting your formula through a lye calculator).  If your first batch turns out well, it will encourage you to keep going.

 

Once you become more familiar with making soap, study various oils to learn more about what they have to offer soap.  Some oils produce lather, some harden the bar and others are skin conditioning.  A balanced bar will include good percentage of each.  From there, you’ll probably look for formulas for specialty soaps, such as facial bars and mechanics soap.  That’s where knowing your oils will come in handy and will save you valuable time and supplies in formulating those bars.

 

After some time and trials, you’ll consider yourself a knowledgeable soapmaker.  You’ll realize how little you knew at the beginning, and even though your soap was good then, you’re just so much smarter now!

 

Have you created your own formulas yet?  Are you fearful of doing so, or have you enjoyed the process?  Share with us what you’ve learned.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

It’s Scentsational!

Have you been too busy with after-holiday chores to sit down with your newest edition of the Saponifier?  Well, do as I did.  Pour yourself a nice cup of tea and sit down for a bit to rest and rejuvenate for 2013.  

 

This issue (January/February 2013) is a particularly enjoyable one because it’s all about scent, and few topics interest soap and candle junkies as scent does.  From the lovely cover photograph that sets the tone to Aaron Polczynski’s advice on selling more of your wonderful, scented creations in, Tips for Soap Sales at any Venue, to a cupcake tutorial (and don’t we love the smell of cupcakes?) authored by Loyce Henderson, you’ll be treated with a great read.  Of course, since you’re this far in, you’d might as well also read, Tammy Lane’s, Holidays You’re Going to Love.  It will help you plan ideas for producing and uniquely marketing all of those wonderful items you can give or sell  this new year.

 

If you’re building a line of scents and are looking for advice, be sure to read, Creating a Scentsational Line by Beth Byrne.  She interviewed Jo Lasky, who is a treasure trove for all things scent and most generously shared some of her knowledge with us!

 

If you’re a soap history buff, you’ll devour Melinda Coss’, Savoir Faire, where she describes the history of soapmaking in France, as well as explaining the current situation that soapmakers face there.

 

What scent could be more wonderful than the scent of herbs?  If you’re hankering to begin an herb garden this year, let Wayne Gorman help in his article, Herb Gardening 101.  

 

Isn’t this the perfect time for trying new formulations in body butters?  Marla Bosworth treats us to formulas and instructions for, Winter Comfort:  Slip Into Rich Cocoa and Vanilla Body Butters.  Mmm. . . I can smell them already!  This is also the best time of year, at least in my hemisphere, for enjoying candles.  You’ll find Lyschel Bersch’s Testing for Wick Size in Candles to be informative and helpful.

 

When it comes to narrowing down a scent line, you’ll enjoy Victoria Donaldson’s survey of friends and  family in, Because it Smells Good!  Armed with the most popular scents of our 2012 Raves for Faves article, Victoria describes how various individuals decided upon their favorites and why.

 

Other than making all of the goodies, what could be a better way to spend a little time than reading about them?

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Molds: Not Just a Tool, but a Passion!

Soap molds.  They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials.  Some need to be lined; others don’t.  You’ll find fancy molds and plain jane log or slab molds built with scrap wood in just a few hours.  Molds aren’t just a tool, but a passion!

 

We soapmakers love our molds.  For some of us, a walk through the grocery or hardware store is more of a mold-finding expedition than it is securing food for our families or tackling our next diy project.  Every empty container is eyed as a potential soap mold.  We even have our families trained to save containers that appear to be suitable for soap.  This was especially true for me as a beginner making melt and pour soaps.  I used empty juice cans, plastic packaging and bottoms of soda bottles, to name a few.  In doing so, I also learned what didn’t work.  The plastic packaging had to hold up to hot soap being poured into it and a rigid plastic would be next to impossible to remove soap from.  Yes, every soapmaking session was an adventure in resourcefulness and creativity, and it was fun.

 

This kind of behavior isn’t conducive to production soapmaking, yet many of even the most seasoned soapmakers engage in the practice at least once in awhile.  And why not?  It keeps us on our toes and renews our creativity.  It might even lead to the Next Big Thing in our product lineup!  If you think about it, we might not have round soaps had it not been for some clever person  in the hardware store who took a gander at pvc piping, or upon emptying his cylindrical can of potato chips wondered, “Hmm. . . can this be used for soap?”  What’s even better is how soapers share their discoveries so that all might benefit from both their successes and their failures.

 

What about you?  What is the most unique container you’ve ever used for soap?

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Suited Up and Suitable for Soaping (and Candlemaking)

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.

 

Beth Byrne

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