Catch up day, with wet soap photos

by Veronica on November 4, 2015

in Soapmaking

Today is a catch up day. My curing shelves are being steadily emptied and I haven’t had a chance to fill them back up yet. So I’m making soap, writing things, catching up on my freelance work, and probably making even more soap.

There’s something soothing about soap making. You follow a formula and voila, you get a usable product at the end.

But it’s the pouring, the swirling, the cutting – those are the things which do it for me. Cutting a beautiful soap for the first time. Seeing how smooth it is – provided of course you didn’t fill it with air bubbles accidentally (it happens, a lot).

You can feel if there are air bubbles. It’s a feeling in the cutter, a sound, a sensation. You know before you even look, how smooth that cut side of soap is going to be. A perfectly smooth side of soap is just so pleasurable to look at.

Not that air bubbles affect anything really, except how it looks before it’s used for the first time.

And that moment, between running the soap through the cutter and picking up the first bar to check the design. Is it going to be amazing? Have you messed it up? It’s Schrödinger’s soap and you won’t know until you take the plunge and actually look.

Then you wait. And wait. A good soap is cured for at least 4-5 weeks, but you can test the end pieces after a few days. How does it bubble? How does it smell? How does it make your skin feel? Do you just want to roll around in it for days? (Usually, yes)

I really love what I do.

Lemongrass soap, made with goat’s milk and scented with Lemongrass Essential Oil.

Lemongrass Soap

Sweet Pea Soap, with Goat’s Milk. Pretty pink swirls throughout.   Sweet Pea Soap

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I caved today and bought Facebook ads for my business. It’s one of those things – you work so hard to grow organic reach and engagement, and then everything tanks and you’ve got not option but to pay for advertising. It is what it is however, and paying Facebook to actually show my page to people probably isn’t akin to dancing with the devil, no matter how it feels like it.

Online sales have been slow for the last month. I know you’re not meant to admit things like this as a business owner, but there is it. October was a slow sales month in terms of online business, although the in-person business was quite brisk – between the Pop Up Shop and various markets, we did okay. Obviously nothing is making a profit yet, but the business is growing quite steadily, wholesale orders are increasing, and the feedback I’m receiving in person has been amazing, and quite gratifying.

It’s hard to make a profit in soapmaking I suspect. So much of what creates good soap actually takes a lot of money. Between the top quality oils and butters, the hand cut packaging, the time and effort, our profit margins are slim. And as the quantity of soap we sell increases, so does the quantity we make, in order to keep up.

If you’d told me 12 months ago that I would regularly be buying 20 litres of oils at a time, and spending more money than I care to think about on top quality essential oils and things like cocoa and shea butter, I might have looked a little shocked. But there it is.

Of course I could make soap with cheaper oils, but it wouldn’t be as nice, so I don’t.

The other side of selling online is keeping up with things like SEO, and promotion – but not too much promotion. Twitter and Facebook are great, but there’s a fine line in people’s minds between you sharing your journey and things they love, and pushing yourself upon them. One gains engaged interested followers, and the other makes them dump you like hot coals.

So, facebook ads. Obviously the goal is for Facebook to show my page to more people, thus increasing views and engagement, and maybe contributing to sales.

In the meantime, we’ll keep trundling along. The feedback I’m getting from markets has been great. I have lots of return customers, lots of people popping by to let me know they bought soap last time and they’re loving it, lots of people telling me my soap is the first thing they’ve found which doesn’t make their skin feel itchy and tight.

It’s gratifying to know that in a small way, I am making a difference in people’s lives. That something I’ve created, pulled together from scratch, makes someone happy in a small way. That the smells I blend, that the balms I make, that they help people.

It’s really really nice.

Even if I do have to pay facebook to keep it happening.


Today’s soap: Orange Blossom and Calendula Soap, with shea butter and coconut milk.

Orange Blossom and Calendula

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It’s 10.30am and I’ve just eaten chocolate for breakfast. In my defence, one of my children went trick or treating last night, and if I didn’t get in fast, there wasn’t going to be any chocolate left.

The trick-and-treating child is the reason there are chocolate wrappers all over the floor.

Unfortunately I don’t think I can blame her (and force her to pick up) the scattering of wood chips all over the carpet, brought inside by an enthusiastic dog, who conveniently killed the wood chips while I wasn’t looking and thus, unable able to send her BACK OUTSIDE JESUS NO WOOD INSIDE.

So there’s that. Woodchips and chocolate wrappers, while the smallest child sits on the couch eating blueberries and demanding ABC Kids be put on the TV, even though it will quite possibly drive me to stab out my own eyes.

(The older children are into music lately, and I don’t even hate their taste. Given a choice between Raa Raa The Lion and Imagine Dragons, I know which is less annoying.)

I need to make soap, and the lip balms need restocking before Brighton Show next weekend. I’m not sure how we’ll go – most people head to a show for the showbags and the dagwood dogs and the omgimgoingtovomit rides, but this year they’re adding a Farmer’s Market section, and hey, apparently handmade soap fits the bill. So there we are, at the show. The children are Very Excited because WE ARE GOING TO THE SHOW. I don’t think they’ve quite realised they’ll be stuck at home until mid-afternoon because I cannot work a market with three children weaving around my ankles, demanding money. So, they’re stuck with Daddy, while I head down at slightly-later-than-dawn-but-not-by-much-and-only-because-it’s-summer-o’clock.

I’m sure that’s going to be a Fun and Exciting day for poor Nathan.

