I have known of The Soap Mine for some time by the distinctive and colorful drop pour soaps, however, I have recently connected the name with the company. So delighted to actually meet Vicki Hinde!
Read along and learn more about this amazing soap artist.
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When did you know soap making was for you?
At some point in 2010 a friend showed me a small piece of brown soap that she’d made herself, and I realised that I had absolutely no idea how soap was made. The question had never even crossed my mind, and, as I don’t like not knowing something, I got researching. I very soon decided that this was something I had to try and my first batch was made soon after. I was utterly hooked from that very first time.
When did you discover you loved soap making?
I loved it right from the beginning. I had quite a few failures, and each one taught me something important – I made batch notes from the beginning, and never made the same mistake twice. There were many mistakes though – lye heavy soap, soap that was never going to harden up, vanillin discolouration (boy was THAT a disappointment!), omitted fragrance, the list goes on… But that was part of why I loved it so much from the beginning. There’s SO much to learn, and there’s as much science as there is art.
What are your favorite parts of soap making?
I think it would be easier to say which bits I don’t like! Like most people, the wash up process is probably my least favourite, and if I’m honest, I’m not so keen on the wrapping or labelling either. However I LOVE choosing new fragrances and coming up with new colourways for them – most of my soap-making these days is restocking soap from my core range so I don’t get the opportunity to ‘play’ as often as I would like. That relatively small portion of time during which I’m actually pouring the soap into the mould and creating the design is really important to me. I focus quite intently on what I’m doing, and find it a very calming process. My husband knows that I don’t appreciate
any interruptions at that point! And of course cutting each bar is a thrill. I deliberately haven’t invested in a multi-wire soap cutter (yet!) as I enjoy the ‘reveal’ of each bar as I cut the loaf with my single-wire cutter.
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
Soap making is MY thing. I have two young children (aged 4 and 7) and for a while they took over my life; I seemed to have very little time for hobbies. These days, no matter how challenging the day has been (yes, I’m looking at YOU ‘Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-your-
mouth-four-year-old daughter’!!) I can always spend an hour or two immersed in my soap business, and all is well again. I may be extraordinarily busy ALL the time but it does make me very happy!!
What are you favorite oils, butters, micas and/or processes?
All my regular bars are made using the same six fats – olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, Shea butter and castor oil, so I guess they’re probably my favourites (or at least, they combine to produce my favourite result!) My go-to place for mica is U-Make it Up in Spain (recommended to me by the lovely Carolyn of Siennalily Soaps). They have a fantastic range of mica specifically for soap, and I’ve found that even including postage costs to the UK they’re significantly cheaper than the UK based companies I used to use. And process? There can be no doubt which is my fave – cold process with a drop swirl – my whole core range is made using a drop swirl.
What were your hopes for creating your soap business? (To help you answer: What hopes came true, so far, for your soap business/process?)
My first hope was to make enough money selling my soap to enable me to continue making soap! To begin with, it wasn’t a particularly expensive hobby – basic oils, a bit of fragrance and makeshift moulds are all relatively cheap as far as hobbies go – but as I got more into it and wanted to experiment more and more then the costs escalated. So basically I started selling to fund my continuing experimentation, but I soon started to wonder whether this was something that could become a bona fide company, one that would allow me to make an income without having to go out to work while my children were young.
What I didn’t expect is that it would take over my life so utterly and completely. I work in the mornings, before the children get up, and I work in the evenings, after they’ve gone to bed. I work after 4pm, as soon as my long-suffering husband finishes work, and I work at the weekend, when he’s not working. In September, my youngest child starts going to school full-time and I’ll have time DURING THE DAY *gasp* to work and I. Cannot. Wait. which brings me to the next question:
What other interests do you have when not in your soap or bath products laboratory?
Oh so many, and come September I fully intend to free up some of my evenings to be able to enjoy some them! I’m currently working towards my green belt in kickboxing – it’s just one one-hour class a week, but it’s fun, and it’s challenging. and I leave each class feeling energised and ridiculously happy and motivated. I also try to get out for a run a few times a week, but that’s fallen by the wayside a little recently, purely down to lack of time. Another of my passions is linguistics, particularly the history of language/s, and learning languages generally. I’m bilingual (English/Welsh), have a good knowledge of French. At the moment I’m learning Russian, and I’ve studied German and Spanish in the past. I used to be an avid reader, but that’s another thing that’s fallen by the wayside due to lack of time, so this coming winter I plan to challenge myself to read more AND to finally learn to crochet.
Do you have concerns and/or hopes for the soap industry?
I hope that I can convert more and more people to the joys of using (and making, if they so desire) handmade soap. I know of so many people who claim to be unable to use bar soap, but I’m sure that for many this is because they can’t use COMMERCIAL soap. I’m on a mission to convert the public, and it may be a long road but I’m up for the challenge
What do you want people to know about your soaps/business?
I’m a one-woman outfit, and I do absolutely everything, from ordering the raw materials through to delivering the final product. I use only the best ingredients and I’m utterly passionate about creating quality products that I can be proud of.
What makes you laugh about making soap?
How many people does it take to make a batch of soap? 10. One to make the soap, and nine more to argue about whether or not it should contain palm oil…
Only kidding of course, but I have to laugh, somewhat ruefully, at people who just can’t accept that different people have different ways of making soap. Personally I don’t use palm oil, and all my soaps are vegan friendly, however I’m not vegan myself (I’m not even vegetarian, and I have experimented with lard soaps in the past – they’re flippin’ wonderful!). I have no issue with others choosing to use animal derivatives or palm oil in their recipes. I’ve done my research, and there are arguments on both sides, but I will not decry or criticise any soap-maker for their particular choice of ingredients.
There is more than one way to soap, there is more than one way to create a soap business.
I have tossed out every idea of supposed-to’s and should’s for my little soap works. I’ve read many blog posts thick with words of advice on how to run a business that makes soap.
I’m done with that. I’m done with living my life according to someone else’s schematic.
I’m also done with giving advice.
I have a vision for my business, for my soaps, that no one else has. In the same way I have a vision of each soap. I haven’t seen the soap before, yet I can see the soap in my mind’s eye.
Each soap I make presents new labeling issues, and yet I persist.
Each soap I make means new product descriptions and ad copy, and yet I persist.
Each soap I make requires new photography, and yet I persist.
Why? I ask this often.
I’ve had too many jobs that required repetition and put my creativity to sleep. Jobs that required me to keep my mouth shut to the lack of integrity, and when I did speak up, suffered consequences, shaming and firing. I’ve had jobs that required me to put my mind to sleep and “just do my job.”
It took years to fully wake from that nightmare.
Now, I will not allow myself to fall asleep again. If that means I must stay on my toes every step of the way to nurture my own creativity, then I will. I will deal with the packaging, labeling and all the other areas that require me to think outside the box. Where can I turn for guidance? Few places offer true vision, but give advice steeped in rules about how to follow the rules, do what they did and you will be guaranteed some success, either overtly stated or implied. Is there truth in this?
One idea behind a “good” business model is to be able to teach someone else to do your work, in other words, replace yourself. Streamline the work to mass replicate and therefore increase profit margins.
I have considered this aspect. And yet, I persist in making soap my way. No one in my company will disparage me for not working hard enough, for lack of creativity, for speaking my truth. I will never be fired. I am not replaceable. Every day I love my work. I enjoy what I’m doing so much it keeps me up at night thinking about new ideas. This is the level of passion I want to live with.
My little soaping works requires the one element no one else has… Me, and my type of tenacity and creativity.
For that, I am truly and abundantly grateful.