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.
I am delighted to share with you this talented soap maker. In this interview Sharon Boyd Chapman of Willow Bella shares wonderful insights and a beautiful spirit with you this week. Sharon is a friend, but she didn’t get a spot just because she’s a friend… Sharon is highlighted because of her generous nature, her deft use of color and her skill with the alchemy of bath products.
When did you know soap making was for you? Describe the moment you knew soap making was for you.
For as long as I can remember I have loved the art of creating. When I was a little child I would spend hours, day after day, mining red clay from our backyard to make pottery out of it, or mud pies, or whatever my little mind could dream up. I remember sometimes painting it on the skin of my arms and legs and letting the sun dry it. I would sit quietly watching as the texture would turn and start to crackle. I was fascinated with how it would make my skin feel. And I loved the experiences that clay gave me. It planted a seed.
When I became a teenager I found one of my Mom’s old cosmetology books in a stack of books in a box in the back of a closet. Not the kind they have now, but home remedies. It would seem that back in the late 50’s and 60’s that they made a lot of their own masks and treatments. At least this was the time period this particular book came from. I was once again that little girl playing with textures and ingredients. I’d pour over that book and run to the kitchen and make “recipes” that I’d find within the pages. I can look back now and see I was maybe a bit of a handful. My Mom let me have the book and experiment so long as I cleaned up my mess.
It remained one of my favorite books for years until it was destroyed in a water leak. I still remember a lot of the information in that book. Like buttermilk will help with age spots and lemon juice is great to lighten the skin. Most of those recipes found a home in my thought process, somewhere in the back of my mind.
As I grew up I found different jobs (not all of them, but several) that would allow me to express myself by things I could make. One of these jobs was making and selling dreamcatchers, pottery, and ceramics. We sold to several small businesses around the D.C. area. One of these was in a small eastern
town in West Virginia. Next door to the shop that wanted to buy my things was a soap shop. I remember to this day wandering in. The breathtaking beauty of those soaps and the smells that danced around captured me that day. It was the first soap shop I’d ever experienced. I think I was hooked then, but it wasn’t the time. But that seed was growing, I just didn’t know it.
What are your favorite part of making soap, bath and body products and why?
That my inner child and the artist get to come out and play, along with the mad scientist. I love creating. I love the science and the research that it takes to come up with recipes. I love putting the puzzle pieces together. And then making those come to life with color and scent. And I love creating usable art.
What prompted you to make soap and bath products?
I used to bake and make candies and I ended up with too much sugar one year around Christmas time. I was at a family gathering and had asked the question “What am I going to do with 50 pounds of sugar?” I had a cousin say “Maybe you should make sugar scrubs?” So the research started and that little seed grew into the beginning of something bigger.
From there it was glycerin soap/melt and pour, lotions, much simpler things to make than cold process soap. I started making more and more complicated things. And designing products that weren’t already in the market; fusion type products.
My body mousse came from my need for something very moisturizing that would have the effect of body butter without making me feel as if I were suffocating. It is a cross between whipped body butter and a body lotion.
Sort of like a cream, but not heavy.
I found that I really enjoyed mixing different elements to create something new, or, at least, different.
How did you create your signature style?
At the request of someone special to me I tried my hand at bath bombs and it was a miserable failure, over and over again. I just couldn’t get them right. So I decided if I couldn’t make bath bombs I’d make something similar to bath bombs. Bath bombs that didn’t have to look like bath bombs.
I searched around the internet and found a recipe for bath truffles. It was from a website called Meg’s Made It. And a recipe for bath melts by Spicy Pinecone. So I started with these two recipes, started being the key word. I spent a very long time adding this ingredient and that ingredient, taking some out, replacing with others, and adding even more ingredients until I got the recipe just where I wanted it to be. It took about 3 years to get the recipe right and another year to get the colors to do
and look the way I wanted them to.
