Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why You Should Buy Handmade for the Holidays

There are a lot of reasons to buy handmade as opposed to mass produced, commercial items to give as gifts. As a maker of handmade items (soaps, lotions, and other bath goodies), it's important to me that I put my money where my mouth is and buy handmade for gifts during the holidays and throughout the year. I wanted to share with you some pieces from artists that I've met during my first year in business (and yes, I bought gifts from each one of them...even if some of the "gifts" were for myself!). If you're looking for some ways to shop local, support crafters, and show your gift recipients just how much careful thought you can put into that perfect gift, then read on.

I felt so passionate about buying handmade that I made an infographic about it.
If you knew the extent of my computering skills, you would be super impressed by that. 

Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios

Photo by Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios. Check out her Etsy shop!

I met Yuko at an event in Ballard this year, and just fell in love with her whimsical designs. From canvas tote bags, to tea towels, to original artwork, Yuko's offerings are functional, fun, and very giftable. Earlier this year I bought a printed notebook from her that I use at events for customers to sign up for my monthly newsletter (which you should totally click here and do right now because I'm about to send out the December newsletter with a really stellar coupon code in it!). Even though I'm really (really, really) bad about getting holiday cards out in the mail, I just bought some of Yuko's Holiday Greeting Cards knowing that I'll be much more likely to actually send them out so that I can share some gorgeous art with my family and friends!

Dan Lecocq of New Leaf Turnings

Photo by Dan Lecocq of New Leaf Turnings. Check out his Etsy shop!

Dan is another artist that I met recently at a holiday themed event. His wood working is so graceful and polished that his Wood Bottle Stoppers stood out in my mind weeks after the event was over as a gift idea for a wine-loving relative. In addition to the wine stoppers, he also makes some really sophisticated pens and bowls. Check out his Etsy site, or for more pictures click here.

Erika Slothower of Sassy Sloth Studios

Photo by Erika Slothower of Sassy Sloth Studios. Check out her Facebook page!

Erika and I met at an event this fall that was really...really...slow. With few customers stopping to smell my soap  or chat about the soap making process, I had a lot of time to look around at what the other vendors were up to. Erika's booth was right across the way from mine, and I absolutely adored her hand drawn tote bags. She does some amazing jewelry, woodwork, and coasters, too! When I was thinking about holiday gifts for a dear relative of mine who I find a little bit difficult to shop for, the gorgeous tote bags came to mind immediately. I contacted Erika on her Facebook page and she graciously did a custom order for me. That's one more holiday gift that I can cross off my list!

Heather Lea Garrick of Heather Lea Garrick Clothing

Photo by Heather Lea Garrick of Heather Lea Garrick Clothing. Check out her Etsy shop!

I met Heather at the same event that I met Yuko! I have to tell you that as a woman of, let's say, Rubenesque proportions (I have a few...ahem...dozen pounds to lose), I rarely browse handmade clothing. It's almost a given that whatever amazing work the artist is doing, it isn't going to fit me. Imagine my delight when I found out that Heather has a line of Voluptuous Yoga Clothing in addition to her other hand painted yoga tops, pants, and jackets! Right now I'm in love with her scarves, which would make a great holiday gift!

Here I am, selling soap in the hand painted shirt I bought from Heather (see it here in her Etsy shop!).

Now that you have some great handmade gift ideas, don't forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter for promo codes, insights into the soap making process, gift ideas, and more!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

6 Ways to Take a Pause from the Holiday Hustle

Between back-to-back craft shows, holiday shopping, custom soap orders, kid activities, and maintaining our house (or trying to), I've been incredibly busy these past few weeks! As my soap making business becomes more and more established, I really wanted to put as much time and effort in during this holiday season as possible. It's been quite a balancing act, too! I love this time of year, and with my kids so young and full of holiday spirit, I really want to savor this time with them. During a recent craft show I had a few slow minutes and started thinking about some of the ways that I like to take a quick pause when I start to feel overwhelmed with tasks, duties, and the regular juggling that comes with being a stay-at-home mom and and fledgling entrepreneur. Bonus: Each and every one of them can be enhanced with your favorite music! Here are some of my favorites (in no particular order).

