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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)

Delicious
                    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!

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Makeovers (5. Lavender)

New Year is generally a time for looking forward for me (I’m still working on those 2016 business goals I touched on in my last post) but last week I was browsing and sorting (supposedly – I’m easily distracted 😉 ) through my HUGE collection of soapy photographs and I came across some from the early days.  I can remember being SO proud of this one – my first every straight lavender essential oil soap:

Luscious Lavender
Luscious Lavender #1

Note the rounded corners – I hadn’t yet discovered the joys of silicone liners lol… You can also see the signs of a partial gel here too.

It wasn’t long before I began standardising (and simplifying) the swirls, and this was the next incarnation – an In The Pot (ITP) swirl:

Luscious Lavender
Luscious Lavender #2

I went through a phase of experimenting with mica in oil swirls on the top of the bars – though I’m not sure why I thought this was a complementary colour for the top-swirl…

Luscious Lavender #3
Luscious Lavender #3

When it came to developing a cohesive range I decided to make all my essential oil soaps with a drop swirl, and so came up with this two colour lavender drop in a white base:

Luscious Lavender #3
Luscious Lavender #4

The colours have remained the same ever since – I use titanium dioxide for the base and two micas called ‘grape’ and ‘lilac beauty’ for the drops:

Luscious Lavender #4
Luscious Lavender #5
Luscious Lavender #5
Luscious Lavender #6

Thanks for checking in – I really do hope to be back soon with those 2016 goals!

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Makeovers (4: Delicious)

One of my best sellers is, quite literally, ‘Delicious’.  It’s fragranced with a dupe of the DKNY fragrance ‘Be Delicious’ which has the fresh scent of apples blended with floral / woody fragrances.  To date I’ve always made it with a simple ITP swirl (with apologies for the lighting on the bottom bar):

Delicious - ITP Swirl
      Delicious – ITP Swirl

When I’m against the clock and frantically trying to get my stock levels back up, an ITP swirl is mercifully quick to execute. But, for me at least, they are unpredictable, and the colour distribution isn’t always as I would like. So I decided to try using the same colours but with a drop swirl, and this is how it came out:

Delicious - Drop Swirl by The Soap Mine
           Delicious – Drop Swirl

I LOVE it! So that’s me with one less ‘quickie’ during busy stocking-up soapmaking sessions, but I reckon it’s worth it 🙂

It has though brought to mind an ongoing dilemma I have about what’s most important when it comes to the soaps that I create. I put a lot of thought into what oils and butters go into my bars to give them skin-loving, super-lathering properties, but then I hear people say that they look too pretty to use. It’s a phrase I’ve heard at every single craft fair / Christmas market I’ve ever sold at.  I know people are being complimentary but – Noooooooooooo! Use them! Use them, then buy more 😀

 

 

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Makeovers (3: Tutti Frutti)

Tutti Frutti is one of the soaps from my fragrance oil range and is particularly popular with children and young people   Scented with a fruity fragrance oil, it has both berry and citrus notes on a sweet vanilla base and is reminiscent of jelly beans. When I first started using it in soap, I wanted a design that reflected the complex fruity gragrance, and came up with this four colour bar:

1st Incarnation of Tutti Frutti
1st Incarnation of Tutti Frutti

When I decided to standardise my designs last year, I chose the In The Pot (ITP) swirl from my fragrance oil soaps. I wanted to keep the multicoloured idea, and so this is what happened:

2nd Incarnation of Tutti Frutti
2nd Incarnation of Tutti Frutti

It sold ok, but to me it looked messy, and not particularly appealing, so I had to think again.  This is the current Tutti Frutti design. I’m much happier with it, despite it being a little more time consuming to make, and doesn’t really fit, design-wise, with the rest of the range (but rules are made to be broken eh?!).

3rd incarnation of Tutti Frutti
3rd incarnation of Tutti Frutti
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Parisian Flora

The last few weeks have been full-on soapmaking to restock the shelves depleted by the pre-Christmas rush. I only have two loaf moulds, and can only soap in the evenings once the little Miners are asleep, so it’s a fairly long drawn out process involving nightly soapmaking (what a shame :-D!) but I’m getting there.

This is Parisian Flora. A drop swirl fragranced with a blend of Lavender, Ylang Ylang and Rose Geranium essential oils, and coloured with titanium dioxide and micas.