I know that I am actually still evolving; in my soap making, my truffles, everything I make – I strive for that next step. I honestly hope that I never stop evolving. Being stagnant in anything is one of my greatest fears.
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making and bath products?
I get very excited when I am working on a new concept. Or when a mystery is solved in my mind and I want to test the theory. Or when things are going very smoothly. And when the colors come out just right…
Okay, honestly it is easier to tell you when I’m not happy to come into work. When things go bad, and I mean really, really bad – oils spill and colors are ick, nothing works and batches are unusable, over and over again. Those are the only days I just pack up and do something else or hide out in the office and do something else for a while. Because I have found it will not work when the gremlins take over and it is just best to take a break and let them be. They do go away if you ignore them.
When did you know you would open a physical store?
It actually came down to having to find space to work outside my home. I had outgrown the house and my husband mentioned that maybe it was time to find some more space. After looking around for a warehouse type place to move to I found a perfect spot that actually allowed me to use some of the front of the space for a small shop as well as a lovely room to teach classes and host parties one day. It’s very close to my home and the school so it works perfectly for us as a family.
One of the most difficult parts of having a shop vs. working from home is that, even though we are a brick and mortar shop, we aren’t always able to keep regular hours since the kids do get sick and things like field trips and dance recitals come up. However, we have learned a way to make this work to the benefit of our customers. We offer shopping by appointment when it is convenient for them. So everyone wins. Being creative and flexible has allowed me to keep the doors open when otherwise I would have had to go back to working at home.
What were your hopes for creating your soap business?
That I can make a living doing something that brings me such joy. It sounds like such a simple answer, but it isn’t.
I had been searching for a while for something I could do to create and make some extra money that would allow me to spend time with my daughter and granddaughter. And maybe something they could help me with one day. They both have health problems, not major, but enough that it oftentimes can complicate life. So I needed something with flexibility and something I would love to do without getting bored. A much bigger feat than it would seem.
I had tried woodworking, baking, painting; a lot of things. I jumped from one thing to the next, leaving chaos in my wake. Lots of half-finished projects still laugh at me in the garage and the attic.
But when I started making bath products it was like coming home from a long journey. There is a peace when I am at my lab, a part of me that only comes alive here. All the pieces of my life kind of fell into place and finally made sense, and I am so thankful. I could not imagine doing anything else.
Do you have concerns and/or hopes for the soap industry?
One of my biggest concerns is that, as a cottage industry, we can be very vulnerable to big businesses and lobbyists that feel threatened by us and wish to close us down as a whole. And, on the flip side of that, those in our industry that don’t follow proper procedure and practices, ingredient usage, etc. that could give those that wishes to shut our industry down the leverage they need.
One of my hopes for the industry is that we find a way to come together and enjoy each other’s work. And that we find our own voice and style. We all learn from others but it is our individuality that will set us apart. I strive every day to make my work stand apart from the crowd.
I see the movement of handcrafted soap and body products making huge leaps forward and it excites me to be part of the movement. I think there is a real resurgence in a lot of what I call usable art; soaping, quilting, even canning is becoming a work of art in several places I’ve been to recently. I know there is probably a better term for this art form, but this one is stuck in my head.
What do you want people to know about your work?
That making quality product means more to me than making a profit. I want my work to speak for itself. I spend countless hours on research and development to make the very best product I can. I pride myself on using the best ingredients I can find. I take time to make it as perfect as I can. All of our untried products are tested at home with my family and myself before they go out to our to our testers. We have extremely sensitive skin so if it passes that test it goes on. If not, it goes back into development.
My youngest daughter, Willow, said it best “I want to make stuff that makes people feel like a mermaid!” If I can make someone feel as special as that sentence meant to her when she said it then I know I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. Because I think everyone needs to feel that special, even if it is just for an hour. And I hope what I create helps to do that. Lofty goals I know, but very important to me to strive for this.
What are your favorite parts to making soap?
