Interview with a Soap Maker ~ Emily Davis of Emily’s Handmade Soaps

Interviewed by Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015

emilys handmade soaps lavender lemongrass
Lavender Lemongrass Soap

I’m happy to introduce Emily Davis, the founder of Emily’s Handmade Soaps. Emily has a fun story to tell of how she began making handmade soap. She makes and sells her natural soap and lotion bars in Des Moines, Washington. [Click images to enlarge].

What prompted you to start making soap and/or bath & body products? 

Funny story! I was binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix. There’s a scene in one of the first few episodes that shows the main character and her BFF making soap and lotion in her kitchen. As bizarre as it sounds, it had never even occurred to me that you could make soap! I headed to my local Michael’s craft store to buy a melt & pour soap making kit. The project was a lot of fun, but I really wanted to formulate my own recipes. After much research, I started making cold process soap, and the rest is history!

What types of soap do you craft? What types of bath & body products do you craft?

I specialize in cold process soaps, although I occasionally do hot process as well. I also make bath bombs, lotion bars, bath tea, and cuticle oil. I’m always testing new product recipes!

When did you decide to sell your product[s]?

emilys handmade soap group
Handmade Soap Small Giftable Size

After I’d been making soap for the better part of a year, my soap stock began to really pile up. I had over 100 bars of soap in my house, and had been giving them away to family and friends when my husband suggested selling them. Sales were much better than anticipated in the beginning, so I’ve been in expansion mode ever since.

Do you sell your products at crafts fairs/markets, bed & breakfasts, stores, etc.?

I sell my soaps and bath products at my local farmers market, the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market here in Des Moines, Washington. I also have several wholesale accounts in Washington (and one in Oregon!) which include lovely gifts, nurseries, and coffee shops.

Do you sell online? If so, what are the advantages or disadvantages?

I do sell online on Etsy. It’s wonderful to have a gallery of items to point customers to, and it’s nice for keeping track of inventory and being able to take credit card sales. I would say that the majority of my sales are made either in person or on a wholesale basis. I’ve had a few sales from Etsy, but there are just so many sellers on the site that it can be difficult to get noticed.

What is your favorite fragrance or essential oil? What are your most popular scents?

Lavender essential oil is wonderful because it can be combined with so many other scents. Lavender is always very popular with my customers. Anything with Lemongrass in it also sells well, and I’ve found that that essential oil is another winner for blending. I have a Lemongrass Litsea soap that sells like hotcakes! One of my personal favorites is my Beer soap. It’s a really lovely soap that uses real beer, and it’s always a conversation starter. Don’t worry, you can’t actually smell the beer in the finished product.

What soap and/or other bath & body crafting books have you read and been inspired by?

Smart Soapmaking by Anne L. Watson was a great source of information in the beginning. Caveman Chemistry and Scientific Soapmaking, both by Kevin Dunn, were also helpful.

What soap and/or other bath & body videos have inspired you?

Anne Marie Faiola of Brambleberry and Soap Queen does some amazing soap making videos. I think she was the one who showed me how to combine oil and lye! There is also a series on YouTube called Soaping 101 that has been really helpful for learning new design techniques.

Where do you get your packaging ideas?

sunflower lotion bar
Sunflower Lotion Bar

I like to take various design elements from products that I’ve seen and been inspired by, and then apply parts of those designs to my own packaging. Packaging has been quite a work in progress, and I’ve found along the way that some ideas are more difficult and/or expensive to implement than others. In the end, I settled on a design that was simple, but elegant.

What advice would you give to newbies?

Learn by doing. Your first attempts might be ugly, or even unusable, but the knowledge that you gain from the experience of having attempted it is priceless.

Do you have any funny anecdotes about unusual customers?

None of my customers really strike me as unusual, but I will say that many of my first customers were family and friends that I am endlessly grateful to. Without their support, there is no way I would have been able to expand my business!

How did you come up with your company’s name?

perfect pumpkin soap
Perfect Pumpkin Soap

I tried to come up with a cutesy, trendy name for my company, but in the end I felt that every name I was coming up with just sounded trite. I ended up with ‘Emily’s Handmade Soaps’ because I felt that it was authentic and fitting to my craft.

