30 March 2011

And here it is

This is the Lavender and Patchouli layered soap I made last night. I have to say that I am more than a little chuffed at the result. The colour is quite intense, although it may well fade, but I think that the contrast is lovely.

Now, what can I do next?

29 March 2011

Peeling back the layers

I was sitting here this evening, relaxing, and suddenly got soapy withdrawal symptoms.  You know the kind of thing, I am fidgety, and I have to go and make some now! So, off I trotted to the kitchen, put on my pointy hat and weighed everything into my cauldron.

I wanted to do something a bit different. All my soaps to date have been  plain. Some have had a sprinkling of botanicals on the top, but that has been as far as I have allowed my creativity to go.

I had decided that I was going to fragrance my soap with lavender and patchouli, a combination I have not used before, and I wanted to colour it to match. After I weighed out the liquid oils, I decanted some into a small glass dish, added alkanet and warmed it a little to help the infusion. I let it sit while I melted the liquid and solid oils together, mixed the lye solution added the two together, and brought it to trace. After adding the essential oil blend and mixing well, I separated out some of the raw soap and added my alkanet infused oil to the main part of the soap batch then poured it into the prepared mould. When I thought it had set enough, I very slowly ladled the uncoloured soap on the top and put it to bed.

I will be surprised if this is a successfully layered soap. Everything I have read suggests that you make a half batch of soap, and then while this is setting you make your second half batch, but I like to bend the rules a bit, partly because I never bother to read instructions. I can't wait until tomorrow when I am able to unmould it and see how it looks. It is certain to be interesting. It will either look lovely (pink pigs overhead) or the top layer will have dripped down into the bottom layer and it will look a complete mess. All will be revealed.

21 March 2011

The Weekend.

I was supposed to go away this weekend to meet-up with like minded soapy folk. Unfortunately I had to work, and instead, drove up for the day on Sunday.

It was a good, fun day, although the weather could have been a little bit kinder. The sky was low and grey, and there was no sign of the sun. On my drive home, there was a fine rain which caused mist all the way from Kirkby Lonsdale to Preston. The M6 is bad enough without accompanying inclement weather, thank you very much.

I arrived about 10.00 and was greeted with coffee and biscuits. We did soapy stuff before lunch (HP and M&P) and then had an incredibly useful graphics tutorial. For those of us who are starting out, there is no huge budget for marketing or getting someone to do all the graphics for you so, unless you know a nice kind soul who can do these things for free, you do it yourself. Trial and error features large, so tips and pointers are invaluable, and I learned a lot from the tutorial.

A packaging discussion followed later before I had to head home. Anyone will tell you that packaging is the bane of their existence. If you know what you want, you can't find it; if you can find it then it will be the wrong size, colour or far too expensive. It is good to get the input of someone else who may have other packaging suppliers you can try.

We all had a great day. Well, everyone except Doris who was dragged over a field behind a tractor, followed by her friends. I suppose at this point, I should admit that Doris is a deceased sheep and that it was the farmer who was dragging her away. We could not quite decide if the flock who ran after the tractor were doing so because they wanted to give Doris a decent send off, or whether it was because the farmer was returning shortly to give them a feed. It gave a couple of us a bit of a giggle. Not because the poor thing was dead, but we somehow managed to give the flock voices and managed to imagine the conversation they might have been having. Ok, so it was one of those you had to be there moments, but it made us laugh.

11 March 2011

This is a Rant

Prepare yourselves. I am going to have a rant. I do not understand why service has to be so bad. I ordered Himalayan salt for my bath salts last Tuesday. They were shipped on Tuesday, but have not arrived with me.

My supplier has bent over backwards to try to sort out the issue for me, but it is very difficult when the courier does not care a jot. I have spoken to them, and just get the "there is nothing I can do" line which is complete nonsense. Apparently, they have tried to deliver twice, but on neither ocassion has a card been put through the door. Call me cynical but to me, this indicates that there has not been an attempted delivery. It is not that difficult surely, to deliver a package on time and to the correct address. Do I expect too much? I am beginning to think that I do.

Do these courier companies not understand how failure to deliver impacts on small businesses like mine? I have an order to finish and I can't do that without the salts. I wanted to drop it if off over the weekend. What if I lost the order as a result? This does not seem to bother them at all. It would be interesting to know what their failure rate is, but I don't suppose there is a way of finding out.

Rant over.

05 March 2011

What did I start?

I don't think that when I started to make soap, I knew what I was getting myself in to. I certainly had no idea how much of the house would be invaded by soap, soap making ingredients and soap making kit.  More to the point, I did not know how much of my conscious, and who knows sub-conscious thought, it would consume.

I think about it, I trip over it, I make it, wrap it and label it. I have successes and I have failures, and boy, have I had failures. Batches which are the same as umpteen batches I have made in the past, for some unfathomable reason decide to go oh, so horribly and so spectacularly wrong.

Ploughing through all the delightful regulations, designed I am sure to make things as complicated as possible, there are times when I wonder if there is a point. Regulations are important, they safeguard the public, but there are so many people who sell their products without adequate labelling, it makes my blood boil.

Then, there is the business side of the business. Sales, marketing, paperwork and don't mention the packaging. All these things take up so much time and effort, you have to ask yourself if it is worth it.

I could sit here and mount a good argument that it is not, that it is better to keep making soap as a hobby or to give to friends, and to give it up as a business, but I would be lying. The buzz you get when you receive an order is incredible. To know that someone likes your products enough to give you money for them, is a real fillip. Working for yourself is not stress free by any means, after all there is no passing the buck, but you also have a freedom that is impossible working for someone else.

I started my business about a year ago, and so much has happened in that time, culminating in two recent orders from two National Trust properties. This is far beyond anywhere I thought I could go, and could potentially mean big business for me. I have also met, in person and virtually, a lovely, supportive community of like minded people who understand the issues, the products and the problems involved in owning this kind of business. Stressful? Yes it is, but it is also fun and exciting and an outlet for my creativity which also helps to pay the bills.

04 March 2011

Rufford Old Hall

We are delighted to announce that our products will shortly be for sale at Rufford Old Hall, Rufford, Nr Ormskirk, Lancashire.

01 March 2011

Light and Dark

Spring, that season of hope for the new year is on its way. Snowdrops carpet the woods, crocuses and grape hyacinth are waving from the flower beds and today, I saw a tree with pretty pink blossom just beginning to show. The darkness of winter will soon be behind us and thoughts can turn to warm summer evenings.

Of course, in some parts of the world thoughts are more of survival than warmer weather and the darkness has certainly fallen. The dreadful news of the events in Christchurch last week have competed with news from the Middle East for the front pages of the papers. There has been so much death in the last couple of weeks.

Gaddafi is the latest of the Middle East leaders to feel the wrath of the people. A couple of weeks ago, Egypt's Mubarak stepped down after 18 days of delaying tactics, presumably in order to get his money out of the country. I have a horrible feeling that in Libya it is going to be a different story and that the country is heading for civil war, although to listen to the Colonel, all his people love him. Deluded? You decide.

The knock on effect of all this is the refugee crisis, with many thousands of people trying to flee the country to Tunisia. Reports say that 75,000 people have already fled Libya and tented camps are being set up. Aid workers warn of a developing humanitarian crisis with water and sanitation being major issues.

So, with lengthening days and anticipation of summer air filled with smoke from barbeques, thoughts turn to people in other parts of the world struggling for survivial.