There is a magic, an art, as well as a science to making all soap, bath and body products, at least for me. Sometimes I start with research. I may want to know about an ingredient and how I can utilize it, like French clay. But, most of the time it is something I see, or hear, or feel that I want to capture on my “canvas”. And they all come together like a symphony or a well written book. All the pieces fall into place and there is that zen moment when it all just works.
This is my favorite part. When time seems to be suspended and the magic takes over and you are just in the moment.
I also must admit to the fact that I am a scent and colorant addict. There are over 250 scents and probably almost that much in colors in the studio work space. And that is before any blending.
What makes you laugh about making soap?
When that same recipe you used the time before and found that wonderful zen moment decides to behave badly. It goes all wonky. It can be unpredictable and chaotic. It keeps me on my toes and dancing the dance. I am never bored.
What do you want readers to know about you or your soap making business?
I wanted to say thank you to some of my biggest influences in learning what I love to do, especially in the formulating and cold process department. This isn’t a complete list by any means, but some I know I owe a ton of gratitude to.
- Bee at Sorcery Soap
- Handmade in Florida
- Soap Queen
- Missouri River Soaps
- Royalty Soaps
- Spicy Pinecone
- Le Fille De La Mer
- Swift Craft Monkey
All the ways to Connect with Sharon at Willow Bella
Why Buy Handmade?
I like being seen as a person, not being tossed into the sea of humanity and counted as a number, as insignificant. I like it when people recognize me, as me. Not because I think I’m such a special snowflake, but just A snowflake.
There is one company I buy from, follow and support, expressly because of their personal touches. Mad Oils. I am a huge fan of Mad Oils. A hand written note, or a fragrance oil sample or just a little bag of candy (as if I need that temptation) all add to my desire to buy from Mad Oils again and again. I was genuinely surprised the first time I purchased from them and it made me take a harder look at their company.
I don’t buy from Mad Oils because they are the least expensive, the fastest shipping (although that helps tremendously if its both – handmade/hand-touched and fast shipping) or because they remembered my name (which practically no one can pronounce, let-alone remember). I buy from Mad Oils because they acknowledged that my purchase mattered to them and reflected that by the thoughtful packaging. Which, just simply feels nice.
The other day, while following up on what I’m calling a “bid” for a soap job, I sent a custom box with my soap samples. I only made one box that size, not going to market them, but just offer them as gifts, I asked myself “why am I going to so much trouble for a job I might not even get?”
This is my thinking, “each encounter I have with another gives me an opportunity to create, with them, a special moment”. They invited me into their world, and as a good guest, I bring a gift. I get to fill their shipment with anything I like, just like Mad Oils does. I have no boss, or someone looking over my shoulder to say “that’s not how we systematically do things” or “that’s not professional.” I can be as creative with sending a package as my soaps.
So far, not one person has complained about getting too many samples, soap cookies or complimentary soaps, so I will keep listening to my own creative drummer and march that beat right through to your mailbox.
Thanks Mad Oils for setting the example.
I like being seen as a person, not being tossed into the sea of humanity and counted as a number, as insignificant. I like it when people recognize me, as me.
There is one company I buy from, and follow and support, expressly because of their personal touches. A hand written note, or a fragrance oil sample or just a little bag of candy (as if I need that temptation) all add to my desire to buy from them again. I was genuinely surprised the first time I purchased from them, and it made me take a harder look at their company.
I don’t buy from this company because they are the least expensive, the fastest shipping (although that helps tremendously if its both – handmade/hand-touched and fast shipping) or because they remembered my name (which practically no one can pronounce, let-alone remember). I buy from them because they acknowledged that my purchase mattered to them and reflected that I mattered, by the thoughtful packaging. Which, just simply, feels nice.
The other day, while following up on what I’m calling a “bid” for a soap job, I sent a custom box with my soap samples. I only made one box that size, not going to market them, but just offer them as gifts, I asked myself “why am I going to so much trouble for a job I might not even get?”
