Tuesday 6 January 2015

Christmas Soaps 2014

Had so much fun experimenting with cut offs for our Christmas soaps this year…  

 cut up bits

 grated and rolled into balls.

The best part was cutting the soaps!!

Hope you all had a fabulous Christmas season and are raring to go for 2015!!

Saturday 18 October 2014

Christmas Soaping & Experimenting

It’s that time again, when we are preparing our Christmas soap!! This time of the year is a fun one for me…  We have calmed down from our busy summer, done a few tradefairs in Northern Spain which were new for us so we travelled a bit as well.

Now back to experimenting, product development and production!

Originally this was my “potpourri” soap experiment.  Now it is our tradition that we save up our cut offs over the year and use them up in our Christmas soap. Grated, shaved or cut into bits.   

This year, we are hoping to have enough bars to donate to some of the local charities.

I got carried away and had a bit of a disaster when trying something new…  I had to work it into the mould, like playdough with gloved hands.  That was a first...!

Happy Soaping everyone!! xoxo Jen  

Friday 27 June 2014

Soap Pricing

I have been meaning to write about pricing for a while now.  Ever since I saw a post on a soapers blog calling another soaper’s soap “pricey”.  This was during that trend a few years ago when people sent their soaps in for soap reviews?  I was never really into the soap review thing… neither having my soap judged/reviewed nor publicly judging or reviewing other people’s.  I have tried others soapers' soaps and have found something I like about each and every one.  I love my own the best though as I hope all of you do as well!!  
 I didn’t like seeing someone calling another soaper’s soap as “pricey”.    I know most of us are undercharging and when I see someone who is charging more, I am rooting for them!    Let’s look at my soaps – 6€ per bar.  Not very often, a new client will make a comment about the price… and I try not to react but my blood boils.  I usually smile politely and say I am sure they can find cheaper soaps out there, not sure they will be the same quality and although I would love to offer a soap for less, I am not prepared to lower the quality of our ingredients.   But what I really want to say is:

Do you realize that within those 6€, 21% of that goes to the government as sales tax?  So I only really see 5€.  Many soapers here don’t actually declare their income from soaps but we do, and we pay our taxes.

Do you realize that another € of that goes to packaging?  Locally handmade packaging that offers 4 different work sources locally? ( 1) we purchase the material locally, 2) a local lady hand makes them for us, 3) we get them stamped locally by a small t-shirt printing company, and 4) our bag tags are printed by a small local printer) .  We could get them printed in China for pennies, if I wanted to bring the price down, but that is not what we are about.

- Do you realize that I use only ingredients that are fabulous for you?  Ingredients that I feel amazing about using, only natural, mostly local?  I am not using recycled olive oil as many other soapers do here.  We use only fresh organic, extra-virgin olive oil from our local olive oil mill.  We could use palm oil, which would harden up the bars and bring price down, but I don’t feel great about its environmental implications, so we don’t.  We use organic un-refined Shea Butter in all of our soaps except for Castille.  And only pure essential oils.

Do you realize that instead of making these in our kitchen, we actually have a dedicated studio as required by Health and Safety here and pay monthly rent, insurance, electricity, water, social security which is expensive here in Spain, and that we pay for an analysis from an external laboratory for each batch?   

Do you know that in pricing our soaps, I can’t actually include my time or there would appear no profit?

-    Do you know that we have not increased the price of our soaps in 3 years although the cost of living has gone up?
That is secretly what I wish to say.  But I don’t.  Most of our clients are pretty amazing and get what we are all about.  Most don’t have a problem at all paying 6€ per bar.  I will eventually have to increase that price.  Especially if we are going for the official “organic” label here.
So to all those soapers out there who are able to charge what your soaps are actually worth -well done!!!!!  

I am including some random photos over the past few months.  We have been getting out to more and more trade shows and loving it.

The journey continues to be amazing and I am so thankful to be doing what I love each and every day!!!
Happy Soaping everyone!   Xoxoxo Jen

Saturday 22 March 2014

Interview at SoapJam

Silvia at http://soapjam.wordpress.com/ is one of those lovely soapmakers and bloggers that contacted me early on in her soap making adventures, full of excitement and questions.  I love getting those emails from excited new soapmakers and love helping them.  I really can't believe how far she has come in less than a year!! 

She recently asked me to do an interview, sent me some great questions and has now posted the interview in 2 parts on her blog.  If you wish to read the interview, head on over to Silvia's blog.