1. Take a Bath

We had both of our bathrooms remodeled this last spring, which means that our ugly old pink abomination of a bathtub was replaced with a deeper, wider tub. Our new bathtubs have been my saving grace more times than I can count! I've found that there is very a little that a nice warm bath can't fix, and it's especially nice with additives. It sounds really olde time-y, but lately we've been really into using epsom salt in the bath. It's very inexpensive and easy to find at drug stores. Some essential oils for aromatherapy or bath tea would also be a nice, relaxing addition!

2. Breathe (or Meditate)

It's so simple, but sometimes I still have to remind myself to do it. Just breathe! If I ever have a block of time by myself, I like to listen to guided meditations like Meditainment. It's a cross between meditation and entertainment. See what they did there? It's a great way to make 20 minutes really count in my day. After I'm done, I feel more focused and relaxed. Plus, I love the way the English narrator says "meditative."

3. Enjoy Nature

This one is simpler than it sounds. It's doesn't require a 5 mile hike or special gear. It could be as simple as a stroll in your back yard, or taking a minute to appreciate the colors of the fall leaves. It instantly makes me feel more grounded when I stop to take care of my tiny little herb garden or notice that the chickadees are looking for a nesting spot near my deck. Bonus points for taking a walk and racking up some exercise!

4. Do Something for Others

This one is my favorite because it's so easy to do and makes me feel really good. There are opportunities to be of service to other humans everywhere. It doesn't mean that you have to make a huge cash donation or volunteer all of your time away (although those things are really nice, too!). Helping others could mean offering a genuine smile and some patience to a harried cashier, offering to help someone who looks like they could use a hand, donating something you don't need but that someone else might treasure. It all makes a difference!

5. Experience the Holidays Like the Kiddos Do

My kiddos are 3 and 7 this year. As cheesy as it sounds, I can't deny the joy that I get from watching them experience the magic of the holiday season. Watching them meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, putting up Christmas (and Hanukkah, and Festivus, and...basically we celebrate everything) decorations, and counting down the days until Winter Break from school is a proverbial youth tonic. Just remembering how awe inspiring my early Christmas experiences were makes me feel at peace.

6. Bring a Beverage

The weather is icky, you're crazy busy, and the holiday rush has you a little frazzled. You need a really great beverage! Water is always good (stay hydrated!), but it's the holidays, so you should treat yo' self to something really great. If you're into tea, this Caramel Popcorn Tea from Tea Guys comes highly recommended. Into something caffeinated? I tried a Lavender Honey Latte the other day that was downright transcendental. My go-to favorite is a nice Cabernet Sauvignon (this one is one of my local favorites right now), but if you're going for something a little more boozy, then really go for it with Hemingway's Daiquiri

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

SOAPen House & Promo Code from Antsquare

The holidays are coming right up, and I've been busy making, packaging, and selling my soaps. I have several upcoming events, but I think the one that I'm most excited about is one that I don't even have to leave home for! Next month I will be hosting a SOAPen House & Wine Tasting.

I'm having a consultant from Wine Shop at Home come in to do a guided wine tasting for me and my guests (I'm a big fan of wine, especially full bodied reds). While I plan to be doing more sipping and socializing than selling, my soaps will be available for sniffing and buying during the party.

During the SOAPen House I will be able to offer a discount code through the amazing Antsquare app that will give a $5 credit toward a purchase of any amount! With the deal that I'll be offering during the party, the offer will get you a free bar of soap!

A Little Bit About Antsquare

Antsquare is somewhat like Etsy in that it's a marketplace for makers and crafters. Where it differs is that its focus is connecting local buyers to local sellers, and it's ideal for in-person sales transactions. All you have to do is find the item that you're looking for on the Antsquare app and then complete the checkout process on your phone. You're then given the option to arrange a time and place with the seller to pick up your item. The app generates a pay code, which the seller scans, and then you're done! I've used Antsquare myself, and it's very intuitive and easy to use. There are also a number of really great local makers and crafters starting to pop up on the app. If buying local is a priority to you, I'd highly recommend checking it out!

You can download the app for Apple here or for Droids here.

So What About that Free Bar of Soap?