If you are a soapmaker, or know of one who you think should be interviewed, send me an email at: lisa_maliga@msn.com

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Interview with a Soap Crafter – Amanda Stevens, Homayd Natural Care Products

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2014

Hello soapers and other crafters!

Apple_Pumpkin__94473.1411229695.1280.1280
Apple Pumpkin Soap

Meet Amanda Stevens of Homayd Natural Care Products. This very talented lady is from Arkansas and she makes some beautiful soap. Here is what she has to say about the joys of making soap and how she got started. [Click to enlarge images].

What prompted you to start making soap?

It all started when I got pregnant with my daughter. My husband and I were already trying to reduce chemical exposure through foods and cleaning products, which naturally led me to examine the products I used on my own skin. Since our skin is our largest organ and absorbs about 60% of what we put on it, I decided to start making my own soap as a way of reducing my family’s exposure to harmful chemicals.

What other types of soap do you craft? Do you also make bath & body products?

I mainly make cold-process soap, but I also make diaper wipe concentrate for babies, hand sanitizer, and a few fabric items.

When did you decide to sell your soap?

Once our daughter was born, we made the decision that I would not return to my job as a software developer. I started noticing that God was blessing us with lots of people who were wanting to try (and even pay for) my soap, so we turned it into a full-fledged business in January 2014.

Do you also sell your soap at crafts fairs/markets, stores, etc.?

Yes, we sell at an online Farmer’s market and various fairs and organized race events. We also have a few stores and salons that carry Homayd products.

What are the advantages to selling online?

The customer base is much broader. Also, most people prefer to buy items from the convenience of home, so it helps us be available to those who may not come to any local events.

What is your favorite fragrance or essential oil? What are your most popular scents?

ExSpearimint Soap
Ex-Spear-I-Mint Soap

I love the traditional lavender and tea tree essential oils, but my recent favorite for soap is spearmint essential oil. It’s so refreshing since it smells like a pack of Wrigley’s in your pocket.

What soap crafting books have you read?

Oh boy, I’m a book nerd. I’ve read about all of the soap books I could find at our local library. To name a few…

Soap Making by Sarah Ade

Soap Crafting by Anne-Marie Faiola

The Natural Soap Chef by Heidi Barto

and of course…The Soapmaker’s Companion by Susan Cavitch

 What soap crafting videos have inspired you?

I like the Soaping101 channel on YouTube. When I first started making soap, I watched a lot of her videos for ideas.

Where do you get your soap/packaging ideas?

Most of the soap ideas I just make up, usually by season or holiday. I think of what I love or what captures the season best, and I play around with those ideas. The packaging was born out of necessity of using cheap packing material and has morphed into a handmade look that streamlines my wrapping process.

What advice would you give to new soap crafters?

Definitely start out simple. If you try to get too creative before you’re comfortable with the process in general, you’ll make a few expensive mistakes and may get discouraged. Master the process, the craftiness will follow.

How did you come up with your company’s name?

A few years ago I decided to make my entire family’s Christmas gifts. Being a slightly type A personality, I decided to make up a little product name to go with the gifts. I love putting the letter “y” in the middle of names (both my husband and daughter’s names have a “y” in the middle) so I just threw a “y” in the word “homemade” and shortened it a little. The rest is history.

Bunches of Honey Oats
Bunches of Honey Oats

Name: Homayd Natural Care Products

Owner: Amanda Stevens

Location: Maumelle, Arkansas

Website: http://www.homayd.com

Blog: http://www.homayd.com/blog

Social Media:

http://www.facebook.com/HomaydNatural

http://www.twitter.com/HomaydNatural

http://www.pinterest.com/HomaydNatural

http://www.instagram.com/HomaydNatural

Do you make and sell your own soap? Do you have your own online shop and want to be interviewed? If so, just send me an email: lisa_maliga@msn.com Please use “Interview with Soap Crafter” in the subject heading.

