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15 Tips for giving a Soapmaking Talk

Soapmaking TalkFor the last couple of years, from March through to November, I’ve given a weekly soapmaking talk to holidaymakers staying in a local hotel. It’s an opportunity to get paid to rattle on about my favourite subject, and if I’m lucky I’ll sell a few bars as well. Win-win you might think? Well yes, these days I absolutely revel in it, but there’s no denying that the first few times I was really quite nervous. With that in mind I thought it might be helpful to others if I were to note down some of the things I now always do to ensure I give a successful soaping talk.

  1. The first thing I do on arrival at the venue is set up my display of soaps.  A big draw for me of doing a soaping talk is the opportunity to sell as well, so make your display as appealing as possible, with samples available to touch and smell.
  2. The introduction.  You don’t have to go into too much detail. I usually tell them my name, tell them what I do, the name of my business and where I’m based. I then explain that I’m going to talk them through the process of making soap, and I make it clear that questions are welcome at any point. I’ll then draw their attention to soaps I have on display, and let them know that there will be an opportunity for them to buy some at the end of the talk. Even better, ask the host / venue manager to mention to the audience beforehand that there will be an opportunity to buy.
  3. Let the audience know that they can ask questions at any time.  This is a personal preference – I understand that some people would rather not be interrupted – but I really like it when people are engaged enough to want to know more. If it’s something I’m planning on covering a little further on, I’ll say so.
  4. Take samples of all the different oils and butters you use in your recipes to pass around the room. People love to touch and smell things, and it often gets leads to more questions.
  5. Take an empty bowl.  This is my main prop when talking through the soapmaking process. I explain that while I can’t do a full demonstration, I’ll talk them through the process and ask them to use their imagination.
  6. Take samples of mica (or whichever colourants you use). I pass these around the room, explaining what it is and how it’s used.
  7. Take some NaOH in a small SEALED box and explain to them what it is, and precisely why it’s the only item that evening that you WON’T be passing around.
  8. Take samples of essential oils and/or fragrance oils. Pass them around the room. Explain the differences between them – how they’re made, the pros and cons of each.  Make sure that, whichever fragrances you choose to pass around, you have soap available in those fragrances to buy.  It really does make a difference to what will sell.
  9. Take a mould and liner to show them.  I use wooden loaf moulds and silicone liners and I talk about how I started out lining with freezer paper, and the difficulty I had getting smooth surfaces and sharp corners and hence why I’m a huge fan of silicone liners.
  10. If possible, take an unmoulded soap so that you can unmould it in front of them. I’ve now got into the habit of making at least one batch on a Tuesday night specifically to be able to unmould it at my soaping talk on the Thursday night.  Unmoulding a batch of soap never fails to elicit an ‘Ooooooohhh’ from the audience.
  11. This really should be point 10a.  If at all possible, take along your soap cutter and cut some of that soap that you’ve just unmoulded.  This has major WOW factor and in my experience the audience really enjoys seeing this part of the process.
  12. While I wear gloves to cut the main batch of soap, when I’ve cut a few bars to show the audience, I’ll take the gloves off and hold the end piece, showing them that by this point (48 hours post pouring) the sodium hydroxide has combined fully with the fats and is no longer caustic.
  13. I then talk about the curing process – how and why the soap is cured. Often some audience members are keen to feel end piece, and I’m happy to let them do so. I suggest they compare the softness of that piece with the hardness of one of my fully cured bars.
  14. I then talk about wrapping, labelling, and the legislation related to the selling of soap in the UK/EU.
  15. Finally I ask whether they have any questions. Often they’ll ask how/why I started making soap, or more general questions about commercial soaps. If none are forthcoming, I’ll often ask whether they know anything about the history of soapmaking (a subject that often comes up at this point) and then talk very briefly about the story (myth?) of the discovery of soap via the sacrificial fires on Mt. Sapo and what we know as fact about soap in ancient history.  It’s also an opportunity to talk about the differences between handmade and commercially produced soap.

