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!

ps. John thinks l am crazy re: the fragrance oils, but l am sure he’ll go along with whatever l decide :-)

10 responses so far

New soaps!

Dec 28 2011 Published by under new soaps

I’m so excited, l have made some new soap flavours. Just when we decided l had to have a standard ‘range’ of soap, l realised that part of what l love, love, love about soapmaking is trying new things, tweaking recipes, even soaping in different moulds. So sod it, l think l’m going to have to break my own rules before l even started following them.

Above is ‘Meditate’ soap. I had an essential oil blend here of Lavender, Lemon, Mandarin, Frankincence & Rosemary, and l added pink rose clay, crushed rose petals, calendula and lavender buds to the soap mix. And just happened to have a clean milk carton here, so revisited my very first soap batch that was poured into a milk carton :-)

I love these bars, they are so rustic and chunky and oddly shaped, and the colour is exactly what l had in mind.

Next up is this lovely green bar, l want to call her Hello Myrtle! – she contains yummy organic crushed lemon myrtle leaves, as well as a blend of Lemon Myrtle fragrance and Lime essential oil. I adore the colour, and the smell is delish!

I can’t wait to test her out…

I’ve had so much fun dreaming up these…and it does make me wonder…how on earth does one stick to a ‘regular’ product range? Do you think it’s something that should even be attempted? (both as a customer if you are reading this, and also as a soapmaker?) l get so much pleasure out of trying new fragrances and playing with new soap designs that it seems almost silly to try and shoehorn myself into a set ‘range’. And the minute that John and l decided that l should try and define a range for practical reasons, l almost felt a little bit sad. I’m sure it had something to do with me not wanting to make soap the past week or two. Maybe it turns into a chore instead of something pleasureable?

Maybe l need to make the soaps that sell and that people ask for…but also make sure that in every soapmaking session there are one or two soaps that are ‘just for fun’ – ones that l make for my own entertainment.

(maybe l’m just looking for an excuse to buy more fragrance oils hahahahaha!)

8 responses so far

More soaps and a logo…

Nov 26 2011 Published by under new soaps,soap photos

l’ve made it sound like l haven’t made any soap at all recently, but that’s not exactly the case. l made this beautiful citrussy one above a few weeks ago. l think l may have already blogged a photo of it, but l love this shot that is intended for the shopping cart. I’m still love, love, loving taking photos of soap. Well, taking photos in general really, but of course soap is a captive subject unlike labradors and cats and children. It is much easier to control!

This pic is a new batch of chai tea soap that is currently curing. It has all just been stamped by my automatic soap stamping machine (LOL) – l bet you didn’t know there was such a thing. Some soapmakers have spiffy soap cutters, some have shrink wrappers and packaging systems…but l’m lucky enough to have John, who stamps all of the soaps a bit like a robot, and is quite obsessive about it. Even l get told off now for stamping them crooked LOL. And never let it be said that one might slip through the ranks and into an order without it’s stamp on!

He’d stamp the cupcakes too if he could work out a way of getting it on them neatly. And believe me, he has tried *LMAO*

One of the things l have been working on for the site is a better ‘brand’. It has always bugged me that Simply Soap doesn’t have a ‘logo’ as such, just the words Simply Soap plonked in a website header. So l’ve been having a really good think about branding, and how l could incorporate the words and some sort of graphic into more of a logo; something that stands alone a bit more than just the words stuck on top of a heap of soap graphics. I want to keep things simple of course. And l wanted my logo to appear ‘natural’ with maybe a leaf or something in it, to signify the natural aspect of handmade soap. I also wanted it to look elegant, and also incorporate the current text somehow. The logo above (in the cupcake pic) is what l’ve come up with.

Here it is a bit more clearly:


What do you think?

I’ve been checking it every couple of days to make sure l still like it. If l go ahead with it, l will be updating all of the soap labels, and then also the website somehow. I’m still not sure. l can’t believe how hard it is to come up with a brand for my own business – l have no troubles dreaming up all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas for everyone else, but designing something for me has been almost impossible, l change my mind every 10 minutes. I guess it is tied in so much with my thoughts on handmade soap and why l make it in the first place, l want my logo to reflect all of those things. The purity of handmade soap, the art behind it, the natural aspect, the fact that it is a beautiful gift to buy yourself or someone else, the ingredients – all of those things. And now that l’ve written all of that down, there’s a tiny part of me that is a little bit excited, because you know what, l think finally l might have nailed it.

(???) LOL!

7 responses so far

thoughts on Christmas…and some flower soaps

Nov 24 2011 Published by under daily soap stuff

Two of my Christmas soaps have sold out already. I’m disappointed now that l didn’t make more, but it’s too late now, and l really haven’t felt like making much soap of late. So instead of working myself into a lather (pun intended LOL) of what to offer customers for possible Christmas gifts, l have decided to do absolutely nothing about it. Yes, you read that correctly.

l think l am going to use the opportunity of a quieter Christmas to slow down a bit, and rethink some of the soaps l offer. l might even close the site for a couple of weeks. I really feel like l need to regroup and recharge, and the thought of having some time off to work on the website, make some soap in my own sweet time and just generally clean things up a bit is too good to resist. I have so many ideas swirling round in my head and so many things on my ‘to do’ list that won’t ever get done if l don’t take a bit of time out.

(I really feel like l need to justify this decision to myself LOL – it’s not exactly good marketing practice to go and have time off right in the middle of the busiest shopping season of the year, is it?)

I’m just tired, and a bit overwhelmed. And really unsure of where l want this little soap biz to go. (how do you decide such a thing anyway?)

Some thinking time could be a very good thing.

And some playtime with my new soap moulds would be fun ;-)

3 responses so far

cupcake soap photo shoot

Nov 12 2011 Published by under daily soap stuff,new soaps,soap photos

Twice divorced John is looking a little bit green around the edges tonight ;-)
I came home from the shops this morning with two bridal magazines, and then went and got out my wedding veil from the depths of my wardrobe.

All in the name of inspiration of course!

I love wedding magazines, they always have gorgeous photography, beautiful fonts, lovely design, and of course l love looking at the different dresses, cakes, shoes & flowers etc.

I got out my camera and some of yesterday’s test cupcakes, arranged my veil as a backdrop, and had a little impromptu photo shoot in the back garden.

These piped cupcakes take my breath away. (I’m not quite sure how to say l love them without sounding full of myself, but l do love them a lot!)
There is no way l would ever sell these retail and entrust their delivery to Australia Post. Can you just imagine what you’d receive on the other end LOL?

I’m wondering whether they might work though as special order soap cupcakes for delivery in the Melbourne metro area. They’d also be good as regular food variety cupcakes too *LMAO*

5 responses so far

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