Parisian Flora in the mould
                 Parisian Flora in the mould
Parisian Fora
                    Parisian Flora
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Makeovers (2: Wake Up!)

Wake Up! was the first soap that I ever made using a blend of essential oils, way back in early 2010. Up until then I’d used fragrance oils in soap but, despite having an interest in aromatherapy, I’d never tried blending oils myself. Oh how things change! It’s a simple but refreshing mix of Peppermint and Rosemary essential oils – perfect for waking up the senses in the morning shower. While the fragrance blend has stayed the same since that time, it was a couple of years before it got its true name. Up until some point in 2012 it went by the predictable, if uninspiring, ‘Peppermint & Rosemary’.

This is the very first :

1st Incarnation of Peppermint & Rosemary - now known as Wake Up!
1st incarnation of Peppermint & Rosemary – now known as Wake Up!

I quite like the sprig of mint used there as a prop, but the least said about the background the better!

It wasn’t long after the above photo above was taken that I acquired my very first loaf mould (from The Moulds Shop – highly recommended btw), and my soaps became a more uniform shape and size.  For a while I was obsessed with the Tiger Swirl, and Wake Up! looked like this:

2nd incarnation of Wake Up!
2nd incarnation of Wake Up!

Interestingly, it’s only now that I realise that I hadn’t started bevelling the edges at this point – something I always do these days.

These days Wake Up! looks something like this:

Wake Up! from The Soap Mine
3rd incarnation of Wake Up!

Currently all my essential oil soaps are made using the Drop Swirl technique, as I wrote about here. Sometimes they have textured tops, sometimes mica swirls, but they are always (for now!) Drop Swirls.

I’m really enjoying looking back over old designs, so please bear with me in the short term while I indulge myself with these makeover posts – I will try to intersperse them with some other stuff as well 😀  Thanks for popping by!

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Makeovers (1: Serenity)

Quite a few of my soaps have had a makeover recently. No matter that I have (more or less) a set range of fragrances & designs, there’s always room to improve and to flex those creative muscles.

One of the most popular essential oil soaps that I sell is Serenity. The fragrance is a blend of Bergamot, Patchouli, Orange and Ylang Ylang essential oils.  The very first time I made a full batch of this one I carefully weighed out the appropriate amount of essential oil blend for the amount of soaping oils used, then put it to one side.  I then split my batter into three, coloured one white and two different shades of blue, then poured the soap into the mold, creating what I fully expected to be an awesome drop swirl. Except I’d forgotten to the add the fragrance. Argghhhh! There was nothing to do but scoop it all out, thoroughly mix in the essential oils, and put the whole lot back into the mould. Of course I ended up with a very plain, pale blue bar of soap which smelled amazing but looked nothing like my original plan:

Serenity Take 1
First incarnation of Serenity

The next few times I made Serenity, I decided to go with a single colour drop in a paler background.  Most of my drop swirls up to this point had been a white soap with coloured drops, but I wanted to try something a little different.  Here I used Icelandic Blue mica for the base colour and Denim Blue mica for the drop:

The second incarnation of Serenity
Second incarnation of Serenity

I used that design for a while, and it sold well enough, but it didn’t wow me, and last year I decided it needed updating.  The current Serenity has a base of Icelandic Blue mica, and drops coloured with Titanium Dioxide and Blue Dragon mica. I think it’s rather pretty and goes well with the name, so this design will be staying (for now anyway :-D)

Third incarnation of Serenity
Third incarnation of Serenity

 

 

 

 

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And The Winner Is…

A MASSIVE thank you to everyone who came up with suggestions for a name for my poor nameless orange & ylang ylang soap (as posted here) Facebook in particular turned out to be a particularly fertile creative arena and I do appreciate everyone who took the time to have a ponder and post something.

It wasn’t an easy decision – ‘Pheonix’ & ‘Desert Sands’ were serious contenders, but in the end I plumped for something a little more descriptive of the fragrance. And so, without further delay, I give you, ‘Orange Bliss’:

Orange & Ylang Ylang EOs
Orange Bliss – fragranced with Orange & Ylang Ylang Essential Oils

Orange Bliss was the suggestion of Candice Bond, who posted on our Facebook page here. Thank you and congratulations Candice – please message the FB page with your address and a bar will be winging its way to you!

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Name That Soap…

Right folks, I need your help.