Anyway. Lip Balms, Soap, Etc etc. Making

Sundays tend to be a catch up day here for me if I don’t have a market on. I don’t have any spare weekends until after Christmas now, so spare Sundays are few and far between, to be cherished like gold, or the random twix’s inside a halloween bag.

I just checked my recipe tracking software (Soapmaker 3, if you’re in the market. Won’t work on Mac’s, but if you’re on Windows it is a GODSEND when it comes to tracking curing times/ingredient usage and ordering/money/costs-per-portion), and I’ve got nearly 200 soaps to pack before the show.

On the upside, you should see some shiny new soaps in the Online Shop soon. (Please buy them. Support my soap habit. Also my book and good tea habit.)

On the downside: I need to pack 200 soaps and make another 200 to get through Christmas.

Yay! Business!


(Just quietly, I’m trying to blog every day this month. It’s a good habit and I miss the writing. So, cheer me on?)

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A little bit discombobulated. Also, tired.

by Veronica on June 15, 2015

in Soapmaking

It’s just been four market weekends in a row. Count them. One, two, three, four. In a row.

I’m looking down the barrel of two free weekends to catch up on all the extras before we start again. This business is rewarding and exhausting and I’m sitting here, a wee bit see through and shattered, hoping that a stiff breeze doesn’t carry my rapidly stiffening body away before I’ve had time to catch up.

There comes a point after a market day when I just cannot talk anymore. Nathan will ask about my day and I slowly become more and more monosyllabic until I just cannot fathom the thought of talking anymore, of doing or being anything anymore. I sit there, in the car, like a lump.

The restorative powers of McDonands brought me back last night, and no, I will not be shamed for my choices of junk food after many many hours standing talking to people, selling soap.

Markets are a wonderful thing, but they’re an awfully large expenditure of energy, all at once. POOF, gone, there went my ability to speak and walk and not be exhausted for three days following them.

That said, it was an excellent month for me. Awareness of my business is growing, and I’m slowly developing a group of loyal followers, which is always a lovely thing.

I’m planning on spending a few days recuperating with netflix, cake, and home cooked soups, before I go back to work. The weather is cold and I need to manage my physical health carefully, so I can continue to do what I love.

In the meantime, I added the new range of Goat’s Milk Soaps to the online shop, available for purchase immediately.

Creamy Goat's Milk Soap French Pear and Goat's Milk Soap Goat's Milk and Black Raspberry soap

I would also like to move for hipsters to stop making so much “bone broth” because soup bones are getting astronomically expensive and really, I would like to make some stock (NOT BONE BROTH, damnit, IT IS STOCK. STOCK!) without breaking my bank account.

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Ennui and exhaustion. Markets, and soap.

by Veronica on May 30, 2015

in Life, Soapmaking

The packing hangs over my head, like some sort of spectre. It whispers at me. Why are you writing? There’s soap to pack. Real work to do.


I have a market tomorrow. I will wake up at 6am and triple check my boxes to make sure they’re packed properly. I’ll ignore the dark and make tea, coffee, whatever it takes to wake up. I’ll get my family out of bed and rush us out of the house as the sun climbs over the hills, highlighting the cold in the air.

All I want to do is lay in bed and sleep, blissful sleep. Evelyn hasn’t been sleeping, keeping me awake until two, three, four am. She won’t sleep, can’t sleep. Her pattern is all fucked up and here I am, paying the price with days of no sleep. And then she wakes up at 7am, tired and crotchety, like a tiny little fluffy headed gremlin, grizzling and grumbling until I get out of bed (PUT PANTS ON MUMMY! YOU PUT PANTS ON RIGHT NOW) and settle her onto the couch with breakfast and warm milk and cartoons.

By that stage, there’s no point heading back to bed. I’m awake and there’s real work to do. Soap to make and pack, a business to run.

It’s okay though, because my new paper arrived and packing soap will be interesting until the novelty wears off.

Paper for packing

I get sick. I lose 5kg. I can’t muster up the energy to do anything. My skin breaks out and I get a coldsore, but shhhhhh, because soap needs packing and there is a market tomorrow.

I forced myself to make soap the other day, full of ennui and exhaustion, I printed out my recipe and began.

It didn’t take long to remember why I love this work, love this job. Soap is soothing. You follow the recipe, smashing science and art together, creating amazing things.

It’s the process. The making, the swirling, the setting to gel. Photographing, cutting, photographing again.

Red soap with gold mica, backlit

Red Soap with Gold Mica

The packing is my least favourite job, right after taking inventory and paperwork, but it’s soothing still. Always soothing. Cut, fold, wrap, sticker. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I enjoy markets, mostly. They’re hard work, but the payoff is lovely. Talking to people about soap, helping pick scents, making money – what’s not to love?

(The cold mornings, packing boxes, frost on the windscreen. Tired children, grumpy children. Packing up. Buy my soap so I don’t have to take it home, please fortheloveofgod.)

But my newest favourite person Moire has promised to bring my nephew down to visit at the market, so there will be highlights. Smooshy delicious baby.

I’m not sure I mentioned his birth here – my brother, David, and his partner, Moire, welcomed baby Ruarígh (Rory) into the world last month and I am besotted. He is absolutely divine and I spend all my time conspiring on how to get my hands on him more often.



Ruarigh and Evelyn

See, divine.

So I will pack soap, in readiness. I will attempt to force a nap on Evelyn today so she doesn’t treat this evening like naptime and stay awake all night (again).

And tomorrow, I will smile and sell soap, because I am good at it, and I love doing it.

Market is 10am-3pm at Howrah Recreation Centre if you’re in Tasmania and interested in coming along to say hi.

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