My Scented Serenity...

Welcome to my blog! Here you'll find the humble musings of a novice Aussie soap and candle maker. I hope you'll join me on my learning journey and feel free to leave comments, give advice and ask questions. I hope to be able to share with you my learnings, and inspire others, as much as so many talented people have inspired me.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A transformation...

I feel it has been an age since I posted anything to this so-called blog of mine!  I've been really busy doing lots of 'stuff', none of which includes soapmaking unfortunately.  But the day I get to make soap again is fast approaching!

I guess every soapmaker dreams, wishes, ponders, seeks, strives to find that perfect place to make soap...anywhere but in a cramped kitchen would be great...right?!    All of my previous soapmaking efforts have been in one kitchen or another - mostly my own which amounts to about the size of a shoebox!  I have such limited bench space it isn't funny, and to have to carefully arrange all the soapmaking gear just to have enough space to make one loaf of soap, and then pack everything away again after each session, is such a pain in the you-know-what!

Well no more I say!  I'm on a mission to create my own studio!

It has been decided that finally...finally(!), good use will be made of that little dungeon we have under our house...that dank, cruddy little room that has for the longest time housed a ton of our junk! 

So, for the past few weeks I've been busily sorting, shifting, throwing, contemplating, and rearranging all of our accumulated odds and ends in some attempt to reclaim that little room.  It has always been there, an enclosed section under our two-storey house, built-in for a purpose unknown by a previous owner, but given the task of hiding away much of our forgotten, unloved or unwanted stuff.  You know, that stuff you don't quite know what to do with?  That stuff you think, yep...I'll use/need that again one day...that's too good to throw out...I'll just keep it in case...stuff.  Boxes and boxes of university textbooks, teaching resources, items of furniture, exercise equipment; just bits and pieces of things we'd forgotten we'd even owned!  Disgusting!

In the past we've had this really bad habit of using this space for storage; when refurbishing various rooms in the upstairs living area of our house, we would transfer all of our gear to this room until the renovations had finished.  But somehow, not all of the gear made it back to its original location once the renovation work had been completed.  Thinking we'd come back and sort it out some other time...that time just never came.  So we've ended up with a space, filled with junk, no room to move...wasted space.

But after weeks of sifting, sorting, stacking, packing, shifting I have finally arrived back at the the room we started with.  An empty space just waiting to be transformed.

With some help from a builder and an electrician, the transformation is well underway with gaps above the top row of bricks being sealed up (to keep all the creepy crawly & slithery things out!) and the absolutely cannot-be-without-one airconditioner installed for the hot summer months.

The next task, and a huge one at that, is painting.  Fortunately though, my husband is an excellent painter!  He does this for a living, so this little disaster area will be a walk in the park for him!  We've already got our Easter weekend planned out...sanding, puttying, gap-filling, undercoating, sealing the floor, final coating...sounds like a real blast doesn't it!  Not quite the vacation we'd hoped for, but worth the effort all the same.  For years we've talked about 'doing something' with this room, reclaiming the space and making it count.  Finally the time has come!

I can't wait!  I'm now so close to having my own soapmaking-candlemaking-craft studio I can't quite believe it!  This room is going to provide me with the perfect space for creating.  Once finished, it will no longer be the dungeon of our renovation nightmares, but will be a bright, clean, fresh, airy workspace that I know I will spend countless hours enjoying.

I've already got it all planned out in my head where I'll have working tables for soap and candlemaking, a nice little spot in front of the windows with plenty of natural light for making my beaded creations, a spot for a desk, some storage racks, a couch, a lamp, a lovely rug on the floor...oh, the possibilities!

Hopefully my next post will bring with it the results of all our back-breaking labour...

Happy Easter to you all!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In review

Since my last post, I've had a little time to sit back and think about my soaping marathon in the lead up to Christmas 2011, and the resulting pamper packs.  And what have I learned from this experience?  Well, quite a lot actually.  I thought I'd break down my musings into lists to help me with future goal setting...

