I normally try to get this weekly round up out on Sunday evening but yesterday was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and there was no way this was going to get written last night. I had a lovely day actually – woken by very excited children at 7am and brought a card, flowers AND chocolate in bed.
A quick 5k run at 8.30 was followed by an extremely good breakfast at a local cafe Caffi Gwynant, a long walk in the hills:
and the day was rounded off with a roast dinner at home with my mum and her partner. A glass of wine turned into a couple more, and while we managed to get the washing up done, writing wasn’t really an option lol…
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. The week started, as it so often does these days, with a soapmaking session… Four loaves of Bewitched:
And I also made two loaves of Castile.
Castile isn’t one of my best sellers, but I have a small (and growing) group of return customers, so I always make sure it’s in stock.
Unfortunately I don’t have any photos worth sharing of the cut of these two yet, but here’s a new photo of Bewitched from a batch that’s just finished curing…
I sent out a couple of wholesale orders last week – one to the shop at Storiel in Bangor, and one to Siop Ogwen in Bethesda (which reminds me I really need to update my stockist list), and I also spent the best part of one whole day wrapping and labelling bathbombs…
On Thursday we woke up to an unexpected dump of snow, and soon after we got notification that the school was closed. The kids were thrilled, me not so much – another day’s work missed, but we baked a couple of Lemon Drizzle Cakes so it wasn’t all bad 😀
Did you see my Happy Mail on Instagram or Twitter? The super generous Terry of Oldways Soap agreed to trade soap with me, and this is what our postie delivered last week:
Aren’t they gorgeous? Five varieties of soap (one of which has already joined me in the shower) PLUS a bunny each for the children (who were utterly thrilled – far more than they ever are with any of my bars lol…) Terry is an expert at the Hot Process method (which I tried for the first time a couple of weeks ago) and she’s given me some hints and tips for my next batch which I’m looking forward to putting into practice soon.
So other than sending out the usual stream of retail orders for soap and bathbombs, that was my week. This coming week is going to be very busy – I have a bathbomb making workshop on Saturday morning, and then a craft fair on Sunday, both of which I need to prep for. I also have a few wholesale orders to get out this week, I’m making soap tomorrow (Tues) for a change, I have a networking meeting on Wednesday morning, AND my grading for my next kickboxing belt is on Thursday. Plenty to write about next week lol…
Earlier this year I hosted a second International Soap Swap (You may remember the last one, back in 2015, which I wrote about over three posts: Post 1, Post 2 & Post 3). We had fewer participants this year (we started out as a group of 14 but unfortunately a few had to drop out and the final count was 9 participants in total) but they are all wonderful, highly respected soapmakers, and if you have an interested in the soaping world I’m sure you’ll recognise at least some of them.
Here we go – the final haul. This was a truly international swap, with participants from Europe, the USA, Canada & Australia, don’t they look amazing?!
I’ve been procrastinating over this post for quite some time, but I’ve come to the conclusion that you probably just want to see the bars, and the packaging, and to know who made them. You don’t really need me to wax lyrical too much about them. Suffice to say that as well as looking stunning, they all smell flippin’ wonderful too.
Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles is based here in the UK. I love the unique cuboid shape of these bars, and the utterly fabulous packaging. You can find Wendy on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on her website.
Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles is based here in the UK. I love the cuboid shape of these bars, and the fabulous packaging. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram,Twitter, and on her website
Kangaroo Apple Soap
Lisa of Kangaroo Apple Soap is based in Australia, and sent these beautiful rainbow bars. Sadly Lisa’s return parcel with all her soapy goodies was lost in transit 🙁 Some of us sent extra little parcels individually in an attempt to make up for her disappointment. You can find Lisa on Facebook.
Melinda is based in the United States, and is currently on a break from soapmaking, so we were really lucky to get ourselves a bar of Blossom Dreams when we did. Perfectly natural and scented with a sweet frangipani fragrance.
Mimi & Boo
Look at this gorgeous packaging! Linda is the face behind Mimi & Boo, and these wonderful bars are scented with her own custom blended fragrance. You can find her on Instagram, and also on her website.
Shieh Design Studio
Emily of Shieh Design Studio was a soapmaker who’s blog I devoured when I first started making soap – she’s a really innovative and interesting soapmaker. Sadly her blog hasn’t been updated for a while but if you’re not familiar with it out you really should check it out. She’s also on Instagram and Facebook.
Sienna Lily Soaps
Carolyn of Sienna Lily Soaps is based in Spain, and has the most amazing imagination. These ‘Sailor’ themed soaps each came with their very own maritime based quote and hand decorated packaging. Find her on Instagram, Facebook,Twitter, and her website
Soap & Soap
Zacil once made and sold soap commercially under the ‘Soap & Soap’ company name. She no longer makes soap to sell, so again we were so lucky to have her as part of the swap group. The photos don’t really do justice to her bars – the piping on the top is exquisite!