There are also a few general things I’d recommend to anyone giving a talk, whatever the subject.  These might, quite rightly, be considered common sense, so I’m not including them in the ’15’ tips, but I thought it was worth adding them in, as it’s so easy to overlook stuff when you’re feeling nervous:

  1. Arrive early.  Always arrive early.  At least when you’re starting out.  I know it gives you longer to get worked up and for those butterflies to do their anxiety inducing business, but there’s nothing worse than arriving late to get you flustered.  Arrive early, sit down, mentally run through your presentation, have some water and do some deep breathing.  These days I can turn up with 5 minutes to spare and be absolutely fine, but I don’t recommend it 🙂
  2. Wear something comfortable.  You need to be relaxed, so don’t be tempted to get all glammed up if you’re generally the casual type.  Be neat and tidy of course, but stay true to YOU.
  3. Make sure you have a glass or bottle of water within arm’s reach. It’s surprising how dry your mouth gets when you do a lot of talking. It’s also really useful, if for example you suddenly lose your train of thought, to be able to pause and take a sip of water. Those few seconds can be all you need to get yourself back on track.
  4. Try to bring a little humour into your talk. I often talk about the man who came to me wanting advice about making soap from the lard leftover from his fried breakfasts.  That always gets a laugh and a few groans 😀

Good luck if you’re giving a presentation anytime soon, and let me know if you found any of this useful!

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Designing, designing…

As winter inexorably approaches, the tourist season here has more or less come to an end for the year.  The only visitors we’ll see for the next few months will be hardy, well wrapped walker and mountain climbers, and many of the gift shops have closed or drastically reduced their opening hours while the owners take a well earned rest.  A good time, then, for me to take stock and consider what sold well during this last year.  It’s clear to me (and it’s no real surprise) that the bars which sold the best here in the village were those with a Welsh element to their name (eg Welsh Rose and Blodau (Flowers)) or a link to the local area (eg Black Rock Sands and Traeth Criccieth (Criccieth Beach)).

I’ve decided that there needs to be a few additions to the regular range – soaps which reference the local area – and the first of those will be Yr Wyddfa, our name for Snowdon, the highest mountain in England & Wales.  Yr Wyddfa has always been close to my heart. As I child I lived literally at the foot of this majestic mountain, and now I live just 10 minutes away from the bottom of 4 different routes up (depending on which direction I drive). I’ve walked (and run, with a team of women, carrying (an occupied!) wheelchair – but that’s another story :-D) to the top many times, but I’ve never taken the train up… Anyway, I digress…

On Tuesday night I made my first attempt.  Even while it was still in the mould I knew that there were things I would do differently next time:

Yr Wyddfa in the mould
Yr Wyddfa in the mould

See that blue on the top? That’s supposed to represent the sky, but sadly it’s the wrong shade of blue. Easily fixed – next time…

And the cut:

Yr Wyddfa, cut
Yr Wyddfa, cut

Clearly I’ve not gone with one of my regular drop swirls here –  I’ve gone a little more literal, with greenery (two colours of green), rock, snowy mountain top and sky.  I need to alter the colours of the rock and the sky, and perhaps have a little more greenery than rock, but I’m really happy with it as a first attempt.

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And Relax…

Relaxing. It’s not something I’d normally be doing much of in the run up to the holiday period. This is usually my busiest time of year – the two months during which I attend innumerable Christmas fairs and sell shedloads of soap. But not this year. The building work on the house as made soapmaking difficult, and I realised at the beginning of October that there was no way I would be able to keep stock levels anywhere near as high as they needed to be for the Christmas rush. I made the difficult decision to cancel all my seasonal fairs, and will only be attending my usual monthly craft fair in Porthmadog on the 26th November and 17th December.

I’m still working though. I still have my wholesale customers to keep stocked, and my wonderful local customers who’ll be knocking on my door looking for last minute gifts (if last year is anything to go by :-D) and so the soapmaking continues, just on a much smaller scale.