We had 75 litres of wonderful, rich, recently pressed organic extra-virgen olive oil was delivered the other day by David from the olive oil mil we work with.  Inhaling the scent is heaven... so we are heading into full-on soap production!  So excited!   We are also making soap for this olive oil mill with their oil. 

Happy soaping everyone and Happy Spring!!!



Tuesday 11 February 2014

The Soaping Journey - 2013

It has been such a while since I have blogged, and I got one of those emails yesterday that I get occasionally from another soaper reminding me that my blog inspired them.  If I have inspired one person out there, blogging feels more than worth it.

So, what have I been up to?  Working hard at the most awesome job I have ever had.  I remember vividly when I was at the point of stress breakdown from the job that led me to where I am now (yes, I am far enough away to look back now and understand why I had to go through that…). I said to mum “I want NO stress in my life.” She said “I have a feeling that there will always be some form of stress… you may leave the stressful job behind for a simpler life, but then there may be a new form of stress, maybe money stress.  Shouldn’t you focus on learning how to deal with stress instead of trying to escape it?”  So wise.  So, amidst the most creative time ever in my life, living my dream, making soap and other awesome products, supporting the local community, there is still stress, but it’s okay.  Some months I wonder if people still wash!!  Where are the orders?  Other months, we have so little time that we are making soap till midnight!  Looking back on 2013 and what I have learned so that I can share it with you?

1)      It is possible to make a living from soap making.  However, it is very important to know how to run a business.  Numbers & pricing. Organization. Prioritizing are keys.  Sometimes I do it better than other times and I am always learning.

2)     Competition shouldn’t scare you.  More and more soap makers pop up at the markets and fairs we do, but that’s all right.  Each one is offering something unique.  Uniqueness is important.  What makes your product different from others?

3)     Stick to your core values.  Getting those values across to clients is important.  Although profit is important, so is enjoying what you do, and if you understand your values and stick to them, you will enjoy it so much more.  This is where you have to balance the “head” and “heart”.  If it were all “head”, I wouldn’t enjoy it.

4)     The “down” moments are the moments when you most need to remember what you are thankful for.  I keep a Gratitude journal and try to write down several things before bed that I am thankful for.  It can be the simplest of things – “My warm cozy duvet”, “The morning sunlight over the Mediterranean”, “My daughter’s enjoyment of my homemade pizza at lunch today.” When you look for things to be thankful for, it changes your approach to and outlook on life.

If 2012 was setting up the business with our own shop and dedicated location for production (the studio), 2013 was about growing the business.  We developed and released several new products – Facial Serum, a Facial scrub and Liquid soap.   We have been selected by Biocultura to participate in the biggest organic trade fairs in Spain this year.  The first one – in Valencia – is next month!  We got a van so we no longer need to rent a vehicle to transport things to trade fairs.  We doubled batch size so that we make more soap at a time.  And so many more wonderful things have happened.

Now, I am focusing on the Social Networks, which is time-consuming but important for increasing web sales.  Currently putting out a photo campaign of our products in use around the world!  If anyone is using one of our products out there – send us a photo with it on your hand and your town in the background!  Come join us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!

I would love to hear about your journey… and about what you are thankful for.

Wishing you happy soaping and tons of inspiration!!

Xo  Jen

Sunday 10 November 2013

Shampoo Bars - Experimenting with Citric Acid

As a follow up, I just want to let you know that after 5 weeks of curing, the pH of this soap/ shampoo bar, is no different than my other bars without Citric Acid.   It has not brought the pH level down.
The shampoo bar is okay, but I actually prefer my bars without it!
It was an interesting experiment, although I have so many other things to experiment with... so will probably not be focussing on this right now.  I remind myself that I am not that concerned with lowering the pH in my soap bars as I am okay with where they are.
Has anyone else out there tried this?  With what results?

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Essential Oils in Soap & Skincare – Therapeutic Properties Versus Scent

So many choices and decisions to make when soaping - size, shape, properties, colour, scent, packaging etc. etc.