This is my thinking, “each encounter I have with another gives me an opportunity to create, with them, a special moment”. They invited me into their world, and as a good guest, I bring a gift. I get to fill their shipment with anything I like, just like the company I mentioned before did. I have no boss, or someone looking over my shoulder to say “that’s not how we systematically do things.” I can be as creative with sending a package as my soaps.
Also, by someone purchasing from my little Soaping Apothecary (or I like to think of that way) they have invited some of my creativity into their world, so I can take advantage of that moment and be as magical and sparkly as I want.
So far, not one person has complained about getting too many samples, solid perfumes or complimentary soaps, so I will keep listening to my own creative drummer and march that beat right through to your mailbox.
Feedback for Artists
One of the most valuable things you, as a patron, can give an artist isn’t just your money, but your thoughts how you experience the artist’s work.
For me, its a fine line, a dance of taking in thoughtful feedback and not letting it sway my creativity, all the while staying open to input. Staying open to those who experience my art.
Some people are naturally gifted at creating. Some are naturally gifted at athletics, etc. I would never presume to tell an athlete how to “athlete” any more than I’d tell an artist how to uhm… create.
I enjoy feedback on what your experience was… Did it do the job, did it function correctly? Did you enjoy the colors, scent, design? Did it make you think of something you’ve not thought about in a long time?
With all this, I offer a reasonable trade for that valuable patronage. A true patron, in my opinion, values not just the object, but the process the artist goes through to create. Not everyone can create. Just like, not everyone can be an athlete.
And I understand even if you love something, its hard to feel motivated to comment. Comments have some form of magic – those comments inspire the writer to continue and inspires others to share their ideas, thoughts and feelings… that is a powerful thing, untouchable, yet moves others in a way that might not have happened. I call that magical.
Is it the ingredients, the design, the scent or the way your skin feels?
If all these factors make a “good” soap, what makes a good soaper?
Is it financial success? Is it popularity? Is it quantity sold?
I’ve been asking these questions of myself. I am at the beginning of my soaping apprenticeship, and my learning curve is steep. I learn a great deal on every batch I make. I learn how different oils interact; how temperatures affect the out come of the soap; how certain behaviors affect air bubbles; if its necessary to stir with a spoon or a stick blender, when to add fragrance oils… Most of all, I learn about myself.
How do I respond when my great designs fall apart; when I create a pourable liquid batter thickens unexpectedly; when my fragrance oil accelerates trace so quickly I begin thinking of re-batching before I’ve poured it into the mold?
How do I respond when I have un-molded my soap too soon and the entire batch is mushy? How do I respond when my colors morph into something I can’t name?
Do I move with the soap or do I resist? Does my creativity seize up along with my soap?
My best soaps, so far, are those that I had an unexpected result and moved into a new technique or responded to the behavior of the soap and didn’t lose the entire batch.
I’ve had many batches that have failed. ‘Failed’ is a weird term since I can always re-batch or grate the soap and use it for something else other than a bath bar. I’ve had soaps that have met the trash, never to been seen or used. Even those aren’t complete failures, if I learned something. Even the most pedestrian idea, “never do that again!”
My best soaps have come from almost-failures. Most of the things I do that are non-traditional soaps like hand-molded soaps are evolutions of soaps that I thought were failures. I didn’t let my judgment or old stories stop me, but continued with curiosity. I see this in cookie designers and other artists. I ask, how did they come to that conclusion? The answer is always, they didn’t let anything (rules/traditions/personal stories) stop them from pushing further.
For me, a good soap is one that I can use. That’s it. No matter what is looks like.
A great soap is one that I imagined and manifested into dense reality and one that smells wonderful!
A Good Soaper
A good soaper is someone who continues to make soap, someone who learns from her craft, who doesn’t get frustrated but sees each re-direction as an opportunity to learn, and someone who continues to share her work even when its not what she intended. A good soaper is someone who believes in her craft and herself enough to carry on learning.
How to get your samples to your customers?
If you’re like me, as a soap maker, you create your own soap scents.
