Howdy!

May 03 2012 Published by under new soaps,soap photos

It’s probably only been about a week since l blogged, but it feels like a decade LOL. You know how when you have heaps to say…and no time to type it out…and then suddenly it doesn’t really seem that important anymore. That’s where l’ve been at. Oh, and terribly sick, without trying to sound like a drama queen.

Somewhere in all of this SIXTEEN new fragrance oils arrived for me to play with, and l made two of the worst batches of soap l’ve ever made. Great for the confidence – not! There was Pink Chardonnay which went in the bin yesterday, and then Grapefruit and Lime which l was sure l was going to love, but god help me it turned out awful – what was meant to be a pretty swirl turned out a disgusting muddy mess of orange, yellow and green. I healf heartedly took a few photos but they just made me feel even more depressed LOL.

Thankfully the Pomegranate and Sage turned out beautifully, because otherwise all of my soapmaking equipment was going in the bin l was so grumpy with it all.

And l made some lemon scented goats milk soap too which thankfully must have known it HAD to turn out acceptably:

Something strange has been going on recently and l am tearing my hair out over it.

Many of my soaps lately have been ‘crackling’, quite badly. Not just crackling either though – there are definite ‘clear’ lines in the soap where you can see attempts at swirling. See the top left one below? That was the first.

This soap below is the Pink Chardonnay that went in the bin, and it had big streaks all though it, but no swirls to speak of.

I am doing the same things with my soap that I’ve always done – the same amount of titanium dioxide, mixed the same way…in fact it’s probably the same batch that l’ve used for the last 6 months, l try not to use too much.

The only things l can think of are:

  • that while experimenting with non-palm oil recipes, l’ve started using Rice Bran Oil a bit. Could it be that? I guess it’s the one consistent change, but surely just swapping one oil wouldn’t do all this? It’s only ever a third of my recipe.
  • maybe l am using too much colour/clays in the batch (but it’s never been an issue in the past)…
  • that l am overheating the soap (but again, my soap has gotten way hotter than these ones before without this crackling)…I’ve even forced it in the oven without all of this happening…
  • that l just need to give up LOL.

I would love some advice. I thought l was experienced, but l am not feeling that way at the moment. Just very frustrated and annoyed at how even after more than 5 years of soapmaking l can still get it so wrong.

16 responses so far

Soaping…

Apr 12 2012 Published by under daily soap stuff,soap photos

I’ve been trying desperately to get back on track after recent life events, where soapmaking and website making got left by the wayside. I’ve had to make (for me) quite a lot of soap to catch up and return stock levels to sort of normal. Well…what am l saying, they’ve never really been normal at all, but it was an aim a while ago to get some sort of production system going, and l couldn’t start using said system until l got the stock levels to a reasonable level in the first place!

The amounts of soap l’m talking about aren’t huge by any means, most bigger name soapmakers would probably make twice as much in a day if not more. But for me, who has been juggling court cases, kids, school holidays, a 12 week exercise plan and study at the same time, it has been a bit of an effort to get *anything* at all done. The last few weeks l’ve felt like the stuffing has been well and truly knocked out of me, and it’s very hard to claw back my enthusiasm.

I’m going to try though.

For the first time ever, l have surplus stock of all of my soap range. (fingers crossed l don’t find any other flavours l’ve forgotten about LOL.) All my labels are up to date with new descriptions. The website is also up to date. I tidied the soap shelves, and I have enough of all the supplies l’m going to need in the forseeable future. I even sneaked in a couple of batches of Mother’s Day soap for a wholesale client. Far out l almost feel organised LOL.

For the soapmakers out there…do you have a structured production schedule? How much do you aim to make and when? Is it something you stick to religiously or are you a ‘make it when you feel like it or can squeeze it in’ kind of person like me? I’d really like to improve in this area, it’s something l need to work on. Having said that though, l also struggle a lot with how much l expect from myself and my little biz and l don’t want to get overwhelmed.

5 responses so far

A parcel for me!

Apr 02 2012 Published by under new soaps,soap photos

I received a parcel today in the mail. Much excitement! These soaps came from Michelle at Tierre Verde soaps in Texas.

I am totally in love with the packaging. The soaps smell absolutely beautiful, but l don’t think l’m ever going to be able to unwrap them, because l can’t bear the thought of ripping off all that gorgeous brown paper and carefully applied labelling!