Basic Aromatherapy, Part 3

photo of essential oils by lisa maligaBy Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2008-2017

Continued from Basic Aromatherapy, Part 1 and Basic Aromatherapy, Part 2

Aromatherapy In Your Environment

The following methods are for those of you who wish to be able to change the fragrance environment of a room, car, office, closet, drawer, etc. There are psychological benefits to entering a room that has the crisp aroma of citrus, or a subtle scent of fresh blooming flowers.

Aroma Lamps – Aroma lamps are either electric or operated by a tea light or votive candle. There is a small cup shaped portion that is usually made of glazed ceramic and holds a few ounces of water. However, other materials may include glass and stone. Warm or even hot water should be used; as that is less work the candle has to do. Only a few drops of essential oil are added to the water, thus making it ideal for costlier essential oils. Care should be taken to see that the water doesn’t boil away.

Atomizers – Requiring no heat, atomizers, sometimes referred to as nebulizers or nebulizing diffusers, disperse the essential oils on a revitalizing current of air as it passes through an intricately engineered blown glass chamber. This course naturally suspends and ionizes the oil into extremely fine molecules, causing them to remain suspended in the air for longer periods.

Many aromatherapist practitioners and others who utilize the finest essential oils choose atomizers. It’s important to be careful with the atomizers. Since there is a continuous mist emitted it should not be used for more than a few minutes at a time. Many of the models do have built-in timers to avoid any problems like overuse. Also, make sure that this is done in a clear area, away from furniture, [varnish can be worn off] wall hangings and other objects.

Candles – Candles create a more romantic ambiance and do double duty in helping disperse your preferred aroma[s] throughout a room. In the spirit of true aromatherapy, it’s advised to use beeswax, palm wax or soy wax candles as paraffin contains carcinogenic chemicals. Wicks should be trimmed, and the essential oils need to be added at the top of the candle, but never on the wick itself. You can add the essential oils after the candle has been lit and there’s a small pool of wax at the top of the candle. Don’t add the oils to the flame itself as oils can catch fire.

Diffusers – You can buy diffusers to plug into your car’s cigarette lighter, as you can also find those that plug into any wall socket. The atomizers suspend a fine mist of essential oils into the air for aromatherapy is the best method of using essential oils for therapeutic treatments. Many aromatherapists believe that this is the most effective method of enjoying the aromas.

Sachets – If you want your linens to smell clean and fresh, the addition of a smell sachet filled with your favorite aroma will create a pleasant smell whenever you open the drawer or closet. You can buy them already made, or make them yourself. Highly recommended would be a small muslin or organza bag filled with dried lavender buds and a few drops of lavender essential oil. Not only is lavender a universally pleasing aroma, it also serves as an all-natural way to keep moths away.

Carrier Oils:

The most common way to dilute a pure essential oil is with a cold-pressed carrier oil. Carrier oils allow the essential oil to slowly permeate the skin, protecting it from irritation. Jojoba, sesame, sweet almond, rose hip, refined rice bran, shea oil, wheatgerm, evening of primrose, grapeseed, kukui nut, sunflower, hazelnut, safflower, avocado or apricot kernel oils are commonly used. Several of the carrier oils can be combined and when essential oils are added, this makes for a very nutrient-rich bath oil.

Determining Quality of Essential Oils:

Read the label. If purchasing rosemary oil, for example, you would expect to see that name on the label. However, here are the four facts that you will find on any bottle of essential oil from a reputable supplier/company. 

1. Botanical/Latin name. In this case it would be Rosemarinus officinalis.

2. Part. What part of the plant has the essential oil been extracted from? For rosemary, that is the leaf.

3. Method of extraction. Is it an absolute, enfleurage, carbon dioxide [CO2], or has it been steam distilled? In this case it has been steam distilled.

4. Country of Origin. Rosemary comes from many different countries, such as Corsica, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, and France. Location may make a sizable difference for many reasons such as climate, type of soil, high/low altitude, etc.

Aromatherapy isn’t government regulated. Products can claim to be “natural” when in fact distilled water is the only untainted ingredient. Any reputable retailer of essential oils will be very knowledgeable about their product and capable of proving its purity. They will and should be happy to answer your questions.