No matter how well I describe what I think a Dragon smells like, its still a bit elusive. The same with Love Spelled (my version), Leather (in soap), Forest, Sweet Willow, Champagne/Chardonnay and the rest…
I have chosen not to do craft fairs and I don’t have my soaps any where someone can smell them. Which is lovely to sell solely online. I don’t have to schelp my soap, tables, and all the gear it takes to do a craft show. I spend my days working on new ideas, filling stock soaps, ordering materials, marketing (takes far more time than I want to admit), filling orders and running to the post office. Oh, and making new soaps, experimenting with new ideas and hand molding soap.
Getting Samples to Others
This arrangement is convenient and perfect for me, but how can I get my soaps, in a reasonable way, to those who might want to purchase my soaps?
At first I began cutting up full size bars that were already planed, cleaned and labeled into sample sizes. This seemed reasonable, but it was killing me to cut the fully cured bars.
For those who read my blog or see my posts know I make embeds. I make many, many soap balls. I flattened a ball. That spurred another idea. I’ve been wanting to use a wax seal in my marketing but I just couldn’t figure it out. I had this thought over a year ago, and it has hovered since then.
I chose a Raven. Its in my logo and I like consistency, so I use some symbols, fonts and colors over and over. I want someone to see my designs and say, “Hey, that’s Sorcery Soap!”
I settled on a metal stamp I found on Etsy from China. I didn’t know it was coming from China at first, but when it didn’t show up in an expected time, I figured it out.
In my research I discovered Martha Sterwart’s website through a back door. I would never search “weddings” so for me to stumble on to this site is a absolute miracle.
A bit more research I found a website for the tins. I chose the clear window tins to put the vellum paper inside for a label. The back label is on its way from Evermine. These will be for the back, so my soap information and ingredients will be attached to the tin. I like that idea and it pre-empts some packaging for shipping.
Bridging the Gap
So now, no matter what soap I make, I’ll make at least 1/2 pound extra to make soap samples for the Sorcery Soap Medallions. Its all built in! I love rolling and stamping soap. Its a repetitive behavior that keeps my hands busy and allows me to day dream.
What I Didn’t See
The interesting thing that arose that I didn’t foresee was this whole other product. Even if someone doesn’t want to sample, or that’s not their reason for purchasing these Soap Medallions, it makes an awesome gift. I’ve always had a hard time picking out scents for people, and generally, gave up and walked away. So no matter how much I wanted to buy handmade soap as a gift I couldn’t decide on a scent for that person. Now, I can give them a box of scents and there is very little waste, if any.
Here’s the really cool thing… Well, what I think is cool. Other soap makers can make Soap Medallions and each stamp will be different and so will their scents. Built in-non-duplicaiton, but still sharing!
Now, I have that settled, making Sorcery Soap Sample Medallions. For now. 😉
Make Soap Embeds
All embeds I make now, unless indicated, are cold process soap.
How I Started Making Soap Embeds
I started making soap embeds because I explored what my interests and discovered, a bit more, how different I see and interact with the world.
I also saw my soaps, to date, were about perfecting my understanding of soap making, but they weren’t anything new.
I ask a lot of “what if… ” questions and often times say them out loud to my mate. Some days he doesn’t understand what I’m saying and instead of trying to prove what I want to make I clarify to myself. If its clear to me then I can have a clear mission.
Fear Is Imaginary. Danger is Real.
I’m not afraid to make a absolute failure soap either. I don’t like to make unusable or unattractive soaps, but its not a fear. Fear is imaginary, danger is real. There is very little that is dangerous about soap, if I’m vigilant. (If you are a new soap maker read everything you can about lye safety.)
I dug at it with my fingers to understand the texture. It was soft and malleable.
First I made hand rolled balls, since I didn’t have a ball mold. They were ok, nothing special however I began to understand soap in a different way and possibilities opened up like huge castle of hidden doors.
