Thursday, July 3, 2008

Catching Up Again

Well, it's pretty bad when my visitors have to remind me to post, eh? I've just been swamped lately with family and work stuff. I've added Plumeria handmade soap back into my Etsy shop, plus some new soaps: Celtic Moonspice, Lemon Verbena, Cuppa Chai, Sandalwood Patchouli and Vanilla Amber. I've got even more fragrances to soap (Stella, Kerala Spice Amber) and have got to reign in my fragrance oil jones. It's a sad thing when you know your VISA number, expiration date and security code by heart.

Coming soon from the curing rack -- Herb Garden, Watermelon Herb Granita, Cannabis Rose (seriously!), Love Spell and Beer Soap made from Samuel Adams Cream Stout. Yeah, it was hard to sacrifice a bottle of the Sam Adams for soaping, but this soap is so fantastic, lots of lather and the sweet smell of hops with a titch of bay rum for the boys!

My son, Geoff, has been studying martial arts since he was 5 and has two black belts already in USA Karate and Aikido. For the past year he's been taking Brazilian jiu jitsu from instructors who have studied with the Gracie family, the ones who started this particularly effective school of jiu jitsu. Here is Geoff in his new gi, trying to look superbaaaad.

Only 6 more weeks or so until our Vicky goes off to USF. She's busy working every day and out partying every night. We barely see her anymore but she's under our roof to sleep, do laundry and eat (occasionally). It's going to be so hard when she goes off to college. I don't know how I'm going to stand it. Thankfully, it's only a 2-1/2 hour drive up there.

I've been trying to post more in the Etsy forums to make my presence known there. Lots and lots of people are selling B&B products! I have seen so many people jumping on the soapmaking bandwagon and just selling the first batches of soap ever, not testing it or perfecting their craft. People who want to make salves and make outrageous healing claims who haven't even ordered their supplies yet. People selling hot process soap the day after they make it, instead of letting it harden up and dry out.

It gives me the willies to think of the risks some of these imprudent newbies present to buyers and to themselves, in terms of liability. There's folks selling jewelry or potholders who suddenly want to add powerful essential oils to M&P soap and sell it as dog or cat shampoo, who have no idea how bad tea tree oil can be for cats, especially. People who think grapeseed extract is a "natural preservative" and they don't need to put a real preservative in hydrous products. People who don't list all the ingredients in their products and who clearly don't even know what's in the stuff they're selling.

It honestly scares the crap out of me. It reduces the credibility of real soapmakers if they sell inferior junk that melts in the soap dish in 2 days or burns the hell out of someone's skin because they didn't get their lye calculation right or someone's cat has a seizure from licking itself after being bathed with the nice free cat shampoo bar they received with their earrings.

Listen, it's not about competition. I don't care about competition. I'm not trying to put Dial out of business. I want to make and sell a certain amount of soap, I'm not killing myself. But what I'm seeing more and more is carelessness and greed, an underestimation of the amount of experience and skill it takes to make good, safe soap and other body products. It's making me want to be snarky in my forum posts and often I have to bite my tongue.

Yeah, making soap isn't rocket science, but it takes a good long while to get it right enough that you'd charge someone else for it. I made soap for over a year, several times a week, before I sold any of mine. I have a soaping journal I've kept from day one in 2000, in which I record every batch I've made, the ingredients, how the soap reacted to the fragrance, any acceleration or discoloration or other problems, etc. I'm on Volume 2 now, hundreds and hundreds of pages of documentation I can refer back to if needed. I've thrown a lot of soap away because it clearly wasn't good enough. I didn't rebatch it and stick it up on Etsy the next day.

I guess everyone who takes their craft seriously is offended by people who don't. I wish there was a guild system in place where new soapmakers had to be mentored or serve as apprentices for a certain period of time before being allowed to sell their products. That's not going to happen though. In the meantime, my best advice to anyone who wants to make soap or other B&B products is to go to the Soap Dish forum and start reading from page one. Learn and absorb. Get honest feedback. Be humble. And don't sell crap you just made yesterday for the first time.


Jennifer said...

I'm sorry, who did you say that man is in the picture? ;) It's been fun catching up with the "kids".

Couldn't agree with you more on the Etsy B&B products. Maybe I haven't seen it, but it would be great if Etsy had a "preferred sellers" kind of thing where they factored in both date joined and feedback.

Theresa said...

Hey Stephanie, great to see you post! Wow, your son is quite an achieved martial arts man! He's so tall too!! They grow up so fast! Take care!

Stephanie said...

I can hardly believe that big guy is my "baby!" I can hardly believe I am now the shortest person in my family, either :D

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you on the issue with newbie soapmakers. I happen to be a newbie myself, and I'm not even ready to sell any soap at this stage of the game. You should have seen my earliest batches; they were the absolute worst bars that I have ever made -- I didn't even use an accurate scale when I got started!

Even after four months, there's still a lot to learn, and it would be incredibly stupid for me to open up a shop just yet.

Those poor customers...