Soga Artisan Soaperie
Louise, the owner of Soga Artisan Soaperie, is based in Canada. She sent these gorgeous ‘Frozen’ themed bars, who’s cool scent was a perfect match for the design and colour. You can find Louise on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and her website.
What do you think? Aren’t they gorgeous? A huge thank you goes out to each of the participants, it’s a real honour to be able to experience the creations of all these amazing soapmakers.
My apologies, this post has been much longer coming than I’d hoped (or planned!). Things got very busy preparing for the festive season, but I finally got it finished. Thank you for your patience 🙂
Six of the participants in this summer’s soap swap were from USA or Canada, and this last post will focus on the lovely soaps that came all the way over the Atlantic into my eager little hands.
Just as in the last post, the following are in no particular order… apart from this first one. Once the soap swap had been set up, and we had decided the date by which all soaps should be with me, all there was for me to do was sit back and wait for the soapy parcels to arrive. I can’t tell you how excited I was the first time the postman knocked on the door with a soap filled parcel. That parcel was from Pam Leis of By The Sea Soap.
Pam was extraordinarily generous and sent me not only the full sized bar that each participant received but also FOUR extra treats. You can see three of them in the picture below – a sample of her Newport Beach Sand soap, a flower shaped Sweetpea & Rhubarb soap, which has some natural sponge embedded in the bottom AND a ‘Black Bamboo – Detox bar, with some amazing white piping on the top.
They are all stunning, but my absolute favourite fragrance is that of the Newport Beach Sand soap. It’s called Sea Moss by BrambleBerry, and I NEED to find something similar in the UK. It’s described as ‘a unique blend of Bergamot, Orchid, Jasmine and Violet with supporting notes of Ozone (air), Sandalwood, Musk and of course, Moss. This fragrance could be described as fresh, green and almost a little kelp-y’. It’s reminiscent of something I’ve come across before, but I just can’t recall it. If anyone has any ideas – please let me know!
Pam also sent me some beautiful dried rosebuds, and I’ll be using them on something special soon!
Here is Pam’s swap soap, and a closeup of the sparkly top. It’s called ‘A Pink Philosophy’ and I’m afraid the photos don’t do justice to this beautiful bar, but I can assure you it’s lovely!
If you’re a fan of soapmaking videos, you’re probably familiar with Emily of Shieh Design Studio. She has her own You Tube channel, and I am only one of a great many people who enjoy watching her make soap. Emily makes her own soap boxes, and they’re a testament to her perfectionism:
It seemed a shame to have to break it open, but, I admit, I didn’t hesitate for long 🙂
The soap I received was called Mayan Gold, and it’s a beautiful riot of colour. The fragrance is a blend of oriental notes and chocolate / vanilla.
Next up was Louise of SoGa Artisan Soaperie in Canada. Louise’s bar was fragranced with the ever popular (and delicious!) Black Raspberry Vanilla fragrance, and featured berry colours and a hanger swirl design. Here it is packaged:
And here it is in all its glory. I love the hanger swirls and the overall design really suits the fragrance I think.
The top of the bar also features some lovely shimmery swirls. I tried and tried to take a good enough picture of this top which adequately showed the beauty of the top but this is the best I could do. I can assure you that it looks much better in real life:
Next up was Barbara of Moon Goddess Garden. She sent this lovely flower shaped bar. It came shrink wrapped which kept it in pristine condition during its travels, and all the company info was on a label on the back:
Here it is unwrapped. The petals are decorated with mica and the centre is created from poppy seeds which give a nice bit of exfoliation. It’s called ‘Summertime Taffy’ and the fragrance really is summery – bright and a bit fruity and JUST what I need at this time of year as the rain lashes down outside!!
Do have a look at Barbara’s Facebook to see more of her beautiful soaps.
Melinda, of Melinda’s Naturals, sent us each a bar of ‘Juliet’s Heart’:
Here it is unwrapped and you can see the fine swirls that adorn the inside and the top of the bar:
This soap was a special edition, created just for us, and is scented with a soft, warm floral essential oil blend. It features jojoba oil and illipe butter, and feels very luxurious to use.
Finally we have Zahida of Handmade in Florida. Zahida’s beautiful and hugely popular soaps invariably sell out within hours of their release, and she has a massive following on social media.