Then I tweaked and tweaked the recipe until I made a recipe that works for molding about 12-24 hours after making it.
I shared a photo of my Chicken Soaps and received hundreds of orders for the Chicken Soap. I became a machine. I also learned a lot about soap texture, timing and how to affect the soap for a desired result. I also learned what I was capable of creating, or a least the next phase of my soaping.
I spent days just listening to podcasts and making chickens, eggs and baby chicks. I have it down now and moved on to making swans, penguins, a new version of ravens, books, candles, mermaids, dragon tails.
I also discovered I have far more freedom to create. The possibilities are endless.
Embeds are limitless and I don’t have to look for someone else to have already had the idea of what I want to do and then have made the silicone mold. I also don’t have to commit to the cost of a mold for something I’m just trying out. I have much more freedom and control over this art form, but still have so much to learn.
Soap just taught me another lesson last night. Just when I think I understand, a new awareness bubbled to the surface. Thank you Soap.
Tips for Taking your Soaping to a new Level
- Ask questions to yourself, real questions, “what if” questions you really don’t have an answer for.
- Be fearless
- Touch, smell and explore your soap in a new way
- Do what YOU are interested in, despite what your customers say.
- Trust yourself.
- Remember, its all temporary. No matter what your soap looks like, if it still cleans, it works.
I love my customers and listen to them, then, I do what I want to do, trusting myself. After all, that’s the very reason I know them, because I trusted myself to begin with.
Those who love what you do will be attracted to your work, like a magnet inside of them. Trust that too. 😉
I am not a corporation,
a production line or a one person factory.
Like a great meal, the experience of my soap might be equally as temporary in duration. Unlike a great meal soap won’t increase your waistline, and you might be able to enjoy this etheric bathing experience for up to a month.
I have been thinking about this, making soap, who I am in relation to the craft of making soap, and other existential concepts. I realized I don’t ever have to make the same soap again, or, I might. I take solid notes, however, I’m in a trance while I make soap. I listen to an audio book or some rabbit-hole podcast and go off, in the non-thinking artistic world I’ve lived much of my life.
I might be inspired one day to stand at my work table and make chickens and eggs, mindlessly rolling, sculpting and molding soft soap, and another day researching how a goat lays down and if I can duplicate that in soap. I might be reading about how oils work together, how much oil is actually left on the skin and if that is a “good thing” or what types of detergents I’ve been using most of my life that I took no responsibility for letting seep into the water table. All this without regard to how, exactly, it can be duplicated, replicated and mass produced, like the corporate world has taught us.
Make a widget and sell thousands at a low price or make some very expensive widgets and sell a few.
What if there was another way?
I do want to understand the chemistry, the science and on a deeper level, the alchemy behind this craft. Believing one can turn lead into gold is one thing, knowing you can do it, an entirely different animal. And then doing it a second time? Now, that’s something!
I allow myself to wonder and wander. I take long, fantastical journey’s on how to take a shower with part of a pirate’s treasure box, or if I’d even want to. I allow myself to be inspired by colors, textures, fragrances and tall tales. I love fish stories. Stories that grow into magical realism and bigger than life. I like the idea of magical things; of possibilities; reminding myself of impermanence.
I saw Buddhist monks making a sand mandala, which is blown away after created, the other day (on a show) and thought, how lovely. They embraced the idea of impermanence. Can I do the same with soap? Can I put all my efforts, detail mindedness and passion in one loaf of soap knowing it will disappear in a short time?
Oh, the answer is simple and just brought another level to my world.
Soap Ideas That Don’t Work
Do you ever get an idea for a soap and have a hard time making it happen?
I’m inspired regularly by the great soapers on the internet. I find fabulously created soap creations that look like cupcakes, pies and decadent desserts on Pinterest. I’m excited to see the detailed designs and minute lines of the those initiated into the swirl mysteries. And always grounded by those who are studying how to blends exotic oils into a consistent and smooth naturally colored bar.