This are last week’s makes:

Sandalwood & Serenity
Sandalwood & Serenity

I’ve been asked a few times now for a sandalwood soap, so I finally made one (on the left) and the one on the right is a restock of Serenity (fragranced with patchouli, ylang ylang, orange and lemon essential oils).

The sandalwood moved REALLY quickly and nixed my regular drop swirl.  I was pretty sure I’d created something pretty fugly, but you know, it’s ok:

Sandalwood Soap
Sandalwood Soap

Here it is just cut, still needing to be bevelled and cleaned up. It’s really not so bad and I’m happy.

So apart from wrapping and labelling my holiday bars and gift sets and some gentle soapmaking I’m really not that busy at the moment.  It’s rather nice 🙂

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10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair
10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

Last Saturday I had a stall at a local craft fair. Not any old craft fair mind you, this was important to me for two reasons. First off, it was right here, in my village – the first one we’ve ever had. Secondly, it was the first craft fair that I’ve organised myself.  It was the culmination of a couple off months of planning, and, if I’m honest, a fair bit of anxiety.  I needn’t have worried – it was a great success, so I thought I’d share with you here a few things to consider if you’d like to organise something similar yourself.

  1. Do your research regarding other markets and craft fairs in the area and make sure your event doesn’t clash with another on the same day. As well as competing for visitors, you’ll also be competing for stallholders.
  2. As soon as you’ve decided on a date, secure your venue.  You don’t want to be inviting stallholders until you’ve confirmed your accommodation for the day.
  3. Invite / organise crafters as far in advance as possible. Many crafters book themselves into markets and craft fairs many months ahead.  It’s also worth considering asking for a deposit on the cost of the table – this decreases the risk of stallholders not turning up on the day.
  4. Ensure that all your stallholders have public liability insurance.
  5. Ensure you know how many tables you can fit into the available space. You don’t want to ask 20 crafters to attend and then find when you’re setting up that you can only fit 19 tables into the room!  It’s definitely worth having a trial ‘set up’ before deciding how many crafters to invite.
  6. Don’t double up on crafts unless it’s a BIG event.  There’s nothing worse for a stallholder than setting up at a fair of, say, 12 stalls to find that there are two or three other stallholders there selling something very similar. It’s not fair on any of them.
  7. Don’t try to charge too much per stall / table, especially if it’s the first time this event has taken place. You won’t have any idea what the footfall is going to be and won’t be able to make any claims as to likely number of visitors.
  8. Advertising, advertising, advertising. You want as many people walking through the door of your venue as possible, so this is an instance where too much advertising is never enough.  Get your event all over Facebook – on your personal feed (ask friends to share), on local selling pages, and on local community sites. Put a small ad in the local newspaper, a paragraph in the parish magazine, get it listed on’What’s Happening in Your Area’ type websites. Make sure there are posters put up in the area. Don’t forget your local tourist bureau and local hotels / guest houses if you live in a popular area for visitors – local crafts are just the thing that they’ll be interested in.
  9. Have a spare cash float or two.  It’s not unheard of for stallholders to arrive at a craft fair without their cash box.  Not me of course, oh no… well, only that once a few months ago 😀 and I was both grateful and impressed that the organisers had thought to bring along a couple of ‘spare’ floats for just that eventuality.
  10. Rope in as much help as possible.  Setting up, decorating the venue and getting plenty of directional signage outside and in the immediate area can take longer than you anticipate.  If you’re also planning on holding  raffle / tombola / lucky dip / cake stall you’ll need yet more hands on deck.
  11. A bonus tip – if you’re holding the craft fair or market to raise money for a local cause, consider also having a raffle / tombola / lucky dip / tea, coffee & cakes stall. Just make sure that you put out the call for donations well in advance
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The Mermaid Spa, Portmeirion

It’s been a busy month on the wholesale front, and I’m so happy to introduce yet another new stockist of our luxury handmade soap – The Mermaid Spa in the extraordinary village of Portmerion.