During the month of December, I can give you a promo code for $5 off of an order of any amount if you purchase locally using the Antsquare app (up to 20 customer transactions). You must make your purchase through Antsquare to get the $5 off! Here's how to get the deal:

  1. Install the Antsquare app on your smartphone. You can download the app for Apple here or for Droids here.
  2. Set up your account and add your credit card information. This part is really important. The promo code won't work if you don't have your entire profile set up with credit card info.
  3. Find my shop using the search function (it looks like a little magnifying glass in the upper right corner of your screen), Emily's Handmade Soaps.
  4. The first item I have listed is a Christmas-themed soap with a little Santa Claus on it that says "December Deal!" This will give you the option of choosing bars of soap for $5.00 each (or buying 4 and getting a fifth bar for free). Just enter the number of bars that you'd like (don't enter the free one) and let me know which varieties you would like. My soap inventory is always up to date on my Etsy site if you'd like to browse to see what's in stock.
  5. Select a pickup time. If we're face-to-face while you're completing the transaction, you can enter any time you wish. By default, I have my pickup/dropoff location listed as Marine View Espresso, but I'm happy to meet at other locations.
  6. After choosing a time, I'll give you the promo code for $5 off to enter and you can confirm the purchase. 
I'll be available during my SOAPen House to assist you with the process. It's easier than it sounds after you see it in action. Big thanks to Antsquare for providing the promo code, and yet another way for local buyers and sellers to connect!

Monday, October 26, 2015

5 Lessons Learned From the First Year of My Craft Business

When I opened my Etsy shop on October 25, 2014, I was really clueless as to what the next year would hold in store for me and my fledgling business. Feeling absolutely terrified about what the future might hold for me and my soaps, I added a small text file to the desktop of my laptop entitled 'To Emily, From Emily.' I wrote a few short, simple sentences that have come to guide me over and over during the past year. Every time I open the file, I take a deep breath while I read it and feel more grounded and ambitious after having absorbed it. It reads:
Your soap is awesome.
Your business is an evolving work in progress.
You are brave to put yourself out there, and your craft will go through many iterations over time.
Perfect your craft, have fun, be amazing.
Those few words have given me comfort when I've had doubts, confidence when I've felt vulnerable, and motivation when I've just wanted to throw in the towel. My little mantra is one thing that worked in my business over this past year, and I've also found plenty of things that didn't work. Upon reflection, I've come up with five lessons that I've solidly learned over the past year. I feel like a better soap maker, artist, and business owner for going through this process, and it's really impacted my personal life in a positive way as well.

1. Don't Sweat the Competition

It's easy to be intimidated by another crafter's work, whether it's soap making, jewelry, painting, or what have you. Over the past year I've found that every time I start focusing on someone else's work, my own work suffers. That's why I have chosen to focus on taking my own craft to the next level, and not worry about what others are doing. There will probably always be someone out there who I think is doing a better job than I am, and I will never be able to control that. What I can control is the quality and artistry of my own products.

(Donna Maria Coles Johnson from Indie Business Network has a series of podcasts available to non-members like me, and one specifically addresses competition. I highly recommend checking it out!)

2. Embrace Rejection

I applied to a couple of the largest local craft extravaganzas in the Seattle area this year, and was rejected by both of them. Although competition is incredibly stiff for both markets, it was a blow to my ego. After I moped for a few days, I took a good hard look at my show applications and tried to see my company and products from an outsider's perspective. I also ordered soap from other soap makers that these shows invite back year after year to find out where I was going wrong. I should have referred to #1 above!

The first thing that I found in trying out my competitors products was that mine were just as good, maybe better (it's all subjective) than my competitors. I was relieved, but not necessarily surprised. I research, test, and labor over my soap recipes, and have earned many repeat customers over this past year, but it was nice to have personal validation that my soap is just as good as the competition's. 

The second and most important thing that I learned was that I believe my barriers to the larger shows largely lie in branding, which is an area I intend to focus on in the early part of next year. With product quality on parity with the big dogs, I know that marketing, branding, and packaging my products in a more distinctive, consistent way will really increase my soap's appeal. It's difficult to recognize your own shortcomings. Not only am I too close to my business to look at it objectively all the time, but it's hard to admit that some areas of the business could use some work. I learned that rejection is a gift because it turns painful situations into meaningful growth.