Granted I am truly new at soaping, in my first year of my education, but I have yet to bite off more than I could chew. Not all my soaps turned out, but I always walked away feeling satisfied; satisfied in my education, in my new experience and that I could either give it away or call it laundry soap. I haven’t tried something where I felt, although it was a fine soap, I just didn’t appreciate what I learned from it. Until this weekend.
My learning, so far, has been like this: I set off to learn a new technique, and achieve some level of accomplishment, I do something unexpected and learn that way or I execute the intended recipe and design and learn something that way. With what happened this weekend, I’m left confused.
This last soap, I had the name in mind and the idea came afterward. I learned how to swirl better, but that is not what I was intending to do. As a matter of fact I was relying on my inability to swirl to help make the soap more dramatic, and less consistent.
Naming a Soap
I got the name “Penny Dreadful” in my head and did a little research. It’s a 19th Century British publication filled with lurid serial stories, each article costing a penny. I liked the idea and thought it would make a good name for a soap.
I thought the soap itself needed to be lovely, conditioning and silky in contrast to the name. My favorite recipe with silk, Shea and cocoa butter would do. I could use my new sample of copper mica colors, practice with a yellow I’ve not gotten to preform how I’ve wanted in the past and add a dark almost black purple to swirl into an uncolored base and then also pipe the top. I wanted to practice using a piping bag and a round tip instead of the spoon technique I use for my Dragon Silk scales on the soap. I just wanted to see if I could do it with a piping bag.
First Penny Dreadful Soap
The soap was very wet, did not trace correctly or thicken. When I poured it, it all blended together. I forged ahead anyway. I could have waited for the soap to firm a bit, however, my fear that it would solidify too quickly kept me from being patient.
This soap unmolded wet. It was mushy after 20 hours. I couldn’t cut it for two full days. When it did begin to dry it cracked on the outer edges. All of this is fixable, however, I’m disappointed. It is much more pastel than I imagined, and I just didn’t get the purple as menacing as I imagined.
I have few ideas about why it preformed so poorly and submitted this soap for insight to some soaping groups. I believe it may have to do with temperatures.
Soap Goblins Afoot
What I suspect is the soap goblins were afoot. Nothing scientific, just little goblins making mischief in my soap kitchen.
Although, I’d never say that seriously, I do suspect it was the intention I brought to the soap. My honey has said to me, in my first year of apprenticing this craft, I should practice duplicating a soap from beginning to end. That idea I’ve let ruminate in the back of my mind and the results are not lovely.
Second Penny Dreadful Soap
The very next day I began working out the issues and how I could remake the soap. I make the exact same recipe, but instead of piping the top I chose to leave that for another day. I did not put this soap in the freezer, but left it alone on the work table. I also used less fragrance oil than I usually use, which the scent is not as strong, and checked and double checked all my measurements along the way. I even wrote my calculations down on my recipe as I weighted each ingredient. I wanted to insure I wasn’t making a mistake.
The swirls are more interesting than any I’ve done so far, however, the idea is nothing like I imagined. I scented it with Love Spell and hint of something I will not name, but is citrus fresh.
I’m Wrong… I Did Learn
˙ ˙✧ ٠· ̊ °╰☆╮ ̥。⋆*:･ﾟ✧
I still have more opportunities to make the soap I have in mind – Penny Dreadful. A dark and mysterious soap.
Upon writing this and reflection of what I am aware of…
I have learned to follow my own creative inclinations and desires and have seen the results of allowing my flow to be affected. I think creating anything has as much to do with the intentions one sets out with as the capabilities of the artist.
I also learned that fearlessness and patients are two valuable tools of any artist. I had a big reminder dose for good measure this time!
This soap, Penny Dreadful will still clean, so nothing is broken, however, some soap ideas just don’t work out… The first time.
When I show up to create soap, have an idea loosely in mind and move with what happens, I create much more passionately and am much greater pleased. I will attempt this again in the future. My patients and fearlessness tools need to be sharpened before that day!