This recent addition to the range will be ready for sale in a very short while but remains nameless. It’s vegan friendly, palm free, is coloured with micas, fragranced with a blend of Ylang Ylang and x5 fold Orange Essential Oils and is made using the Drop Swirl technique.

Orange & Ylang Ylang EOs
Orange & Ylang Ylang EOs

If you’d like to try a bar for free, simply suggest a great name for it, and I’ll post a bar out to the person who comes up with the name I decide to go with. (Oh and I’ll be really, really grateful too – totally mental block on this one :-D)

It’s open to anyone worldwide, so don’t be shy – get those ideas in (either here or on the Soap Mine FB page where I’ll post this as well) by 8pm GMT on Friday 8th August and I’ll announce the winner later on that evening.

Thanks – I’m excited to see what you creative lot come up with!

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My Soap Mountain is Growing

Well, I said I wouldn’t leave it so long next time and I’ve been as good as my word – only a month has passed since I last posted and I’ve awarded myself an end of term grade of C- for consistency. I think that’s usually considered a ‘Must Do Better’ grade 😀

I’ve not been idle though. The Soap Mine soaps are now being stocked in THREE retail outlets, and I’ve got my eye on another.  I’ve also been accepted to sell at a local monthly craft fair – the first of which is in just over 2 weeks time.  Soooo, I’ve been soaping like a demon. Originally it was to make sure I had enough for the launch of the website (and before you ask – nope!) but now I also need to make sure I’ve got enough for the three shops and the market – eeek!  I’m finding it quite hard to plan how many bars to make, given that I always work with a 6 week cure time, and I have no idea when, or how much, the retailers will reorder.  I suppose it’s not ‘Best Practice’ business-wise to work in such a way, but all three retailers are quite small concerns, and it would be difficult to get them to commit to taking, say, a set number of bars a month, until they’ve at least got some idea of how well (or otherwise!) they sell.

So, as the title says, my Soap Mountain is growing! My poor mum’s dining room (nope, we’ve not moved either!) has become a soapy storage area, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more storage crates, boxes and anything suitable I can get my hands on.

Anyway, these are some I made a few weeks back – I’ve got a lot more to share once I get round to photographing them!

Blackjack:

Blackjack CP Soap
Blackjack – Aniseed & Spearmint EOs

Chocolate:

Chocolate FO ITP Swirl
Chocolate FO ITP Swirl

Orange & Ylang Ylang EOs:

(I’m struggling to come up with a name for the one so if anyone has any ideas I’d appreciate suggestions)

Orange & Ylang Ylang EOs
Orange & Ylang Ylang EOs

Serenity:

Notice the similarity between this one and Blackjack above? My mistake – I didn’t expect the darker blue in this one to be quite so dark, so the two bars are more alike than I wanted them to be.

Bergamot, Patchouli, Red Mandarin and Ylang Ylang EOs
Bergamot, Patchouli, Red Mandarin and Ylang Ylang EOs

Finally, just because I love it – a mica swirl on the top of my last batch of Luscious Lavender. Cut pictures to follow – eventually 😀

In the mould Lavender Mica Swirl
Lavender Mica Swirl

Thanks for checking in – especially those of you whose blogs I’ve not had the chance to catch up on for what feels the longest time – I’ll get back to you soon I promise!

 

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A Quick Catch Up

So my poor blog has been sorely neglected again – six whole weeks since my last post!! I think that’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone without posting, so I’ve had a word with myself, am suitably chastened, and will not be leaving it so long again 😀

Ok, lets get the inevitable out of the way.  No, we’ve still not moved into our new home, and no, the website isn’t ready yet. Both still trundling along though, so I should be able to share good news on both fronts at some point 😉

The great news is that two local retail outlets have now agreed to sell The Soap Mine soaps. Woop!  They’ve each taken a dozen soaps to display in their shops, and if they sell, they’ll take more. Fingers crossed!!

I’ve been busy building up stock levels again – sticking to the plan of ITP Swirls for FO soaps and Drop Swirls for EO soaps I wrote about last time:

Welsh Rose
Welsh Rose (ITP Swirl)

Welsh Rose is actually made with an FO called English Rose, but living in Wales, what else could I call it?!  Coloured with TD and pink mica.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey ITP Swirl
OMH (ITP Swirl)

OMH (or Oatmeal, Milk & Honey) FO is so popular in the soaping community, but this is the first time I’ve used it. To me it smells very sweet, almost like marzipan, and I LOVE it.  Coloured with TD and three different brown micas.