Maybe in a day or two. I’m going to find that Lemongrass and Calendula one very hard to resist ;-)

 

3 responses so far

I really need to cool it…

Mar 30 2012 Published by under daily soap stuff,new soaps,soap photos

I made some soap yesterday and was really peeved at my impatience. I soaped this batch far too warm – although the oils were room temperature and even starting to solidify again, the lye water was hot, hot, hot, and when the two were combined, the total temperature was way too high. I’d had visions of carefully blending a pretty pink top layer and taking quite a bit of time to sculpt the top nicely. But once l had added the fragrance, it just about seized on the spot and l was left frantically whisking what was fast turning out to be hot process soap.

Good for the arm muscles!

It turned out fine…perfectly usable…even sort of pretty…but just not what l had been aiming for and l am so cross with myself. The essential oils haven’t blended into the pink part very well, and l know l could do much better if l just slowed down and waited. I was hoping for a lovely ‘buttery’ look on top.

(meet Hippy Chick – scented with a ylang ylang essential oil blend!)

I’ve also been experimenting with soap photos & white backgrounds, and am starting to figure out how to make them work.

And of course I’m still loving that 50mm lens. Oh yes we are destined to see many, many out of focus backgrounds here for quite a long time!

Another new soap: ‘Bubble & Squeak‘ – named in honour of using all the leftover soap scraps to make it! It’s a bit smaller than my normal bars as l experimented with a different sized mould and calculated incorrectly on the amount of soap mix needed. But it looks and smells lovely nevertheless, it is scented with orange, lavender and may chang essential oil as well as Roman Chamomile. The crackled effect in the orange – again…someone was too impatient, soaped too hot, and left themselves too little time to blend the top layer properly – the crackles are from me adding a little more water to the batter to try and thin it down and not quite succeeding.

I’m taking myself back to soap school and starting from scratch. No more ‘winging it’ with too hot ingredients. Because it is so disappointing when things don’t turn out how you envisaged.

 

It’s probably the best batch of Meditate soap ever :-)

 

12 responses so far

More soap photos…and a frog!

Mar 20 2012 Published by under soap photos

The photography course is going slowly, and although l am enjoying it and doing well, l am also very often getting quite frustrated. It feels like the more l learn about my camera and photography, the more critical l am getting and the worse the photos are coming out. l think that sometimes l am trying way too hard. Part of the assessment task for module two is to pick an object in your house, and imagine the photo that you’d like to achieve in your head before actually taking it. (as opposed to just getting a nice photo by the luck of the draw, which is what most often happens to me.) You have to plan out the photo in your head, and then try to achieve what you planned.

So l planned this image in my head of an angelic looking bar of handmade soap, rustic, glowing, bathed in gorgeous light, surrounded by aged wooden boxes, lavender flowers, ceramic dishes, artfully folded towels etc, etc. And of course it just wouldn’t happen that way. (All our towels are a bit threadbare LOL!)

I reckon l took about 300 photos, all of them combinations and contortions of the above, and all of them far too contrived and woeful and NOT what l was imagining.

(Although l sort of don’t mind this one, l’d like to try harder to get the front of the box and the soap in focus, as well as much better lighting)

Midway through the session when my blood pressure was starting to go through the roof, John found a frog while digging in the garden, and l quickly snapped this, isn’t he/she beautiful!? (l love frogs!!!)

I think l’m much better off sticking to my plain, simple backgrounds instead of trying to recreate the pages of a magazine.

Because when l’m not trying too hard, the photos are much better LOL.

:-)

ps. in the end, l relaxed for a couple of days and then grabbed a bottle of perfume. I set it on the kitchen table with some glass milk bottles, and this was my submission for module two: (we learned about depth of field, ISO and aperture, and l also learned to use the manual focus on my camera, l can’t believe what a difference it has made already being able to choose what l focus on and keep it that way rather than the camera zooming around all over the place and focusing when it feels like it!)

The other really interesting thing l learned was that it’s much better to get a well composed photo in the camera as opposed to relying on photoshop to crop the heck out of it afterwards. I am very guilty of this, but in the photo above, there was only about 3mm cropped from the bottom of the photo and that’s it. No other photoshopping at all. I am just a tiny bit proud of myself!

2 responses so far

Gratitude

Mar 17 2012 Published by under new soaps,soap photos

I am so, so SO happy today, l’m having the best day ever. I’m not doing anything special, just pottering around in the kitchen making lotion bars, taking soap photos, planning a batch to use up my soap scraps, adding things to the website and just relaxing. But it struck me that l am doing all of the things l love. My love for soap is back with a vengeance. I’m so glad l picked the path l have for Simply Soap – the ‘keeping it simple and natural and small’ path. I may not earn $60,000 a year, but money most definitely isn’t everything, and my heart is so happy and grateful today. Getting the photo above just made it even better LOL.