Pluses (+)
  • I really enjoyed having an intense period of production and I feel I could do this as my new venture
  • I loved having the chance to experiment with new ideas, colours, techniques, fragrances, additives
  • I do actually have the skills to do this!  I have learnt new skills and can be creative if I let myself be!
  • Not too many duds! No duds really, only in my mind - the soaps are all very much user-friendly and quite nice in fragrance, texture and lather
  • I learnt how to take a recipe and tweak it to suit me
  • I got to play around with labelling and packaging just to get some ideas of where I might go with this
  • The resulting pamper packs were really pleasing - heaps of great stuff, practical and personal (and a little luxurious too!)

Minuses (-)
  • I didn't have the courage to try using essential oils in any of my products (except for one lot of Mandarin bath bombs) - I only went with fragrance oils
  • I didn't vary my recipes too much across the range - a basic recipe of olive, coconut & palm oil with a change in and out of one oil across the lot - I also tried castor, sweet almond, rice bran, canola and macadamia oil  - no shea or cocoa butters used
  • I didn't experiment in different quantities - made the same quantity of soap for each batch
  • I wasn't happy with one of my moulds - had 'sticking' problems each time and resorted to using the freezer each time to help unmould the loaves - my impatience caused some damage to the sides of some of the loaves!
  • I didn't take photos of all of my product line!  I was so consumed with the time factor that I neglected to keep a record of everything I made
  • My photography skills are woeful!  When I did actually remember to take photos, they just weren't that great. 
  • My correlation between the number of ideas I have and the amount of time I have to do things does not equate - I need to be realistic - I am not SUPERWOMAN!

Things I want to learn
  • How to make Goat's Milk Soap!  I keep hearing and reading about how much everyone loves goat's milk soap and how good it is for one's skin.  This is a definite 'must try'!  **Note to Self - Perhaps you should actually use one yourself first and see what it's like!**
  • I've also got an urge to give shampoo and salt bars a try too!
  • To use essential oils - not just fragrance oils
  • What does 'superfatting' really mean?  I still haven't got my head around that term yet!
  • How to create textured tops properly - not by default because the soap batter has gone to trace too quickly and I've had to glop it all into the mould before it set!  I did try a couple of different techniques and I think I may be getting the hang of it - need some more experimenting.
  • How to use natural colourants - not just the synthetic kind
  • How to include natural juices, gels etc (eg carrot, aloe vera) to make a more natural bar of soap
  • Photography!  I need to learn to take better photographs!  And to vary when they are taken.  How about some 'before' and 'during' shots, not just 'after' shots?!  And how about remembering to actually take photos of everything I make! Duh!




Other considerations
  • Should I be looking for an alternative to Palm oil considering the controversy around this resource and the effects that its harvesting is having?  Can I really be sure my so-called 'sustainable' supply is really just that?
  • Do I want to go totally natural and abandon the use of synthetics such as fragrance oils and colourants such as oxides?  Not sure I could because I love the vibrant colours the synthetic colourants produce!  I have to agree with Simply Soap's ideas when it comes to this!
  • How do I finally decide on a range of soaps to produce?  I've only just begun to experiment with so many things!
  • How do I finally decide on what to produce as a complete range of products?  I'm still wanting to give other products such as body butters, scrubs and mousse a try!
  • Do I want to limit myself to just CP or am I still keen to have a few M&P soaps in the range too?

I have been reading through the blog archives over at Jenora Soaps and marvelling at all the wonderful things Jen has been doing with her experiments using natural colourants and locally produced resources to make her products completely natural.  I'm in awe of her soaps and seeing her work gives me pause for thought when it comes to the big decision as whether to go all natural or not.  I'm not sure I have the knowledge, skills nor patience to be that experimental!  You are 100% inspirational Jen!  Sugar cane grows prolifically as our local crop here where I live.  I wonder how a bit of sugar cane mulch might go as an exfoliate!

So, what's next on my agenda...ummm...not sure.  There are just so many things that require further consideration...

Who knew soapmaking could get so complicated, so involved?

These are just a few of the things that I've been pondering over since my last post...