3. Oh, the People You'll Meet

One thing that I didn't expect when I began my business was the amazing people I'd meet along the way. From other vendors and craftspeople to members of my community, I feel like I've met more new people in the past year than probably the past five years combined. Not only have I met people, but I've discovered a community. I have been fortunate to be able to connect with the people in my geographical community through vending at the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market, but I have also discovered a community of crafters, makers, and vendors.

Crafters and makers are artists and businesspeople. They create, they travel, they make deals. I've been so inspired by the business acumen of some, the networking genius of others, and the kindness and generosity of most. Through other vendors and crafters I have been introduced to many business opportunities that I wouldn't have had otherwise. 

4. The Bottom Line

A craft business is as much about accounting and record keeping as it as about crafting some days. Other days, more so. I'm fortunate to have a background in financial services and lots of exposure to small business ownership, so this part is as enjoyable as crafting soap to me. A craft business, like any other business, is not just about managing your money, but also about leveraging your time and energy. I have had to make some hard decisions with my time and money over the past year. For me, that meant passing on a huge wholesale order at razor slim profit margins in order to focus on local shows and the retail aspect of my business over the holiday season.

Managing my limited time also means that sometimes my business is on the back burner as I run my kids to and from school, take a few days off to visit my parents, or have date night with my husband. At the end of the day, the proverbial "bottom line" is important to sustaining a business, but the business won't last without a serious dose of work-life balance. I've learned how important it is to make business fit into my life, not live my life around a business.

5. For the Love of the Craft

My sales channels aside from the Etsy site include craft shows, fundraising events, and farmers markets. The first few times I had a slow day with few sales I nearly panicked. Having worked for many years in the financial services industry, I immediately started running dismal sales projections in my head. I've learned over this past year that those days always seem to even out with the days that have me grinning from ear to ear as I count out the daily sales. At first it was a big rush to make a sale, but I've come to realize that I don't just attend these venues to sell, sell, sell. I do it because I love to make soap and geek out about it with people who appreciate the artistry that goes into it. It's because I love to be a part of the festive atmosphere. It's because I love to meet other makers who are passionate about their work. It's because it makes me a little bit scared to be "out there," and that makes me grow as a person. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Adventures in Alternative Soap Making Liquids: Whiskey Soap!

Whiskey in soap!? Yup! I'm a big fan of sprucing up regular soap with liquids other than just distilled water. While I keep my soaps primarily vegan, I still manage to spice things up from time to time using liquids in my soap like coffeehandmade almond milkrose wateroat milk, and even beer.

Recently I had the opportunity to sell my soap at a fundraising event that was held inside of a local winery and a whiskey distillery. My table setup was inside the distillery, 2bar Spirits. I had the opportunity to visit with the owner, Nathan Kaiser about his distillery and the process. It turns out that 2bar is the only distillery in Seattle that makes its own bourbon from start to finish right here!

Selling soap at 2bar Spirits in Seattle.

Boiling down the bourbon into a syrup to
remove the alcohol. 
So what does this have to do with making soap, you ask? We got to talking about soap making, and Nathan was kind of enough to give me some of the char from the whiskey distillation process. I figured if I could make soap with activated charcoal, why not try whiskey char?

First, I boiled the whiskey down to a syrup to remove the alcohol. I know, it's a horrible thing to do to such tasty bourbon. I only used the bourbon for 20% of my soap making liquids, and did a small test batch, so rest assured that only a small amount of bourbon was harmed in the soap making process.

I ground up the whiskey "char"
by hand with a mortar and pestle.
I added the bourbon to my soap batter, half expecting what we soap makers like to call "soap on a stick." It's a fun little euphemism for when an additive to your soap batter thickens it to a point that you can no longer stir it and it clings to your spoon or stick blender. Thus, soap on a stick. We hate it when that happens!

I was pleasantly surprised that my soap stayed fluid, so I was able to implement the next part of my plan. I had already ground up some of the whiskey "char" in my trusty mortar and pestle. The char was still a little bit wet because it was from a fresh batch, so I don't think that I ground it up as finely as I would have liked. I added the ground char to about half of the batch of whiskey soap, and voila! 