Wake Up! (Drop Swirl)
Wake Up! (Drop Swirl)

This is a restock of my very popular Wake Up! soap.  Fragranced with Rosemary and Peppermint EOs and coloured with TD and green / blue micas

Parisian Flora
Parisian Flora (Drop Swirl)

Another redesign / restock. Parisian Flora proved very popular in its last incarnation, so although the fragrance is exactly the same (a blend of Lavender, Rose Geranium and Ylang Ylang EOs), as are the colours (TD and three pink micas), it’s now made using the drop swirl technique

Luscious Lavender
Luscious Lavender (Drop Swirl)

Luscious Lavender, simply fragranced wth Lavender EO, is by far my biggest seller. It really surprises me to be honest, but there’s no doubt about it, when I look back over my records, Lavender is definitely the one that I’ve made the most often over the years. This one thickened up on me a little quicker than normal, so the drops aren’t quite as delicate as I would have liked.

I also have a Marshmallow FO soap that was cut this morning, and isn’t yet ready to meet its public 😀 and tonight I made Black Jack – a blend of Aniseed and Spearmint EOs. That one’s still in the mould, so pics to follow sometime soon.

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A Range? Really…?

So, as work continues on my website (I know, I know, that’s another thing I’ve been banging on about for ever) my Web Designer and trusty assistant (aka my husband) has informed me that I need to develop ‘A Range’. Apparently I can’t keep making random batches of whatever I want to, with whatever ingredients / fragrances / colours I fancy trying and using a near infinite variety of design techniques. Nope, I need ‘A Range’…

Now I’ve read enough on Soap Business Best Practice over the last couple of years to know that this is true.  The main reason I guess is that I’ll lose business if I don’t have a range of bestsellers which are always in stock. I also think the website’s going to look a little crazy if there’s too much choice (and of course keeping a website up to date with an unlimited number of different products will be (I was told, sternly) a ‘nightmare’).

So, despite my misgivings, I’ve had to narrow things down a little and make some decisions.  I’m still going to make both Essential Oil soaps and Fragrance Oil soaps, though they’ll have their own separate categories, with no more than eight in each category to begin with.

To simplify things even further, Essential Oil soaps will all be made using the ‘Drop Swirl’ technique:

 

Enigma - Clary Sage, Rose Geranium and Lemon essential oils
Enigma – Clary Sage, Rose Geranium and Lemon Essential Oils

 

Spice Island - Aniseed and Orange Essential Oils
Spice Island – Aniseed and Orange Essential Oils

And Fragrance Oil soaps will be made using the ‘In The Pot’ (ITP) Swirl technique: (this first one is the soap that was in the mould in my last post – my first ‘post-move’ soap!)

Delicious - a dupe of the popular DKNY Be Delicious fragrance
Delicious – a dupe of the popular DKNY Be Delicious fragrance
Lemon Meringue - An intensely lemony yet sweet fragrance.
Lemon Meringue – An intensely lemony yet sweet fragrance.

The two techniques can sometimes look quite similar, and I might decide in time that that’s not such a good idea, but I’ll wait and see.

I’ll should still be able to indulge my creative streak as I’m hoping to make more seasonal soaps – I’ve missed a trick in the past by not making specific (for example) Christmas, Summer or Valentines Day soaps so that’s where I think I’ll be able to try out different fragrances and designs.

What do you think of my plan?

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Drop Swirls

We finally had a bright day today so I took the opportunity to take some photographs outside – I’ve tried and tried to get decent pictures using my lightbox and artificial lighting but each time I fail miserably so it’s natural light all the way for me from now on!  (This could prove problematic in a North of England winter but I’m nothing if not an optimist 🙂 )

I recently tried something a little different – I’ve seen some beautiful drop swirl soaps on Pinterest, most notably by Tree Frog Soaps and Celine at I Am Handmade, and decided to give it a go. Celine very generously shares her methods on YouTube here so I spent a few happy hours watching soaping videos before I felt ready to make my attempts. Here are the first two:

Green drop

Aniseed & Orange DropI’ve also been experimenting with creating my own essential oil fragrance blends. Neither of these soaps have names yet, but the first one is fragranced with a lovely blend of Rose Geranium, Clary Sage and Lemon essential oils, and the second is fragranced with a totally delicious blend of Aniseed and Orange essential oils.