Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Primitive Future.....and Sensory Perfection!

So....Christmas is upon us. Just a few more days to go.
I have been making soap and complimentary products for what seems like forever, but finally this week it has all come to a sudden stop.
The flu got me for one thing, so yanno, ya can't go making products for people to slather on their bodies when you're germ riddled.
I had to put a stop on production as I felt as though insanity was about to kick in with a fervant force, not to mention my dripping nose! Ugh!
Just this season alone I have made almost 200 bars of Snowdrift - that to me is a lot for one variety of soap. I'm usually cranking out around 60 soaps per variety in any one release, but this season has blown my mind.
I have my general catalogue of scents, which I try keep stocked up in higher numbers, but the beauty part of creating seasonal releases is that I get to play around a lot more and create more fanciful designs in my soap, but I never expect to have to re-stock seasonal batches of soap.
So, this leads me to thinking about how on earth I will cope in a years' time when I expect to have a few more customers.  I will have to cross that bridge as I come to it I guess but I reckon a little hired help may be in order.
If I cast one eye back over the past two months, I actually don't know how the hell I've managed to do it all. The only thing that keeps me going is my passion for creating beautiful soap and my passion to constantly learn about new ingredients I've not yet explored.
What I really want to do with this business is take a more natural approach to my line of products. I feel a real sense of respect for pure, natural, raw ingredients and I get over-excited when opening up say a bag of un-refined Shea or a bucket of raw Dead Sea Mud or a bag of that really strongly scented cocoa butter that I buy from Helen at Fresholi (the knife goes through that shizz like butter).  I cannot explain the excitement I feel when sniffing a new absolute or a resin that I may be able use in my soap or perfumery.  To smell pure Frankincense oil (for example) instead of a made up aroma-chemical version - well, there really is no comparison.  Nothing comes close to that true musky, dusty, church-like aroma.  You cannot create a synthetic version and get it nearly close. You just can't.  I've sniffed many fakes and each time I am reduced to 'Ack, NO!'

I recently used some pure, soft amber resin in my Winter Solstice Aromatic Oil and I can't even explain the sheer joy I felt inside when squishing it between my thumb and forefinger and knowing that it was going to lend itself to bring the scent to it's finale - I wanted a 'Cathedral at Christmas' note and by jove! I got it!
You try and find a synthetic amber fragrance that can do that.  Each one I've come across has a pungent, hit-the-back-of-the-throat sugary sweetness that makes me almost head for the toilet to hurl and have a talk with God!
With an all natural amber resin or oil, you get just that. You get just what you are looking for without that dragging, everlasting fragrance note that fills the air with uncertainty.
It may work for the noses of many, but it doesn't for mine.
Aaand I may add - never has one of my new fragrances sold out and had to be re-stocked so fast!

I feel more at ease when using really good natural ingredients as opposed to chemicals for cosmetic chemistry.
Sure, I have gotten to know my stuff when it comes to chemical ingredients and their capabilities and don't get me wrong some of them can work wonders in certain products, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty I get more excitable for boxes of pure unadulterated butters and fats than I do over coconut-derived, powdered sulphates. However skin-friendly they may be, they cannot and will not ever compare to an all natural bubble created by my handmade vegetable soap.

So...what this may entail is a streamlining of the products I will offer in the future.