Basic Aromatherapy, Part 2

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2008-2014

Continued from Basic Aromatherapy, Part 1

photo of essential oils by lisa maligaBefore 1993, you wouldn’t have been able to find the word ‘aromatherapy’ listed in a dictionary even though this art/science has been effectively used for thousands of years. In fact, the word was invented in the 1920’s by a French chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé who studied the cosmetic properties of plants. He soon learned that plants contained organic antiseptic elements that worked better than inorganic antiseptics. His interest was further ignited when he there was an explosion in his laboratory; badly burning has hands. Immediately he poured lavender essential oil [one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly on the skin] on them and made the not so astonishing discovery that his hands healed quickly and with no scarring.

However, the usage of aromatic plants has been going on for thousands of years. From the civilizations of ancient Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome, floral and herbal oils have been used in many ways from flavoring food and beverages to being poured into baths and massaged into the body.

The Romans weren’t shy about employing scents. They inundated their baths and banquets with floral concoctions from scattering rose petals on floors to anointing their bodies with floral perfumes. After bathing their bodies were massaged with aromatic oils. Their beds and clothing, bodies and hair were scented with perfumes. Even men scented themselves with balsam and cinnamon oils.

The natural healing system of ayurveda, meaning “science of life” was established approximately 4000 years ago in the Himalayan region. Plants and all their properties are a relevant part of ayurvedic medicine that continues to be practiced where it started and has now spread around the world.

Hippocrates is known as the “father of medicine”, and this Greek doctor was a noted advocate for the usage of essential oils, especially in the form of daily baths and massages. Resins of myrrh and oils of cinnamon were often applied to a patient to soothe inner and outer complaints.

Essential Oils vs. Fragrance Oils:

Pure, unadulterated essential oils derived from the leaves, roots, seeds, flowers or bark of a plant or tree are the source extracted directly from nature via a form of steam distillation. When you first begin working with essential oils, take care in handling them. Lavender essential oil is quite safe for the skin, as is tea tree, but some people can have allergic reactions to them. When handling essential oils, it’s wise to do a skin test. Simply apply a tiny amount on your wrist, and if there’s no reaction within 24 hours you are safe. As these oils can be costly, you must take care that they’re always kept in a cobalt or amber colored glass bottle and stored in a cupboard [out of direct sunlight] and kept in a cool, dry place. When you buy an oil, write the date on the vial. Most essential oils can last from one to three years. Citrus oils have a shelf life ranging from six months to less than two years. Essential oils can last for several years, but the freshness disappears. There are some exceptions with the darker colored, “heavier” oils or resins. Patchouli Oil is known to improve with age.

You should know about fragrance oils and what they really are. I visited an e-group for soapmakers and when someone asked for a company where they could purchase essential oils, a person gave the name of a company that sold only fragrance oils! Obviously, to this uninformed person, the terms are interchangeable. They’re not. Fragrance oils are synthesized in a laboratory. They are sometimes referred to as “nature identical.” If you’re looking for an inexpensive scent, then fragrance oils fit the bill. But fragrance oils are not therapeutic grade essential oils and never will be.

From personal experience, I’ve learned that sniffing an essential oil right from the bottle and diluting it with a carrier oil such as sweet almond or jojoba, makes a huge difference. I smelled my favorite, vanilla absolute, a thick balsamic oil derived from the pod of the vanilla plant. I determined that the first whiff brought out the usual vanilla scent I was accustomed to, but a millisecond later there was a stronger, harsher scent. I then added a few drops to a bottle of sesame oil and the change was magnificent! I had the aroma I equated with the spicy-sweet scent of a dried vanilla bean pod. The carrier oil had combined perfectly with the essential oil!

You should always dilute essential oils in carrier oils when applying directly to the skin, or even in the bathtub. This is a necessary safety precaution. Essential oils are very strong and need to be diluted. Also, some essential oils [and fragrance oils] may smell good enough to drink, but are for EXTERNAL USE ONLY!

