Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Soap Bone is Connected to the Candle Bone

Neroli & Rose
Really...this whole soaping thing started with candles. I've always loved them, a few years back stumbled serendipitously upon a luxury candle website and uncharacteristically spent $30 something on a sensuously delicious sounding candle by Acquiesse...Pomegranate and Sage. Within 5 minutes of burning that candle I was hooked on the world of scent. Had I never bought that candle, I believe I never would have become a soap maker as this unleashed an unquenchable thirst for complex scents. I believe many soap makers had their start with this gateway drug.

I had to cut back on my candle habit when I started soap making and that wasn't so bad since my soaps satisfied my voracious olfactory appetite. Last fall, my husband and I celebrated our second second anniversary. (Yes, I married the same guy, twice) down at Glen Laurel Inn in Hocking Hills Ohio. We remarried there and vowed to return every year on our anniversary. Now, this is a snazzy place--no kids allowed, private hot tubs (ooh-la-la!) so many other anniversary couples have the same idea. It's so weird seeing the same couples year after year.

 Enter Sue and Donny. My husband and I adore them...we hang out before dinner and catch up the year. I really wanted Sue to try my soap. I gave them both a bar. Like many people, they thought they were stunning, but having never used natural homemade soap, obvious to the joys within. Sue asked me if I made candles. "No, I said, but I certainly love them!" She got this wide-eyed glassy look and went on to explain that she and Donny have a signature scent they light in the cabins, but of course, it's been discontinued. Always up to a good challenge, I said, "What is it? I can try to make one for you?" I hard can candles be? She went back to her cabin and brought me near spent remains of a yellowish candle. "It's Neroli and Rose....I took a big sniff and whoa...was this strong. I've never smelled this particular combination. If you're unaware, Neroli essential oil comes from the squeezings of orange blossoms. It's crazy expensive...requiring 100 pounds of orange blossoms to make one pound of oil--too cost prohibitive for soap or candles...but there are good FO dupes. Neroli is a strange scent to explain. If you're familiar with Petitgrain, it's similar but from the greenish bits and twigs of the same tree. I've used it a few times in soap...most either love it or hate it...a little goes a long way and better when blended.

I've been working on Sue's candle now for over a month. At first I tried soy with the recommended amount of fragrance oil. It turned out lovely, but had to get right on top of the candle to smell it. In candle techie terms, it had a weak hot throw. I tried again, increasing the FO to the maximum allowed. Still weak throw. She wanted it to scent a room. After much research, I realized soy isn't the best wax for heavily scented candles. More research...decided on a soy/paraffin blend called IGI 6006 known to encompass the best of both worlds..paraffin for excellent scent throw and soy for clean burning. But wouldn't you know my wicks were all wrong.....strong smelling candle if you could discern it through the heavy soot. wax means new wick. After 4 attempts, I finally have it right...I'll be sending Sue test candle number 4 today. Sue has also become a dedicated user of my soaps. She's one of my best customers. I have a new respect for candle makers. Just like soap making, its science and art. Thanks to Sue, I'm hooked on candle making and will be adding those to my product line because....the soap bone is connected to the candle bone.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Taiwan Swirl Great Cakes Soap Challenge

Yeah, another challenge! Rather than the Taiwan Swirl, my soaper assistant daughter and I  affectionately refer to this soap as the "kitchen wrecker". It would have been much less messy had we processed this soap using the free-hand method demonstrated by Amy; however, I recently purchased dividers (no more cardboard!) so I had to use them! In the preceding post, I mentioned I had been doing some unsuccessful experimenting with new soap concepts and I happened to be using Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey FO from WSP. I had it in my head to do a unisex brown, black, tan, honey color combination, but after two unsuccessful experiments, I'm now down to just .5 ounce of OMH. I wanted to use it again for my Taiwan Swirl; however, .5 ounce would not adequately scent my 38 ounce oil batch. Hmmm...what do do? I thought of adding cinnamon essential oil or clove for a nice twist, but risk accelerated trace with those two. Instead, I decided on augmenting the OMH with a Vetyver type fragrance from Brambleberry described as having lemon, rosemary top notes, floral, sandalwood, and patchouli middle notes with musk and vetyver base notes. I've used it before in lotion bars and the scent is very complex...difficult to distinguish any one scent and very masculine. I tested the OMH with Vetyver in a plastic bag on Q-tips and was pleasantly surprised. Very nice and definitely unisex.