At the moment I offer Handmade soap, Olfactory Bathing Grains, Whipped soap, Bubbling sugar scrubs, Butter scrubs, Body whips and Aromatic oils.
What I propose to do is eradicate the whipped soaps entirely along with the bubbling sugar scrubs.
Not a lot to lose really and if I look at sales figures, the soaps and body whips win hands down, and funnily enough since I started to offer the natural butter scrubs, sales of my scrubs have increased triple-fold.  No lie!
So I guess what my customers are looking for is a natural product, which works well and has a scent to die for.
This doesn't mean I will never use synthetics again but you can be sure I will be using a lot less of them.  I have to keep some synthetic fragrances in the line since some of the scents I offer, such as 'Rook & Raven' can't be duplicated with all natural ingredients. There is only one component in there, which is a synthetic but it's a damn good one!  Hmmm...now I got me thinkin'...watch this space!
I'm not on the fence when it comes to opinions about synthetic vs. natural fragrance. I know what I like and I know what I don't like.  Finding perfection in any one form is not easy.  I have strived to seek out the really good synthetic fragrances but when choosing essential oils, absolutes or resins I don't have to strive...I just have to purchase them and somehow figure out how they can work for me.
Most of the time, perfume creation is about creating a 'feeling' rather than trying to replicate an actual scent.
What I mean is, when I'm walking through a wooded copse in the Cotswolds and my nose cops the aroma of the great outdoors, the mud beneath my feet, bluebell sap or pine cones I find myself thinking of ways to capture that scent with essential oils. I don't want a simple 'pine' or 'grass' or 'earth' note.  I want to blend a series of notes together to capture the whole feeling.  Pine cones don't smell of pine, they smell musky, almost mushroom-like. Bluebell sap smells like rain-laden pavements in summer, not flowers or grass. Air smells like all manner of things and there are oils out there that can capture the very essence of air...and I'm on a mission to find them and I am extremely excited about it.
Here's an example of a scent I very much enjoyed creating....
To get the honey note in my 'Black Honey' scent I used Nutmeg.  Sure it has to be blended with other oils in order for the whole scent to smell of honey but in just a short time and me being surrounded by a host of essential oil bottles I managed to do it with Litsea, Mandarin and Ho Wood.  The ratio's of course are top secret...
The way I begin such a task is to sit on the floor with each oil in hand (and a bag of coffee beans to clear my nose) and a pad and pen.  I then take a good few minutes to sniff each oil and I write down EXACTLY what I personally think each oil smells like...then, when it comes to creating a blend, I already have a plethora of ideas from which to work.

I guess the whole point of this post was to explain where I am headed and to not cause too much disappointment for my loyal customers by my taking certain products away.
What I am doing is paving the way for something much, much better and something I feel will be gratefully received.

So, here's to you and yours.  Have a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Autumn line up

Hi All!  The Autumn Release is now live in our Big Cartel shop. Here's a little soap porn for you along with scent descriptions. Three of the scents are from last year's line up, whilst three are brand spanking new.
My favourite? At present that would be Soul's Midnight....the soap just has a look about it that I'm totally in love with. Nice, peaceful colours and the scent is heavenly to me - a blend of Vetiver, Ylang Ylang, Patchouli, Oakmoss & Bergamot with a tiny tiny hint of watery florals. Just amazing.

Dark Carnival - Amber & Tonka Bean cloaked in Warm Honey & Vanilla-infused Caramel Sauce, finished with Walnut Chunks & fresh Coconuts from the shy.

The Dead Marshes - Dreary & wearisome pools of cold, dark, sullen water infused with dead grasses, creeping ivy, ancient bones and juniper bush berries loomed up in the hanging mists of long-forgotten summers.

Dust Witch (yes, she is back!) -  Crushed dragonsblood incense, aged Patchouli, resinous Vanilla, sweet Orange oil & Oakmoss absolute with a pungent heart of stewed Rhubarb stalk.

Shadow Show - Blackened Pomegranate juice & Plum compote spiked with Pink Pepper, Clove & Cinnamon with base notes of Frankincense, Patchouli, Amber, Moss &Caramelised sugar.

Soul's Midnight -  A heavy, looming night sky - the air tainted with the scent of acrid smoke, dead leaves swirling over the ground’s surface and Cypress trees forcefully swaying to warn you of the arrival of Dark & Cooger’s Carnival. 

Toffee Moon Face -  English Butter Toffee shards, Baked Mandarin rinds and Spiced Apple Compote topped with a caramelised sugar nest.

All products are available as: Olfactory Bathing Grains, Soap, Whipped Soap, Bubbling Sugar Scrub, Body Whip & Aromatic Oil.

You can find them all here

The day of the release we sold out of the body whips almost immediately...but I have made more and will continue to restock up until the start of October.  I guess these scents will remain available until then....and then we all know what comes afterwards....I'm not even saying it. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Know your stuff...

A few things have been brought to my attention over the past few weeks.
The best place to discuss such matters is here on my blog.

As you may or may not be aware I have been in the soap business for 6 years.
Over that time I have learned much and gained many friends and loyal customers (who have also become friends).
Every single part of what appears to be a small business is dealt with by me and me alone.  Nobody else really gets a say in what goes on behind the scenes or at the forefront of the business.
So...let me put a few things into perspective and give you something to chew on.
1. I am a soap maker
2. I am a creator of complimentary bathing products and perfume oils.
3. I am a packaging designer and printer.
4. I am an accountant - not certified..but I am one. Nobody else does my daily entries or my tax returns.
5. I am a product analyst.
6. I am my own Public Relations consultant.
7. I am a social media professional (lol).
8. I am a cleaner.
9. I am a web designer and web maintenance person.
10. I am a post room supervisor.....which leads me onto my next subject.