Basic Aromatherapy, Part 3 

Selling Your Soap at Craft Fairs & Farmer’s Markets

hollywood fruits nuts flakes soap
Hollywood Fruits, Nuts & Flakes Soap

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2014-2016

I’m no stranger to craft fairs and farmer’s markets as a customer. I’ve attended these types of events since I was a kid. They’re fun to go to and I know what to look for when shopping for soap and other bath and body products.

What initially attracts my attention is how the soap is displayed. Nice, neat rows of soap? Stacks of the stuff? Baskets, containers or little tubs brimming with it? Soap that needs to be cut for you like wheels of cheese [think Lush]. Soap loaves? Some shelves flaunting your soapy wares? For lots of brilliant examples, go to Google images and type in “soap displays for craft shows.” You’ll see loads of ideas in just the first few images.

The Scents of the Season

I’ve read and seen that there are certain scents that sell better in the warm weather than around Christmas or in cold weather. In warm weather, the trend is for lighter fragrances like florals, especially lilac, lily of the valley, sweet pea, anything with the word “blossom” in it, and fruity scents. Consider the fruits that ripen during the warmer months: Strawberries, peaches, watermelon, mangoes, papayas, blueberries, plums, etc. Vanilla is a warm aroma that is associated with baking but is good any time of year. You can’t go wrong with a fresh green herbal fragrance or one reminiscent of the garden, like mints, thyme, or rosemary. Then you have the perennial citrus favorites: lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. You’ll attract customers with fragrances that smell like the elements: ocean breeze, tropical rain, fragrant meadows, country roads, or forests.

In the fall and winter, the aromas are a little heavier. Say hello to pumpkin–that’s a perennial fall through Christmas favorite. And for Christmas, you’ll have candy cane/peppermint, eggnog, balsam, bayberry, cinnamon, Christmas tree/evergreen, mulberry, and frankincense and myrrh.

To Wrap or Not to Wrap?

Unwrapped soap, [naked soap], shows off the products to the fullest advantage. You can clearly see the size, color, and texture. The customer can get up close, and smell the aroma. The problem with naked soap is that it’ll be handled by anyone. Also, by not having labels people with allergies won’t see if it contains a potential problem ingredient. A label should be included with each soap whether it’s written on a chalkboard, printed on a sign, available on slips of paper or on the backs of business cards.

Which leads to how you bag your bars of soap. No matter what type of bag you use, always include a business card/flyer/brochure/postcard that has your vital stats like your website address, email, business address, phone number, and all-important company name. If you’re a wholesaler make sure that’s mentioned in your promotional literature. That customer might own a hotel, bed and breakfast, or shop that will be very interested in your products.

Free Samples!

Who doesn’t love free samples? I do, but I don’t expect them. Unfortunately, some people think you should not only provide freebies, but you should either give your soap away or offer substantial discounts. And they’ll come up with some pretty wacky reasons as to why they’re so privileged. Including little bars or slices of soap [along with your contact information] is a goodwill gesture. It often leads to more sales. It’s also recommended that you clearly label the name of the soap/product freebie along with a brief description. Lavender Soap is usually sufficient for people to figure out what it is, but that perennial kiddie favorite, Monkey Farts, might need a few keywords to explain that it’s a fruity or coconutty soap.

Pricing – Buy 3 get the fourth bar free or any variation that promises a free bar of soap will get me over to your booth in a flash! People enjoy getting bargains.

Soapmaker, Salesperson—or Both?

Standing behind a booth all day selling your wares can be a challenging to the more reserved soapmaker. However, you’re the expert. You know every aspect of your soaps from ingredients to oils to molds to packaging. Sometimes dealing with various personality types can be taxing. You’ll encounter the inevitable free sample trolls and the free recipe trolls. In other words, there will be people who want to do exactly what you do. You can’t control that. I’ve seen and read about this countless times. Just be polite and don’t indulge them.

Some soapers prefer having a salesperson do their work for them. Whether an employee, or a relative or friend, as long as they can effectively answer questions and promote your products. And please be a conscientious soaper that has extensive knowledge of your product along with lots of experience when it comes to making it! Many times, I’ve wandered into a crafting forum and seen newbies in despair over their soaping boo-boos that have come belatedly to their attention during a craft show. That includes soap that started as sapphire blue in the morning but the sunlight faded it to pale blue or even bone white. Soaper, know your products!