I was going to use 4 colors left to right, white, brown, black and honey...the honey expertly blended by my daughter. I was happy with the recipe...Mama Bear just right for pouring and swirling. The messy part came when it was time to pull out the dividers, three of them plus the two side pieces. I was tempted to scrape the clinging excess back into the mold but that would mess up the 4 carefully delineated stripes of color. Just like Amy did in her video, we made several passes vertical and horizontal passes in the soap. Here's what it looked like in the mold after a good gel phase:

Being somewhat spatially challenged, it took a bit of pondering how to cut these and still get my standard size soap. To get the full effect of the swirl, you have to slice the soap sideways.
My resulting bars are a bit smaller than my standard, but still very nice. I love the scent! I'm going to call it "Intrigue" since there's absolutely no way to incorporate the diversity of scents in this soap into its name!

 Thanks Amy for putting on these challenges. I learn so much and have a blast checking out the results of so many talented soap makers all around the world.  Happy Soaping!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Soaper New Year Resolutions

Sandalwood Patchouli with French Green Clay
I don't like to make New Year's resolutions on New Year's Day--I make them a few months before the end of the Year because they tend to stick more then.

1). Keep experimenting (within reason)
I love to try new things with my soap, but there's a limit to how many things I should try at once. For example, last week I decided to try 4 new elements in one batch of cold process soap. The first element, room temperature soaping, I had tried before and since it worked fairly well, thought I'd give it a go again. The second and third elements...adding salt and sugar to lye solution was supposed to make the soap batter more flexible and the final soap more hard. The forth element I added was a water discount. The result: a big disaster. My soap was like sun-softened fudge plopping out of my new Essential Depot silicone mold like mud chunks. And since I tried so many new things, wasn't sure what went wrong. After much speculation, I believe it was two things...possibly false trace and plugging the water discount wrong into my Soap Maker software. Moral of story...add one new element at a time.

2). Keep personal finances separate from business finances
I just recently set up a business checking account for my soap
making income and expenses. Prior to this, it was too easy to go on late night Whole Sales Supplies Plus ordering binges funded with my personal funds. Since I did this on a semi-regular basis, I made a ridiculous number of orders, each about $30 each (the minimum order for this company and ended up with a number of products I haven't even used and now risk expiration and depleted personal finances. Now that I have a separate business account, I'm much more mindful about my orders and plan to place only a few large orders
Magic Carpet Ride
for 2014 for things I absolutely need.

3). Keep up with Facebook Page
I'm developing a very nice customer base and find Facebook a fabulous tool for keeping my customers updated on events and new soaps on the curing rack. This would be easy if I was a natural FaceBook type person, but I'm really not, but I definitely see the benefit.

4). Try Home Party Format
I've only done a few shows and they were hit and miss...some I did well and others I didn't because there wasn't much traffic or I was placed in the back with seven other soap makers up front; however, I did a open house at my place and the 10 or 12 people
that attended bought a lot of soap! Something magical happens when you get a group of women together with a little spinach artichoke dip and baskets filled with lovely soap. Gosh, I thought they'd stand around and eat first, but they were all over the soap sniffing and chatting. One thing I noticed from my shows...many people are simply uneducated about the benefits of handmade soap and pass it by thinking it just another pretty face. In a home format I'd have time to actually provide that education.

5). Define my Product Line
I read somewhere that it's best to build deep before you build wide, so I've concentrated on the soap and just a few other bath and body products...whipped shea butter and hard lotion bars. I make loads of other stuff like facial serums, bath salts, scrubs, etc. for my own personal use, but don't want to bring those out yet. For my soap, I need to figure out 5-10 standard scents that I offer year round. I've decided on a lemongrass/lavender, sandalwood patchouli, and oat meal milk and honey because I know they sell well, but I'm still on the fence about others.

I think that's enough for 2014! Happy soaping to you and may you have tons of successful batches, little ash, and much profit!