After reading several comments on a certain forum I was a little miffed at some comments I had found with regards to the postage we charge via our on-line shop.
Before I begin please know that I could not have possibly researched more on this subject.
I use Royal Mail to send my parcels who in my experience are the most reliable - apart from a few select couriers.
The reason I use Royal Mail is because their prices and service are never matched...ever.
My packaging charges are as follows:
First item - £3, then 25p per item thereafter. (we just decreased it from 50p thereafter).
Europe - £3, then £1 per item thereafter.
Rest of World - £3.90, then £2.50 per item thereafter.
(bathing grains prices are a little more for the EU and ROW due to the weight).

It is apparent that the prices via Royal Mail for Rest of World delivery IS expensive.  Royal Mail really upped their international prices this year, which left us with no option other than to increase our price.
On small packets I make 6p.  6p!
If I were to use a reputable courier at today's rates then the cheapest my customers would pay is £7.99 for UK deliveries...and that's only up to 1kg in weight!  THAT is expensive! Don't even get me started on the international prices.
Sure there are the really unreliable couriers who can take up to 2 weeks to get a UK parcel to you...if at all.  They charge £3.99 for parcels up to 2kg...but after many a bad experience of parcels going astray when using these couriers, there is no way I would ever deal with them again...no names mentioned for obvious reasons.  If a parcel goes missing...a customers first point of contact is me...the business owner, not the bloody courier who may have 'misplaced' their order.  Every aspect is on MY head.

I use a franking machine for my postage as it's easy, quick and convenient and for some reason far fewer items have gone astray...maybe it's the business postal stamp that puts the dodgy people off before they plan a heist! Hmmm?
Now then.  Let's get down to the nitty gritty.
The price stated on the packet is indeed what we pay but what it doesn't include is the rental cost of the franking machine, the labels needed to print the postage for attaching to the parcel, the ink used when printing or the top up fee we are charged each time we need to increase the amount of postage we have remaining on the machine.  You have to top it up...it doesn't just have a never ending supply of postage.
So, each time we top up we have to pay a fee of £7, which over the course of the month can mount up quite significantly.  I must become more savvy at that I guess.
The price does not include the cost of the packaging I use (that's an envelope or cardboard box, which at today's rate is 25p per envelope or 50p per box) or the reams of tissue I buy to wrap each and every item in before they go into the parcel or the lovely mini cards we send with every order or the freebies sent with every order. We do not get free packaging from Royal Mail like they do in the states...we have to pay for ours because our little country likes to bleed each and every one of us dry.
The price also doesn't pay for my time taken to package an order.  Some say 'your time', like wha?'.
Hell yes, my time!
I have been in the Mail Order business for almost 15 years...so when I say I know my stuff, I know my stuff. At one place I worked we lost that much via Mail Order sales that my boss (at the time) said we may as well throw a 'fiver' in the box with every order cos that's how much we're losing by doing this.  A year later he shut down the mail order dept. of his business.
I hasten to add he set it back up again after re-assessing the REAL cost of running it and by real cost I mean the cost of people, product assessment and quality control but most of all....TIME. People take time, which costs a company money. OK? We got that? Good!

Moving on....
My business has upped it's game, no doubt about that.  First and foremost I now have a workshop to work from, which gives me a sterile environment and a safe haven for my products...and myself!
Guess what?  Yep....it costs money to rent it. It doesn't come for free.
If you have a small business you will know that you also have overheads.  They may not be massive but they do exist...and if you don't account for each and every aspect of those overheads in the prices you charge for your products and for your postage, you may as well go out on the street and give your product away.
Being a small business owner should never mean cheap.
I know that I and many other soap makers take great pride in their hand-crafted products. They also take pride in the way they present them and the way they arrive at the doors of their customers.
When I order from large on-line companies I don't get the treatment I give to my customers.  I can't speak to the owner of Boots one on one or the owner of Clinique but I can speak to the owner of Indie companies...because they exist. They don't hide behind the abrv. CEO - I know their names and I pretty much know where they live.
So...if you buy indie you are buying into a person's life. You are buying a person's vision and you can talk to them about it.  If you like buying this way you will also appreciate what goes into it...or I'd like to think you do.
Remember just because larger companies (like Lush maybe) charge a flat rate of £3.95 for postage it means they probably have a great deal with their courier due to the volume of parcels they ship every single day...and not only that but let's assume I make bath bombs (I don't).  I would probably do batches of say 20 bombs of any variety at a time.  You think Lush make as few as that?  Of course you don't.  They make them in their hundreds, maybe thousands.  This in turn means they get through a hell of a lot more raw ingredients than would a small company, which also means they'll be getting a much cheaper price for those ingredients and will be buying directly from the source unlike us small businesses who buy from many a middle man.
There is so so much to learn...but if you just asked the questions I would give you the answer.
To me there is nothing worse than a haphazard assumption.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Caribbean Inspired Friday Juice