Since this was such a small test batch, I only made about two bars of each soap iteration. Now I'm anxiously awaiting a good cure (about four weeks) so that I can try it out!

Bourbon Soap!

As for other alternative liquids to try in soap, I really want to try wine next. It's been reported to have some benefits to the skin, although how much it benefits the skin in skincare products is really debatable. I also have plans to try out some coconut milk in my soaps. What alternative liquids would you try in a skincare product?

P.S. If you're a bourbon aficionado, I highly recommend 2bar. These days I'm a lightweight, but before I had kids, I used to drink Manhattans like they were soda, so trust me when I say that I know a good bourbon when I taste one!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Holiday Events and Exciting News!

With fall in full swing, I've been super busy filling my calendar with holiday markets and events. I have really enjoyed being a regular at the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market this season, which ends on October 31. I can't express how good it feels to be a part of such a dynamic and positive community! It's been so fulfilling to get to know new friends and neighbors in my little town as they stop by my booth to take a sniff of my newest soaps and goodies. There is no bigger compliment to a soap maker than repeat business, and so many local customers have supported me and my business by coming back again and again for more soap. Thank you so much! Your confidence and support mean the world to me!

If you're local to the Seattle area and looking for Emily's Handmade Soaps during the farmers market off-season, check out my Upcoming Markets & Events page, which I'll be updating feverishly as I confirm more and more events.

My Facebook page recently reached the 300 likes milestone! While I keep my social media accounts and blog up to date, I find that Facebook is my go-to channel for keeping customers informed on new soaps, deals, events, and articles. I decided to do a little giveaway at the 300 likes mark, which happened so fast that I didn't even have time to post it on the blog! Congratulations to Donna R. from Utah who made out with two soaps of her choice, and a lovely wooden soap dish made by Chris Howell of Howell's Products. (Psst! Chris also makes some really cool sets of natural wood toy building blocks, if you have any kiddos to shop for this holiday season.)

Now, for some really exciting news! South Sound Magazine has published an article about Emily's Handmade Soaps in the October/November edition! I can't tell you what a thrill it is to see my soap and my story in print. There's even an adorable picture of me with my kids in the article!

South Sound Magazine's October/November edition. I'm on page 101!

The article hasn't hit their website yet, but rest assured that I'll share it as soon as it's available. In the meantime, check out the 'Sweet Scents' article starting on page 101. (P.S. There's a coupon code in the article that's good until the end of the year, so it's perfect for saving a few bucks on those holiday gifts!)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Autumn Soap Preview

I just got my second grader off to school, and my preschooler starts next week. The leaves are turning, my sweaters are out of their summer hiding place, and the crock pot is fired up. That's right, it's almost Autumn! I've crafted some soaps in seasonal favorite scents this year in honor of my favorite season.

Autumn themed soaps!

My Perfect Pumpkin soap is an obligatory autumn scent, but is anything but basic! I included real organic pumpkin puree in the soap for a little something extra. If you didn't already know, pumpkin is full of skin-loving goodness like alpha hydroxy acids, antioxidant Vitamins A and C, and Vitamin E.

I've also added some rustic hot process Apple Spice rounds to my lineup. These bucolic beauties fit well in the hand and have hints of spicy cinnamon. Apple Spice is my husband's recent favorite, so I can say with some confidence that the guys in your life will love this one, too!

Apple Cider and Fall Harvest soaps round out the seasonal selection. The Apple Cider is a sweet, feminine apple scent that I can easily see being a year-round favorite. Fall Harvest has a light scent with hints of apple, hints of pumpkin, and a tinge of earthiness to replicate the seasonal experience. I designed it with flecks of gold and brown that are meant to bring swirling fall leaves to mind.

From left to right: Fall Harvest, Apple Cider, Perfect Pumpkin, and Apple Spice.

These new soaps will be hitting my Etsy shop in the next few weeks. Now that cooler weather is upon us, I'll also be adding more bath products to my collection. Be on the lookout for more bath bombs and other bath goodies in the coming weeks!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words

Inspired by Joanna Schmidt's blog, The Soap Bar, I have been working on enhancing my photography skills. Joanna is the owner of an awesome company called Mad Oils, which is a great source for colorants, essential and fragrance oils, and other soap making goodies. If you're into soap making or DIY beauty, I'd highly recommend them!