Another advantage soapmakers have by selling their wares at a public venue is the opportunity to meet customers and listen to their needs. You’ll see trends in fragrances. After the venue is over, take inventory and see what your hot sellers are and what doesn’t do as well. You might consider offering a special ordering service to those that want unfragranced soaps or palm-free soaps, etc. Perhaps you have many fragrances/essential oils that aren’t used in your current product line—if you have customized scenting you’ll attract new customers.

Whether you sell soap and supplement it with other products, packaging it in a gift basket is another way to attract interested customers – no matter what time of year.

Have lots of fun, sell lots of soap and know that you’re making the world a cleaner place one customer at a time!

Read more soapmaking stuff!

seaweed melt and pour soap recipe by lisa maliga

Seaweed Soap Recipe

By Lisa Maliga

copyright 2012-2017

seaweed melt and pour soap recipe by lisa maligaSeaweed Soap is fun and easy to make. This recipe was created due to loving anything oceanic! Dried seaweed contains lots of minerals so it’s good for you. It can be found at any Asian market. Nourishing extra virgin olive oil is suitable for all skin types. Lavender and lemon essential oils add a touch of zest and make this soap smell clean and fresh!

Ingredients:

32 ounces clear soap base

Dash of green mica

6-8 pieces dried seaweed

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1.5 teaspoons lemon essential oil

1 teaspoon lavender essential oil

Mold:

3 part Ziploc divided rectangle mold

Instructions:

Place broken up pieces of seaweed into mold. Slice the soap base into small cubes. Just before the soap is fully melted add the colorant, olive oil and essential oils. Stir well. Slowly pour into the molds. Spritz away bubbles with rubbing alcohol, or avoid this step for a more realistic looking soap. Allow soap to harden in fridge, freezer, or remain at room temperature. Remove from molds. Make sure soap is at room temperature before cutting and wrapping. You may want to cut the largest chunk of finished soap into 2 to 4 slices. A wavy edge soap cutter is recommended. Wrap in cling wrap and label.

From the eBook 12 Easy Melt and Pour Recipes

You can also watch the video:

 

The Prepper’s Guide to Soap Crafting and Soap Storage ~ Excerpt

prepper's guide to soap crafting and soap storage lisa maligaBy Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013-2016

Be the cleanest prepper around! Create your own lye-free soap or find the best type of soap to store in the coming years. Informative book shows the best ways to craft your own soap. You’ll receive original recipes and valuable storage tips to get the most out of your soap. Learn about natural melt and pour, hand-milled, African black soap and liquid soaps. Includes recommended reading and several supplier resources. The Prepper’s Guide to Soap Crafting and Soap Storage is written and photographed by the author of How to Make Handmade Shampoo Bars and The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting.

CHAPTER 3 

STORING YOUR SOAP BASE

Here are ways to get the most out of your soap base. First, some general use tips.

Your soap should be kept in a draining type of soap dish. Leaving any type of soap in a puddle of water in the shower, bathtub or next to the sink will drastically shorten its shelf life. The humidity will cause it to soften much faster. If you have a very small/humid enclosed type of bathroom, consider storing your soap in a separate room.

 Melt and Pour Soap Base

Here are some things you should know about melt and pour soap base, sometimes known as glycerin melt and pour soap base. It contains approximately 20% plant-derived glycerin, which makes it softer than other types of soap. This also means that it’s a moisture magnet. It should always be wrapped and stored in a cool, dry location. You can wrap in the original packaging, usually plastic wrap/shrink wrap, or a clamshell container. Additionally, it can be stored in a heavy-duty opaque plastic storage container. When I was crafting this type of soap I bought it in 40-pound blocks, which I cut into large chunks and kept in an airtight opaque plastic container. This was kept in the back of a closet so it was away from any harsh lighting conditions.

The Prepper’s Guide to Soap Crafting and Soap Storage is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.