Ok...so juicing...yep.  Still at it.
Today I want to share my picture of this morning's juice ingredients and their benefits...or at least some of them.  In the pic below we have: Orange, Kiwi, Celery, Spring Greens, Coconut, Pineapple & Ginger.

Imagine trying to EAT it all...

I'd rather juice - Noice!

I have been pretty much making up my own concoctions but have found a few blogs out there who offer further reading and recipes.  A good one for 30 day juicing is here
I have today, saved my pulp and am about to look up how to make pulp biscuits. Failing that I'm gonna throw some of it into a soap...since today is a mass soap making marathon day.
I'm gonna enjoy it...as you should always enjoy a Friday! 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

I'medusa (a play on words)

I'm a juicer!
These past couple of weeks I've been a juicing mad woman.  I can't get enough of the benefits my body is feeling not to mention my skin....and my soap.
After pigging out on cake and cream and sweets for too long I decided it's time to break the habit and get healthy.  I've always been one for salad and fruits and wholesome vegetables and I do cook good meals for Matt and I at home, but I felt that I needed to change up my own diet.
I find it difficult to diet, I don't really need to do that anyways.  What I basically wanted was a healthier intake of food and drink.  I find it hard to 'eat' lots of fruit and veg so what better way to do it than to juice it all?! Pro's and con's there are but I feel better, I look better and to top it off the weight is coming off my middle!
How it all started...
I was scanning a second hand thrift shop in my home town for shelving for the workshop...oh and I also wanted a cafetiere so that I could enjoy good coffee as opposed to freeze dried crap.  I found my cafetiere - a Bodum one for £3.  BUT then I scanned some more and found a few little gadgets.  I'm not one for kitchen gadgets usually, but on this day the prices were too good to walk away.
I found a juicer! Kenwood, brand new for £3! I mean, £3...! *snatched*.
I then only went and found a Kenwood Smoothie Maker - £5...so Matt has been enjoying Banana & Ice Cream smoothies! Can't say I'm jealous...I'm really not.  Juice all the way...baby!
So...here's a few Instagram shots of my recent juices and what they contained.

Monday Juice - 2 Cox's Apples, 2 Celery sticks, 1/2 a Cucumber and 1/2 a Galia Melon

Tuesday Juice - 1 red Grapefruit, 2 Celery sticks, 2 Cox's Apples, 1 Beetroot & an inch piece of Ginger

Wednesday Juice ...now we're getting into
 EXTREME (  juicing!
1 Cox's apple, 3 Celery sticks, 1/4 Cucumber, 1 Orange & several Spring Green leaves.
Ok..at this point I was thinking 'ack' but yep..surprisingly good with a very clean taste.

Now....what to do with all that pulp?????

If you fancy seeing my daily juices (ahem) follow me on Twitter 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Summer Solstice

Our Summer Solstice Release went live on our website yesterday.
Here's a few pics as I've absolutely no idea what to write, it's been so long!
And there was I saying I would be a better blogger. Pah!

'Cavendish Banana' 

'Festival'- remember this old chestnut? 

'Market Square'- with a whole pulped Kiwi & a lime. 