Mermaid Spa
                     The Mermaid Spa

For those not in the know, Portmeirion is an Italianate village designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. It’s situated on a headland on the north Wales coast, and the spa itself overlooks the estuary. It’s a stunningly beautiful and relaxing place to have a spa – the perfect place to visit for a bit of R&R if you’re in the area.

View from the spa
                    View from the spa

Yesterday they took delivery of a great selection of our soap – as if you needed another reason to visit such a glorious place!

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Luvit, Barmouth

I am VERY excited to announce that we have a brand new stockist!

Luvit is a gorgeous gift shop on the High Street in Barmouth, in the south west corner of the Snowdonia National Park.


Owena at Luvit is very supportive of local makers, and sells a wide range of lovely gifts, many of which have a retro / vintage twist. And now she now also stocks a selection of our luxury handmade soaps too – woohoo!!  Please pop in and have a look if you’re in the area 😀

Check out Luvit’s Facebook page too.

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Holidays are coming… Blogtober Day 9

There’s no point pretending any different by this point, Christmas IS coming 😀

I’m waiting for my holiday soaps to harden up a little so that I can get them bevelled and generally tidied up before I take some decent product shots, but here’s a first look at what I did with those stars I posted three days ago.  Nothing fancy, but I rather like the simplicity of this one:

Christmas Tree
                      Christmas Tree
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Soap Wrapping – Blogtober Day 8

One week of Blogtober successfully completed – woop!  Today is day 8, the first day of a new blogging week as far as this challenge goes, and the first day I’ve come down in the morning and had nothing prepared to post.  This is primarily because I’ve been spending the last couple of days wrapping and labelling every chance I get for a couple of large orders going out soon, so it makes sense to show you my soap packaging.

These are the full sized bars, wrapped and labelled.  I place each bar into an individual cellophane bag with the ingredient label tied on with natural raffia.

Full Size wrapped bars
            Full Size wrapped bars

Behind each soap I place an insert with all other mandatory information – contact details, weight of bar, batch number and best before date:

Insert Card
                         Insert Card

I also offer guest sized bars, which are one third of the size of regular bars. These have proved popular with guest houses and holiday rental properties, but I don’t sell them individually – they’re far too much work:

Guest Bars
                     Guest Bars

Have a great Saturday, whatever you have planned. Back tomorrow 🙂

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A Custom Order

A couple of months ago I began supplying my soap to a local retailer, Glosters in Porthmadog.  Glosters is a beautifully curated gift store, stocking handmade items made in-house, locally and further afield in the UK.


They took a selection of my regular range, but also wanted something exclusive, just for them.

One half of the Glosters team (Tom) is a potter (who sells his ceramics in the store) and the store also has a nautical feel to it. It made sense therefore when Myfanwy (the other half of the Glosters team and textiles whiz) said that she would like a ‘Potters’ soap and a ‘Sea’ themed soap.   I sent away for some sample fragrances, and in due course Myfanwy chose her two favourites.

This is the Potters Soap, fragranced with a fresh, clean scent of green florals and citrus, on a base of amber and musk. The dark blue reflects the colour of the Glosters’ logo, and for this one I kept an element of my signature drop swirl:


Potters' Soap
                          Potters’ Soap


And this is the Sea Soap, fragranced with a  refreshing salty sea fragrance (of course!), designed with the sea in mind and topped with real sea salt from Halen Môn:

Sea Salt Soap
                      Sea Salt Soap

Both these bars will be available exclusively from Glosters very soon.

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Bath Bomb Progress – Blogtober Day 3

I’m not really a bath person.  Every now and then, if I’m particularly tired or achey, I’ll luxuriate in a deep, hot bath with plenty of bubbles, but I’ve never been one for bath bombs.  Many of my customers, however, most definitely ARE bath bomb people.