Allow me to deviate a little here because the box in which the soaps arrived was so exquisitely packaged I had to take a photograph of every step:
Now, given how difficult it is to get your hands on a bar of Zahida’s soap, imagine my delight when I learnt that Zahida had sent me (by way of a thank you for hosting) not one but TWO bars of her soap to try – Amber and Sensual Oudh. Let me tell you, they both smell wonderful, but my favourite is the Sensual Oudh, described as ‘a deep and complex blending of oudh, sandalwood, cedarwood, leather, patchouli, vetiver, amber, tonka, and vanilla’ – amazing!
How beautiful are those swirls? In case you don’t know, Zahida is the original creator of the oft imitated butterfly swirl – check out her creations on You Tube, Instagram, Facebook, Website and Blog
And THAT, my friends, brings to an end this year’s International Soap Swap. Of course, it’s not the end for those of us who participated, as we each have a rather large box of lovely soap to keep us going well into the New Year. Mind you, I have a funny feeling it may well happen again at some time in the future, so watch this space!
In my last post I gave a little hint of what was to come in the two subsequent posts, so here, without further ado, is (the first half of) what was shared in the 2015 International Soap Swap.
Six out of the twelve participants are based in Europe, and they are the ones I’m showcasing in this post. We had one soapmaker from Ireland, one from Austria, one from Germany and three (including myself) from the UK.
First up were these bars from Celine of i am handmade If you’re a soapmaker, or a fan of handmade soaps, you may well be familiar with her gorgeous work. I was incredibly lucky that Celine sent an extra bar as a little thank you to me for hosting, and these were the two that I ended up with:
And here they are unboxed:
I chose not to use a single bar until I knew all the participants had received their soapy packages, but as soon as that happy moment arrived, the first one I opened was Celine’s Love + Kisses:
I didn’t think I was making a conscious decision when I picked up one of Celine’s first, but I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time – more or less since I first started to make soap – so perhaps subconsciously I was draw to them.
Love + Kisses is divine to use. It’s super hard, creates a lusciously abundant lather, and the fruity fragrance lingers softly on the skin. I can’t wait to start the second bar 😀
You can buy Celine’s via her website or checkout her FB page If you enjoy watching soapmaking videos (and there are an awful lot of us that do :-)) then you should definitely check out Celine’s Youtube channel.
Next up is this beauty from Vinvela, of Dandelion Seifee:
Vinvela really is an absolute master of swirls, and creates beautiful, fine patterns that I can only dream of. This bar is scented with a blend of amber and lemon which give a deep and complex fragrance which is also refreshing and bright. It’s SO lovely.
She also creates her own packaging – how cute is this? The soap nestles perfectly within the box, and the box is surrounded by the colourful outer band which details the fragrance, ingredients etc.
If you’d like to see more of Vinvela’s skillful soapmaking, just take a look at her blog here
The third soap I received from my European colleagues was ‘Bite Me’ from Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles in the UK.
I just love this packaging. There’s often a compromise between protecting the soap while ensuring that the design can be seen and the fragrance experienced, but Wendy appears to have achieved the perfect balance here.
Bite Me is part of the Heavenly Bubbles luxury silk collection, and the fragrance is delicious. It’s described as citrus, berries and cherries on a vanilla base and to me it’s a sophisticated, grown up twist on cherryade. Finding a true red colour for soap is a bit of a holy grail for soapmakers, but Wendy has cracked it in this bar. Topped with a fine sprinkling of glitter and a perfect little cherry on each bar, it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design of Bite Me. I love it!
Coincidentally, our second British soapmaker is also a Wendy. Wendy Jones runs Soapy Jones, a handmade soap company based in the Midlands. She created this fabulously appropriate packaging for our international soap swap:
It’s just perfect, even down to that postage stamp on there!
The soap inside continued the theme – take a look at this amazing landscape (or, more correctly I think, seascape soap)
I LOVE the creativity that’s gone into the design. Unless you’ve ever tried to create a landscape soap you probably don’t know how difficult it is to do, and how much skill is involved it getting it just right like this. The fragrance, a fresh green scent called Earl Grey & Cucumber, is the perfect complement to the design.
The fifth European participant was Zacil of Soap & Soap based in Germany. Zacil doesn’t currently sell her bars so I consider myself very lucky to have had this opportunity to try her soap. And not just one bar. Oh no. Zacil was incredibly generous and sent me FOUR to try. This was the bar that all participants received:
Each bar’s packaging was handcrafted and personalised with each participant’s name, and was really well designed to protect the soap whilst allowing a tantalising glimpse of what was within. Here it is unwrapped:
Just look at those amazing colours and swirls! This bar was made with some really interesting ingredients including Babassu, Argan and Cottonseed oils which I’ve not used in soapmaking. There were also one ingredient of which I’ve never even HEARD before – Konjak flour. Turns out it’s a starchy flour popular in Asia. I can’t wait to try this bar out for myself!