'Roman Bath House' - test batch 

'Tea Rooms' 

'The Olde Embankment' 

'Urchin Girl' 

I'm so completely out of touch with writing.  It seems that picture taking and tweeting has taken over.  I remember the good old days of mellow...yanno, just writing a weekly blog entry and interacting with many soapers across the globe via the comments form.  I now interact via video or my Facebook page or Instagram or Twitter. WTH happened?!!!
I think one needs to take stock and chill a little more. Nowadays writing a blog post is almost like putting pen  to paper...you gotta think a little before posting.  It used to come so easy to me, but yes, I'm struggling here.
I hope to do better next time.  Enjoy the pictures! x

Friday, 24 February 2012

Spring Release

It's spring...'tis, 'tis...and there ain't nobody gon' tell me otherwise!
Whilst the daffs be growing and the snowdrops be nodding and the winter aconites be flowering along with the crocus...we haz soap on the shelves, which is selling like 'ot cakes.
The FP Spring Release has gone live and to top it off I will be moving my little company into new business premises. I only went and got meself a workshop! It's situated at the back of a long-lived Beauty Salon in my home town of Evesham, Worcs. The salon, 'Beaumonde' has been there for 25 years and has long been giving local women the most fabulous of treatments using Decleor (swoon) and Guinot products. It's a right little hive of activity and my room at the back is so lovely. I even have my own kitchen and toilet!
I can't wait to crack on and get larger soap batches made and to actually go out in my car to work...(or walk through town when it's nice outside) rather than try in vain to shift my arse out of bed before 8am.  Working form home really isn't all it's cracked up to be unless you're very strict with yourself...and I'm not very good at that. Don't get me wrong...once I'm working, I'm working like a queen bee but some days I faff so much that before I know it noon has arrived and I could kick myself, so this way I will be setting my alarm for 7am, getting up, eating breakfast and setting off to hit the workshop for 8.30am and don't intend to go home until 5pm each day.
The salon will be stocking my soap, but I can also have paying visitors too, which is great.
Once I'm in I shall post pics for you to see my new space (especially my new loo! ha!) and maybe a silent video.....
For now, here's a bit of eye candy from the release:

Black Honey soap

Black Honey scrub

Clotted Peach Cream Aromatic Oil

Cuckoo Call Whipped Soap

Green Room soap (my fave)

The Promenade Body Whip

The Shire soap

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Green Room - a new soap

Cut up logs...do you see? do you see? It's only a cocoa line innit?!

A closer shot. Got that topping super white and made some super cool little wave crests with my chopstick.

A few cut bars.

Ok, so I made this new soap the other day for the spring line. I wouldn't normally show any of the soaps until the release is due to go live but this one I just love so wanted to share it.
The name Green Room is surf speak for riding the barrel of a wave. The aqua colour mimics the colour of the wave wall, whilst the white resembles the light shining through the break.
The blend is gorgeous. Uplifting and grounding at the same time. It's a blend of Rosemary & Spearmint with added Ho Wood oil and a smidge of Mandarin (hands up who loves Mandarin as much as me!).
The little bits inside are soap noodles - the offcuts from the edges of my bars after I've beveled them.
The base colour is a combo of green oxide & ultra blue. The cocoa line (yep sure is) and then a stark white TD topping dusted with Seaweed powder. 
I simply cannot wait to use a bar. 
Now onto 2 more new spring line soaps, of which both will also be scented with 100% pure essential oils.
We will also have a range of other products with some fancy schmancy fragrances (scrubs, body whips, whipped soap and aromatic oils) but for now I'm loving dreaming up new eo blends. I got the bug again!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Friendship Soap

Good Day!

I was asked to create a friendship soap for one of my good soaping friends, Donna from Valhalla Soap Co. Well, I actually chose Donna to make the soap for and she is making mine (can't wait!).
This is my first soap of the season and is a soap to signify hope and friendship and to give good wishes to Donna for the coming year. The colours I chose because I see Donna as an earthy soul with many hidden depths. The scent is a mossy, earthy, citrus made with fragrance and essential oils. I used Cypress, Palmarosa and Lemongrass eo's with 2 beautiful earthy fragrance oils.
The moss on the top was gathered from my garden.
The blend was chosen to give Donna protection, to bring her wealth and to give her vision.
I had so much fun making this soap.
Maybe because it isn't a soap from my range that I HAVE to make, I was allowed to get lost in my happy place for a while without that feeling of 'have to'.
I love making soap, that much is apparent. But when I have a list of soap to re-stock the fun can sometimes get a little lost. Getting creative is what I like best about soaping so making new ones and especially one for a very special somebody filled me with an inner peace.
I hope she likes the scent! (be a bummer if not huh?!).
Happy 2012 to you all! May it be a very happy, peaceful year for everybody.