I'll start by saying that I am a far better soap maker than photographer, but pictures are incredibly important in selling and marketing my soap! I'm really trying to enhance my photography skills, and while I have a long (loooooong) way to go, I think my pictures are gradually improving! Here are some of my recent favorites. What do you think? Artistic or cheesy?

Oooh, is someone about to wash their hands with my lovely Apple Rose soap?

I feel like Ned Stark should be somberly telling us that Autumn is coming.
This is my Apple Orchard Lotion Bar.

Okay, so I was fresh out of Sunflowers for my Sunflower Lotion Bar. A daisy will work in a pinch, right?

Extreme soapy closeup of my Bergamot and Mandarin soap.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Natural Colorants

In my Soap au Naturale post I talked about using more natural ingredients in my handmade soap. I've been experimenting, and I'm back to report on some natural colorants that I've been playing with.

Green: Parsley, Spirulina Powder

As I mentioned in this post, dried parsley flakes can make a lovely green in cold process soap. I usually grind my own parsley with a mortar and pestle, so there can be some green specks of parsley in the finished soap. I like that it adds character and visual interest to the soap. The green color from the parsley fades over time. You can see in the picture how the vibrant green has faded to a more muted tone after 4 months. Please take into account that the pictures are taken on different wooden surfaces, with different natural lighting.

Parsley as colorant, a couple of weeks after making the soap.

Parsley as a colorant after 4 months has faded, but is still a lovely shade of green.

I decided to give spirulina powder a try, but found that the fading is even more pronounced than with the parsley. Spirulina is extremely sensitive to sunlight, so the fading began almost immediately. All of my soaps are cured in my home office on paper towel lined shelves that are adjacent to a curtained window. My Ginger Lime soap wasn't exposed to direct sunlight, but the lovely olive green color still faded significantly. I really like the effect with this scent combination, but I was disappointed with how finicky the spirulina powder was in terms of color retention. The verdict for natural green colorants? Back to the drawing board!

Spirulina powder can make a lovely olive green...

...that is extremely photosensitive.

Pink/Red: Madder Root Powder, Rose Kaolin Clay

For pink and red hues, madder root powder is an incredibly versatile colorant. By varying the amount that I use, I can achieve a soft pink as shown in the middle layer of my Flora soap or the more vibrant shade in my Strawberries & Champagne soap.

The middle layer is colored with madder root powder for a soft pink.

Madder root powder can also create a more dramatic pink, as shown here in my Strawberries & Champagne soap.

Another go-to colorant for softer shades of pink is rose kaolin clay. Clays are easy to work with and this one creates a spectrum of pinks. I prefer it for softer, pastel type colors, as shown in my Love Spell soap, but it also worked well for brighter shades like the one in my Cranberry, Fig & Orange soap.

The pastel pink color shown here is rose kaolin clay and the orange is orange illite clay.

Rose kaolin clay was used for the pink tones in my Cranberry, Fig & Orange soap.

Purple: Alkanet Root Powder

I think that alkanet root powder has been my favorite of the new colorants that I have worked with. It's versatile, easy to work with, and the tones that it creates are absolutely lovely. It can range from a greyish purple to a deep purple hue depending on usage. I used a lesser amount in my Flora soap below on the left to make a soft lavender, but went for a more dramatic look in my Lavender Rosemary soap on the right in the picture below.

Alkanet root powder made the lavender shade on the left and the deep purple on the right.

Yellow/Orange: Turmeric, Orange Illite Clay

Turmeric has come to be a versatile staple in my soap colorant arsenal. A little bit goes a long way, so I can choose if I'd like the hue to be more of a a light buttercream yellow (as seen on the right side of the the picture below in my Flora soap) or a deeper yellow as shown in my Lemongrass Litsea soap below on the left. Turmeric can also be used for a nice bright orange color.

Turmeric made the yellow accents on the left, and also the pale yellow on the right.

I also used parsley in the Lemongrass Litsea soap on the left, leaving speckles of parsley in the mix for visual interest. Over time the overall green of the parsley colorant will fade, but the speckles will retain a bit more color.

