Avocado & Lime and a big decision…

Jan 06 2012 Published by under daily soap stuff,new soaps

Admittedly the name sounds more like a salad dressing than a bar of soap, but doesn’t this soap look beautiful!? I hope it keeps some of it’s vivid green colour as it cools down!

About 2 minutes before writing this post, l had a rather large lightbulb moment in terms of where l want my little soapmaking business to go.

  • I’ve decided to keep it small, very small. Perhaps even smaller than it is now. I’m going to discontinue my ongoing (rather vague and fuzzy!) dream of one day waking up and discovering that l have turned into a soapmaking version of The Body Shop or Lush with stores worldwide and a fat bank balance. (Of course this dream always eventuates after very little effort on my part, l just get ‘discovered’ one day and all the hard work is taken out of my hands. I’m sure it’s not how it actually happens LOL!)
  • I’ve decided to phase out using Palm Oil in my soaps.
  • I’ve also decided to (very slowly, because l’m not 100% sure of this one and may change my mind!) to discontinue using fragrance oils in my soaps.

There’s been four things happen this week that have influenced my decision/s in different ways.

1. Firstly, l’ve been reading Kylie Kwong’s cookbook as l eat my meals. lt’s a fantastic book! My daughters gave it to me for christmas and l haven’t had time to look at it until yesterday. It’s not just a standard recipe book, but is filled with wonderful stories about the producers who supply her with the food for her restaurant. They are all small businesses who love what they do. If they supply eggs, then the eggs are free range, and the chooks are treated with respect and fed wholesome real food. The same for the fishermen, pig producers, cattle farmers, grape growers all featured in the book – they all use business practices that are not about making a quick buck, but that are geared towards a healthy and superior end product, respect for the earth and also respect for animals. The story that jumps out at me the most is the scallop fisherman who harvests his scallops by diving for them and collecting them by hand, instead of the mechanical dredging of the bays that is practiced by high producing commercial scallop farmers. This bloke has to sell his scallops for 5 times the standard market prices, but as Kylie Kwong says, she happily buys them because the flavour and quality is superb. There is the pig producer whose piglets get to live free range with their mums until they are ‘processed’ (awful word!) instead of being seperated after birth and raised in concrete pens. Chooks who free range over acres of paddocks instead of growing in artificially lit barns.

I adore this idea of producing with integrity. I’ve loved reading about all the characters that live and work on the farms, who are so dedicated to their products, and who do what they do for love as well as an income. Many of them freely admit that they have sacrified a bigger profit for the sake of a better end product. This is exactly how l feel about my soap, l want it to be something to be treasured and made with total love and dedication. The bigger my soap moulds get and the larger the containers of ingredients l buy, the closer l feel like l might be edging towards something that l never wanted to do – handmade soap that is starting to lose the characteristics that made it special in the first place. Because once you start buying bigger and more, and having to output more and more to meet demand, the production methods often change, batches get bigger, you need to get help, and you start to slowly lose control. The soaps all start to look the same. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, and many soapmakers do it superbly but it isn’t what *I* want. I don’t want to wake up one morning and realise that my handmade goats milk soap is now for sale in the local chemist and also every other chemist in Australia. I want control, and l want to make soap with love, and when l have time for it. I don’t want to make it because l have to, l want to make it because l want to. I want to concentrate on better ingredients, on using different oils, a variety of recipes. I want to produce a smaller range, but a better quality range.

2. The second thing that inspired my decision was that I bought a copy of Peppermint magazine – at the time more for the graphic design inspiration than for any other reason. But l discovered it’s a lovely magazine – all about organic, recycled, fair trade, ethical & sustainable living. l came across an article inside (page 52) and l quote part of it where the author says:

‘If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth and eat it, then don’t put it on your skin’

Wow. A lightbulb went off in my head…wouldn’t it be good if l could say that about my soap ingredients (minus the caustic soda of course LOL!) And today when l bought the ingredients to make Avocado and Lime soap, l purchased a big bottle of Extra Virgin olive oil, as well as a bottle of Australian avocado oil. It felt good, and it felt real. l liked that l was using ingredients so close to nature. I also used my standard olive oil to make this soap, but after reading about Jenora Soap’s Olive Oil experiment; l wanted to see what would happen when a big proportion of the recipe was extra virgin olive oil. And somehow it just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I want my soap to make me feel like that all of the time.

3. While l started typing this blog post, there was a segment on a TV current affairs show playing in the background. It was about orangutangs and palm oil. I was only half listening, and of course l already knew about the palm oil issue, as any self respecting soapmaker would…but something about the woman they were interviewing caught my interest…she emphatically stated that if we didn’t do something about the wider and wider use of palm oil in today’s society, that it was  a foregone conclusion that orangutangs would become extinct. It wasn’t a matter anymore of ‘if’ or ‘maybe’, she stated that everytime she visited the country that the show was talking about (l wasn’t 100% listening), she could see with her own eyes how the forests are being razed, how the orangutang habitats are getting smaller and smaller. This is where my inattention fails me because she was a wild animal specialist/zoologist of some sort, whatever her actual title was, l was left in no doubt that she was the kind of person that knew what she was talking about. Even though l was only half listening.

And l realised that it’s very easy for me to hide in my little ‘far away from all the action’ Australian cocoon and just continue to buy palm oil…and that even though l buy the sustainable one, it is still a major pain in the rear end to pay so much for it, and then to pay even more to have it flown halfway across Australia in an aeroplane just so l can put it in my soap. It all suddenly felt a bit silly, and l decided on the spot that l was going to make a statement and stop using it. Even if it is only for my own conscience, l feel better.

Coincidentally, l ran out about 4 days ago…could it really be this easy? Probably not, but l’m not going to buy it again.

4. The last thing that influenced me…um… l have waffled so much that now l can’t actually remember what it was LOL. But l did start testing Meditate soap the other day, and love the balance of essential oils that make up the scent. It’s incredibly lovely and l’m quite amazed that my humble milk carton soap might actually be the best soap l’ve ever made in my life. There’s no fragrance oil in it at all, and yet it’s not easily identifiable as to what makes up the scent. Many of my essential oil soaps are quite simple – May Chang, or Lavender, all made with just straight essential oil, so it’s not hard to tell what they are going to smell like. But Meditate and also Snow Candy – they are more complex blends, and l really love them. I’m learning that it *is* possible to have more interesting and mysterious combinations, and that maybe l don’t need to depend on fragrance oils to keep things interesting. Like l said earlier, l’m not 100% convinced yet, l will find it very hard to give up my Black Raspberry and Vanilla fragrance oils, to say nothing of Chai Tea & Pomegranate & Sage. But it’s definitely something l am going to explore.

So…that’s enough waffle for today. Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far. I’m pretty excited about my decision, and feeling for the first time that l’m getting closer and closer to what l actually want from my soapmaking. Instead of feeling that l have to please everyone else, l’m just going to please myself. And won’t it be great if it actually works LOL!


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