Thursday, 19 April 2012

Fifteen Years - Education, Research and Experience

I have been making soap for 15 years this spring. While I’m not sure if that makes me feel experienced or eeek dare I say the word “old”, I can remember the thrill of that first batch and the patient restraint I showed. Once you make a batch, you have to “put it to bed”. The soap sits in its mold for at least 24 hours undisturbed and wrapped in an old blanket while the saponification process transpires. For me the waiting was never easy and quite honestly it still isn’t. I love each and every batch and I still feel that same rush of excitement every time a new loaf is made, unwrapped and that first cut is made. 

 Why soap? In a world of millions of crafty ideas for an artsy person – why would I choose soap as my medium? Simply put – necessity. Like many other pale skinned, auburn haired folks of my descent (Scottish & English), I tend to have sensitive skin. You know the kind of skin that burns profusely at the mere hint of sun, and also does not like chemical cocktails rubbed all over it. Commercial products were not working for me and I went natural. For the most part my search for natural soap and skin care products went fairly well, but it certainly took a larger chunk out of my wallet than I wanted with the prices being $6, $7 and even gulp $8 for a single bar. So being the person I am who likes to create, I decided to make my own. I spent at least 6 months reading and researching. I gathered my supplies (soapmaking is not an inexpensive hobby) slowly and then I made my first batch. I was hooked! And my mantra about my prices has always been a quality product without the high end prices. After 15 years I know what it costs for materials and my time and I will not gouge my customers. Anything higher is unnecessary.

My soapmaking adventures began with lots of research and the research actually scared the hell out of me. To learn the products that went into commercial soap really made me a woman on a mission. Your skin is an organ. It is the largest organ your body has. Not only is it important to watch what you put INTO your bodies – it’s equally important to watch what you put ONTO your bodies. Your skin absorbs whatever it comes in contact with. Some of those chemicals come and go – others stay with your body accumulating over time with the toxicity increasing.

Did you know that all commercial soap isn’t even really soap? Yes even the big names… By the time they are all done the finished product has had the good stuff stripped out and other chemicals added, it’s actually not even considered to be soap but rather a detergent. Yep… I didn’t like the idea of rubbing detergent all over my body to clean it.

Detergents gained more use in the 1940’s as it was cheaper during wartime and as a society we never switched back to real soap as the companies learned they could make more money by making a detergent based bar. Shortly after detergent based bars became commonplace the rates of cancers increased also… coincidence… I think not.

Because of such I pride myself in the choices I make for my ingredients. I use at over 20 different suppliers to get the best quality ingredients from each. I have had 15 years to tweak my recipes to what I like and what my customers like. My family and friends are my test subjects and they are brutally honest. Due to their insight, I have fifteen years of experience, research and education.

That initial necessity became a passion that gets stronger all the time!

Am I a soap snob? Perhaps, maybe picky is a better word. I like to think it means having high standards and producing a quality product.

Time to grab my soap pot as soon as the kids are gone to school…. This momma needs to make some soap!

Topics to follow soon:
Process - Commercial Soapmaking versus Natural Soapmaking
Soap Scenting
Candles – An evolution of Wax

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