The three other bars which Zacil sent me are pictured below, named, from left to right, Midori cocktail, a fruity melony fragrance (with a dinky little soap fruit on top), Juicy Hearts (the colours are amazing) and Century, which has white wine listed as an additive.
You can see more of Zacil’s work on here on her Facebook page
The last participant from Europe was of course myself. Now, I’ve wittered on enough on this blog about my own soaps, so I’ll keep it very brief here – these were the two bars that I sent out for the swap – each participant received one or the other of these:
This Summer I was lucky enough to host an international soap swap between myself and eleven amazingly talented soaping friends from Europe, America & Canada. There was only rule: Each participant was to send me eleven full sized bar of their soap by 31st July, together with their postal address for the return package.
Once I had received all eleven packages (and boy was that like Christmas!!) I created twelve piles of soap – one for each participant including myself – consisting of one soap from each package (omitting each participants OWN soap of course) and one of mine. I then boxed up all the piles of soapy goodness and sent them back out to their rightful owners.
Given all the things that could have gone wrong, it all went remarkably smoothly. We had a bit of a delay as one box was a few weeks late arriving (despite being posted in PLENTY of time by the participant – it took almost 8 weeks to get from North America to the UK!) but the return packages all (bar one) arrived at their various destinations in good time, and even the last one arrived within 10 days.
The only down side really was the postage costs. The parcels weighed approximately 1.7kg each, so international postage both ways was never going to be cheap. Once I’d packaged up the individual boxes I weighed them at home, and used the Royal Mail website to try to ascertain what the cost was going to be to send out each parcel. Each participant then paid me via Paypal what I had estimated the cost to be. As it turned out, each and every parcel turned out to be marginally cheaper to post than the website quoted, but it was a simple task to refund each participant the difference.
And now to the fun bit. There were 6 participants from Europe (including myself) and 6 from the USA and Canada. Rather than have one crazy long post, I’m going to post a few pictures here of MY Christmas in July – when the soapy packages arrived. In Post 2 I’ll share my European haul in much more detail, and in Post 3 I’ll do the same with the loveliness from our friends over the pond.
In case you missed my earlier teaser, here’s the full line up in all its glory:
If you are remotely a fan of handmade soap, or even just like surprises, you’ll have some idea of the excitement I felt each time the postman handed me one of these parcels. Do bear in mind these are just teasers for the main events coming in the next two posts!
First to arrive was this package from Pam of By The Sea Soaps in the US:
and she was so kind to put together a special goody bag for me as a thank you for hosting the swap:
After that I’ve kind of lost track of what arrived when, so these next nine packages are in no particular order:
From Vinvela Ebony of dandelion SeiFee in Austria:
From Wendy of Soapy Jones, UK:
From Barbara of Moon Goddess Garden, US:
From Melinda of Melinda’s Naturals, US:
From Celine of i am handmade, Ireland:
From Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles, UK:
From Zacil of Soap & Soap in Germany:
From Emily of Shieh Design Studio, US:
From Zahida of Handmade in Florida, US:
And finally, an admission and apology – there was one parcel that, in my HUGE excitement, I forgot to photograph whilst still in its outer box. So, even more of a tease here from Louise, of Soga Artisan Soaperie, in Canada: (There will, of course, be pictures when I cover them individually in Post 3, and you can find them here if you can’t wait that long)
Don’t, whatever you do, miss the next two posts. There will be naked bars 😀
Yep, it really has been almost 2 months since my last post. The summer season has been incredibly busy, and it’s been as much as I can do to keep up with demand on the soaping front. Days have been spent keeping the children occupied during what seems to have been the wettest summer on record, and evenings have been spent making, wrapping and labelling soaps to supply the eleven local retailers that now stock The Soap Mine soaps. Since April I’ve also been doing twice monthly soapy talks for a local holiday company, and have done a couple of soapmaking demonstrations for the Women’s Institute – something I’d really like to do more of.
Needless to say there isn’t much innovation or new designs to share from the last couple of months, but I do have one new one to share. Now I do love my colours and swirls, but my mum has long expressed a preference for a plain, white, citrussy bar, and I finally got round to making one for her. The only colourant is a touch of titanium dioxide, and it’s fragranced with a smidgen of lemon & grapefruit essential oils. (The prototype was fragranced with lemon & lime, but I much prefer lemon & grapefruit combo).
I’ve named it ‘Peace’ and it’s proved a hit with customers as well as mum, so I’ve added it to the regular line-up.
There was one other exciting soap related event over the summer. I was honoured to be able to host an international soap swap between myself and 11 other amazing soapmakers from the US, Canada and Europe. I’ve got a couple of posts coming up soon just about the soap swap, but here, to whet your appetite, is a little teaser of my haul, If you’re a fan of handmade artisan soaps you may well recognise some of these brands…
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