This one made me feel pretty good too :-)  The first time l tried to shoot photos of soap in the white bathroom, the results were not so good. But gosh l love these. I’m adding three new soaps to the store today, these are not really part of the ‘range’ that l had restricted myself to, but l made them back in 2011 before l decided to rein things in a little. They are just plain olive oil soap with no other oils, and there are quite a few people out there who really like them. John isn’t one of them – he complained about ‘that slimy purple soap’ in the shower when he used the test bar LOL. They’re not for everyone, but the 100% olive oil is so good for dry and irritated skin, and they are aimed at those people. There is plain, citrus and lavender, the latter two with essential oil.

I went for a run this morning and while faffing about at the back door trying to talk myself out of it, took some photos of our new lemon tree.

And l’ve realised that l really love taking photos of the simple things in life. I love getting up close to nature and noticing all the little details that we so often miss in our day to day rushing about. Sometimes there are the most amazing things going on, right under our noses. And if we rush about too much, we miss all of those beautiful things.

To me, nice soap with ‘real’ ingredients is also one of those things. It’s very simple, and often very plain. But that cliche – ‘the simple things in life are often the best’ – l am really starting to believe that it is true.

Hope you’re having a lovely day!

5 responses so far

Finally – some soap!

Mar 08 2012 Published by under new soaps,soap photos

I’ve finally felt like making some soap in reasonable quantities. This one is Hello Myrtle soap with a little less ‘Myrtle’ and a little more ‘Hello’ (those crushed lemon myrtle leaves l’ve found are a bit scratchy in the shower so l’ve tried grinding them up finer and also using a little less of them!)

…and a new soap based on the old Citrus Twist – except this one is going to be called Super Citrus or something along those lines. Actually…l might have a competition once l’ve cut the bars up, there hasn’t been a giveaway for a while!

These photos were taken with my New Camera <insert flashing lights here LOL!> I’m a little worried, they don’t appear to be any better than the other photos l used to take. I haven’t finished reading the camera manual yet, but l’m hoping l just didn’t make a rather expensive blunder!

4 responses so far

Colour

Mar 02 2012 Published by under soap photos

Remember a while back l talked about giving up Fragrance Oils in my soaps? I haven’t regretted it (that may be because l haven’t made much soap since then!) but, l have noticed a few comments here and there congratulating me on the more ‘natural’ approach l was going to take to soapmaking, and asking what l was going to use to colour my soap.

And l hadn’t even considered that with a move towards using more essential oils, it is often expected that there will also be a move away from the more ‘non-natural’ colours. Except there is just no way l could do it. I love my bottles of soap colour, so, so much. Some of them can still be classed as being natural – the micas, ultramarines, oxides etc – but it can be safely assumed that the neon lime green that l used to colour Avocado & Lime soap last night is totally NOT natural *g*

And really…for now, l’m okay with that. Soap for me at the moment is all about heading in a general direction that l am happy with, and if colour makes me happy, then that’s okay. Not every soap is coloured loudly, they are all different. Some have artificial glitter on top. I’m not going to tie myself in knots by becoming a purist, goodness knows I have enough other things to tie myself in knots over without adding to the pile!

9 responses so far

Meditate…

Feb 28 2012 Published by under daily soap stuff,soap photos

Finally l soaped. Only a small batch, this was the first of my non-palm oil experiments. I was pleasantly surprised, this is an olive oil and coconut oil soap – nothing else. I had expected it to have a slightly ‘slimy’ feel to it like castille soap, but there’s none that l can detect. Instead, it’s a lovely soft and fluffy lather, and l think l might prefer it to my standard recipe. (The ‘fuzzy’ top you can see in the photo is due to me ‘oven baking’ this soap to force gel, and l left it in a little too long so that it started to bubble on top.)

Another experiment: using a higher ISO setting on my camera to get better low light photos. The focus is not so good on the bottom of the photo, l need to wean myself off wide apertures a little bit – there’s also a fair bit of ‘noise’ in the photo, but l don’t mind it.

4 responses so far

Carved Soaps

Feb 09 2012 Published by under daily soap stuff,soap photos

One of the girls at John’s work recently went on holidays to Thailand…and saw these amazing soaps. Apparantly the white ones above are all hand carved and the man that does them sits out on the street from about 3PM – 1AM every single day just carving away.

Amazing stuff (there is no way l would have the patience to do this, and if l took a chisel to any of my soaps l can guarantee the results would look nothing like these LOL!)

Some of the soaps for sale on his stall :-)

One response so far

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