So, for those of you who use exclusively essential oils in your soaps and skincare products, do you create your blends based on how it smells or what it will do for your skin?
(My latest Potpourri Soap - with Lavender, Lemongrass, Fennel and Ylang Ylang Essential oils, a blend I created for the scent...)
I usually aim for therapeutic value…. But try to blend nice scents.  For example, our oily skin soap has a nice blend of Tea Tree with Eucalyptus.  Our sensitive skin soap has my favourite blend – Patchouli, Geranium and Lavender.
Sometimes it is more difficult… so many things to think about.  In creating our Rose Hip facial serum, as we are aiming this product at mature skin, I had a blend in my mind before ever smelling one of the essential oils I wanted in it… Then it arrived… I opened the bottle with so much anticipation (I am like a kid in a candy store with new essential oils!!), and YUCK.  Have you ever smelled Carrot Seed Essential Oil?  Well, it smells like DIRT.  I knew I didn’t want any citrus essential oils in a product specifically for the face because of photo-sensitivity and was sure I wanted Frankincense in it… so I finally came up with a blend that is loaded with therapeutic value for the skin, and has a pleasant but not a Wow scent.
Me, at our stand at the Artisan trade fair we did this past weekend in Murcia
Maybe I will grow to like Carrot Seed Oil?  That has happened to me with several oils in the past.  Oh how I love essential oils… blending… sniffing… inhaling… some are love at first sniff… the passion develops slowly for others… like patchouli (which I couldn’t stand at first but now love it but only in blends), and like my new obsession – Vetiver.  What a change from supplier to supplier… I recently opened my vetiver essential oil from a new, local, supplier and WOW!  Previously Vetiver was simply smokey campfire to me… unique but basic.  Had never created a blend I loved with it… but now?  I can’t get enough.  Alone, blended, whatever… the oil from this new supplier is incredible… it is more than smokey campfire, it is bewitching, lingering, enticing, sensual, reminiscent, luring, addicting, playful yet calming, up & down, feet-on-the-ground yet magic-carpet ride… I am in love.  
Questions for you:

1)      What are your favourite Essential Oil blends for soap and for other skincare products? Why?

2)      Does anyone out there like the scent of Carrot Seed Essential oil?  What do you blend it with?

3)      What are your favourite Frankincense blends?

4)      Can you contribute any soapy essential oil blends with Vetiver? 

5)      As the scent of essential oils changes during the soaping process, I have had certain blends turn out beautifully in soap, but then haven’t been able to achieve the same scent in a non-soap product! Like patchouli, geranium and lavender… I have been trying to duplicate my soap scent for one of my moisturizing creams… I have attempted so many different versions but it never comes out smelling like the soap.  Any tips?
Please feel free to share any thoughts on Essential Oils!
Happy Soaping!
xo Jen

Friday 18 October 2013

Christmas Soap Experiments

The cut soap from the other day (scoop glob)... turned out okay.
 I tried a new one.  Used up some cut offs from my super accelerated wine soap and experimented with Titanium Dioxide... surprisingly pleased with Titanium Dioxide!
Happy Soaping Soapers!!

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Scoop-Glob Tecnique - Handmade Soap

My ideas for a Christmas spoon-swirl soap did not go as planned this morning...
Romantic visions of a fulfilling soap-flinging soap-making session this morning were thwarted.... and I had to resort to scoop-glob...
I have a re-found respect for you soap swirlers out there!!
Happy Soaping all!!

Friday 11 October 2013

New Red Wine Soap

The answer to the guessing game was guessed by Mika at
I was making soap with Wine and it accelerated too fast.

(New batch of Red Wine Soap - I am so pleased with this one!!)
I am still trying to come up with something to do with that big batch of wrecked wine soap I made earlier this week... i will most likely be cutting or grating it up for a potpourri Christmas soap.... then if there are left overs, I grate it into my laundry soap but onto the happier story....
I continued with wine soap and bravely made another batch that turned out wonderfully.  I used to make wine soap but in smaller batches and had no problem, did not need to boil the wine down as seems to be recommended.  This is a private label soap, that I had been making for a local Winery.   I tweaked the recipe slightly this time, adding a little silk, and new essential oils.
Curiously, upping the batch size, changed everything.  heat heat heat.  So, I made a new batch, this time using red wine that I boiled down and reduced first.
It still accelerated, but was managable.  This time trace took 5 minutes instead of the distaster batch, which didn't even let me get the stick blender into it before hardening in Globs.
The scent?  I added a blend of Essential Oils of Cedarwood, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, May Chang and Vetiver... but it still smells more like wine than of Essential Oils.
This batch also got ash on the top and this is a first for me. I always thought that ash came from sunflower oil soaps and as I don't use sunflower oil, I had never had it before..  But this appeared out of nowhere and I like it.  I know that sometimes ash is undesirable, but I like the way this top turned out - kind of romantic.  
So pleased with my new wine soap.  So pleased that I am sorry to be handing this entire lot over to the winery.... I think I will be making another batch to sell in the shop!!
Happy Soaping!!!!!!
xo   Jen