I posted a while back (here) about my first foray into bath bomb making, and during the intervening months I’ve continued to perfect my recipe abd practice the process and, finally happy, I applied for a CPSR (Cosmetic Product Safety Report) to enable me to sell bath bombs last Thursday.  Now for those of you not in the know (or for anyone outwith the EU), in order to be able to sell any kind of bath, beauty or cosmetic product in the UK (and EU) you need to get yourself a CPSR for it. This needs to be done for every single product (and variety of that product) and isn’t cheap, so you want to be absolutely sure of your recipe before you put in that application.

These are what the final bombs look like. I was, admittedly, a little heavy handed with the colourant in this batch – I’m using these bath bomb colourants from Soaposh Ltd and they’re fabulously intense. There will be a little less going into the next batch 😀

Bath Bombs
Bath Bombs

Now, I just need to wait for the documentation to come through (it can take a few weeks) and I’ll be making some of my customers very happy indeed!


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October Goals – Blogtober Day 2

I’m pretty sure  I should be doing this every month – having a list of goals would probably lend focus to my work wouldn’t it?  October is going to pretty busy even without this daily blogging malarkey, but this is what I’m hoping to achieve by October 31st.

  1. Get my website up and running.  This has been a goal for so long, it’s become a bit of a joke, but I know what needs to be done now and I want the website live, even if it’s not perfect to begin with.
  2. Finish organising, and successfully hold a craft fair in my village.  This is a biggie – not something I’ve done before and it’s a bit of a learning curve.
  3. Prepare a wholesale linesheet.  I’ve managed so far without a formal linesheet, but wholesale enquiries are increasing, and it’s no longer good enough to be directing interested parties to my Facebook page to see photographs (especially given that I don’t even have a website yet).
  4. Prepare a stock of bath bombs. I’ve finally perfected my recipe, and applied for my assessment so that I can sell them.  I’m hoping the paperwork will come through so that I can start making them in readiness for the festive season.
  5. Post at least 31 blog posts – eeeek!!

So much to do, so much to learn!

Thank you for reading – I’m off now to make as start on that lot up there ⇑⇑⇑

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Getting back on the horse

I’ve done a lot of soapy things over the last couple of weeks, but they didn’t include writing a blog post. I’ve thought about it, aware of the passing days and the realisation that my plan to post at least once a week wasn’t panning out. But you know what? It’s only been 16 days.  I’m improving 😀

During the last couple of weeks I’ve given a soaping demonstration to a local ladies craft group, given two soaping presentations, had a stall at a (late) summer craft fair and, of course, made loads of of soap.

The soaping demonstration was for a local ladies crafting group. There were some 16 ladies there, and I made a batch of Luscious Lavender soap from scratch. They were fascinated by the process, and asked a lot of questions as we went along. Luckily I had taken plenty of fully cured and wrapped soap with me, as once the demo was over they were keen to treat themselves and their loved ones to a bar or two of handmade soap.  The whole demonstration was done through the medium of Welsh, and I’ve made a note to look up some of the more technical words and phrases before my next one (oops!)

The soaping presentations were in a local guest house, Craflwyn Hall, where visitors come to stay and walk the mountains that surround us here. I go every Thursday evening during the holiday season (usually April through October) and I absolutely love having a captive audience to talk to about my soaping obsession. I’ll write a more detailed post about it another time.

Craflwyn Hall, Beddgelert
Craflwyn Hall, Beddgelert


The summer fair I attended last Saturday wasn’t particularly well attended, but I was lucky in that almost everyone who visited my stall bought something. It was a beautiful day – just look at the views from my stall!

View from my stall
View from my stall

I’ve also been making a lot of soap but you know what? I’m going to save that for the next post, which will come all the sooner if I already know what it’s going to be about. Oh I’m definitely getting back into blogging mode 😀




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Wait, March??

Um… Ooops! It would appear that it’s been five months since I last posted here.  I knew it had been a while, but FIVE MONTHS??  In fairness I have been incredibly busy, and posting on the blog was one of things that I kept putting off until I had more time. Well, now I have more time. Today my youngest child started school. Only two hours a day this year, but that still gives me 10 WHOLE HOURS a week to ‘get stuff done’, and high on my list of priorities is to resurrect this blog and start posting much more often.

Since my last post I’ve standardised all of my range, including the seasonal bars.  I may post more about these in the future, but here’s a quick peek:

Love Spell:

Love Spell

Cherry Blossom (Spring Special):

Cherry Blossom

Afternoon at the Races (Summer Special – Strawberries & Champagne fragrance):

Afternoon at the Races

Criccieth Beach (Summer Special – Rockpool fragrance):

Criccieth Beach

And, as there’s always an exception (or two) to the rule, there were also a couple of anomalies – one confetti bar which I made to use up all the bits of soap that I get when I bevel the bars, and one that seized badly when I added the fragrance so I had to simply do what I could with it to get it into the mould, and actually, it turned out ok:

Confetti Soap (Lemon Verbena fragrance):

Lemon Verbena Confetti

Black Rock Sands (Beachy fragrance):

Black Rock Sands

What else?

Well, I’ve gained two more wholesale accounts, bringing the total of retail outlets stocking my soap up to ten, and started supplying one-third sized bars to two businesses offering  guest accommodation.  Much of my time has been spent making, wrapping and labelling soap to keep up with demand. Generally this means working once the kids are in beds, so lots of late night soaping for me!

Every Thursday evening during the holiday season (April – Oct) I’ve been giving a soapmaking presentation to visitors staying in local Holiday Fellowship accommodation.  I LOVE being able to share the process, and it’s always really well received – so much so that I’ve already been asked to go back next year 😀

During May and June I participated in a European soap swap with 20 other soapmakers from all over Europe.  It involved making an all natural soap, without artificial colours or fragrances, and I was waaay out of my comfort zone.  I’ll share more in another post.

We enjoyed a lot of fantastic family time over the school holidays, with long weekends camping, trips to the beach, geocaching and scavenger hunts (despite the weather not always playing ball – I’m fully expecting an Indian summer now that the kids have gone back to school!).

Plans for the near future include getting my bathbomb assessments organised in time for Christmas, making a facial bar, and experimenting further with sugar scrubs and lip balms before I decide on final recipes. Oh, and launch the website, but you’ve heard that one before 😉

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Drop Swirls & Standardisation

I’ve been using a partial drop swirl for all my essential oil soaps for a long time but for my fragrance oil bars I’ve been using a mix of styles – In the Pot, Tiger stripe, Drop –  whatever took my fancy at the time of making.  As I’m now selling more wholesale soap than I am retail, I’ve slowly come to the realisation that my FO bars need to be of a uniform design too.

It took me a little while to settle into the idea.  Soapmaking is such a creative process and half the fun is coming up with new designs and trying out new techniques. I reluctantly came to accept that I needed to choose a style and stick with it, making it synonymous with The Soap Mine brand and making my soaps (hopefully!) instantly recognisable.

I wanted to retain a link between my EO soaps and my FO soaps, while ensuring it was easy to tell them apart, so the obvious choice was to make my FO soaps using a full bar drop swirl.

I’ve been making soap with this technique for a long time – this was the first one I ever made (years ago!),  fragranced with coconut FO.

Black & White Drop Swirl
              Black & White Drop Swirl

And these are some more recent makes – this is what my FO soap bars will look like for the foreseeable future.

Delicious (Similar in scent to the DKNY designer fragrance Be Delicious)


Oatmeal Milk & Honey:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey
        Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Welsh Rose:

Welsh Rose
          Welsh Rose

Blue Belle (Similar in scent to Jo Malone’s ‘Wild Bluebell’ designer fragrance)

Blue Belle
                        Blue Belle

I guess the next thing to focus on is standardising the photography :-O

Thanks for reading – back soon!