Orange Illite clay is another versatile clay that can create orange tones ranging from pastel to a dramatic, almost brick like color. I used orange illite in my Love Spell soap shown above for a lighter shade.

More Natural Colorants to Try!

I have a laundry list of techniques, colorants, essential oils, and fragrances that I want to work with in my soaping world, and the next one is activated charcoal. It makes a deep black color, and is sought after in skin care products due to its ability to absorb undesirable elements from your skin, among other benefits. I'm also looking forward to experimenting with indigo powder, which produces blues along the same spectrum as traditional blue jeans.

As a consumer, does it make a difference to you whether the colorants in your skincare products are natural?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tutorial: DIY Cuticle Oil

I have a confession. I used to be a terrible, terrible nail biter. A down to the quick, blood letting, compulsive nail biter. I finally stopped about ten years ago when I started taking better care of my nails, but I still have to stop myself from nibbling on my cuticles from time to time. So what does this have to do with soap?! Being a soap maker, I always have a supply of various oils and butters in stock for making soaps and other projects. When I ran out of my expensive, salon-purchased cuticle oil a few months ago I almost panicked until I realized that I had everything I needed to make my own!

Making your own Cuticle Oil is easy!

Tutorial: DIY Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oil is incredibly easy to make. It's just a combination of skin loving oils that are mixed together and applied to your nails and cuticles as needed (I would recommend applying 1-2 times daily). My cuticle oil is really simple, and only contains four ingredients:

Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet almond oil is an emollient, meaning that it helps to soften and soothe the skin. It's an excellent oil for use in moisturizing the skin around the cuticle, which can often get dry or brittle since it locks moisture into the skin. Sweet almond oil is derived from - you guessed it - ALMONDS, so please exercise caution if you have nut allergies. 

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil isn't actually an oil, it's a liquid wax. Jojoba oil is very close in molecular structure to our skin's natural oil, sebum. It's very moisturizing and has a really lovely skin feel.

Rice Bran Oil

Rice bran oil is another moisturizing powerhouse, and even contains high levels of Vitamin E. Rice bran oil also contains squalene, which is a natural moisturizer that is also found in sebum. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is naturally produced by the skin, but this powerful antioxidant can also be used topically for very dry skin. 


Yields approximately 1 ounce
  • 12 grams Sweet Almond Oil
  • 8 grams Jojoba Oil
  • 4 grams Rice Bran Oil
  • 1 gram Vitamin E
  • 1-2 drops skin-safe essential oil (I like Litsea Cubeba, but Lavender is nice, too)
Use a digital scale to weigh you ingredients, then combine them and store in an airtight container. I like to use small glass vials with a roller ball attached like the ones here, which are pictured below.

Making cuticle oil!

The vials I use hold 0.33 ounces, so I use a small dropper to fill them. As long as water is not introduced to your oil mixture, your cuticle oil should last for several months.

Of course, if you're not a DIY type, you're always welcome to try some of the cuticle oil that I make myself! Make sure to use coupon code PIN10 at checkout for 10% off of your order. 

Did you try this recipe out? Comment below and let me know what you thought!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Opening Day at the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market

What an amazing beginning to the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market season! The weather was a perfect 80 degrees and sunny (which is a real treat here in the Pacific Northwest), the live music was lively, and the people who were out shopping were so incredibly friendly (click here for more pics of the market, courtesy of the Waterland Blog). Sales were steady all day, and of course, I love to geek out about my soap when people ask questions about how it's made!

Opening day at the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market, 2015

My biggest sellers at the market were Beer Soap (I think a lot of people were doing some early Father's Day shopping!), Lemongrass, my exfoliating Espresso Soap, and the ever-popular favorite, Oatmeal Honey.

Beer Soap makes a great Father's Day gift!

One of my absolute favorite things about being at the market was getting to interact with the other vendors. I had an incredibly delicious fish taco from one of the food trucks, the Fish Basket. I also had the pleasure of meeting another Emily who makes delicious chocolates and gourmet treats. She was so sweet, and even brought me some chocolatey samples. Can I just say that people who bring me surprise chocolate are among my favorite people in the world?!

I think that the coolest thing about the market experience was having my family help me out. My husband helped to load/unload and set up, and my kids even got into the spirit of helping. It's such a warm feeling to see my whole family working together to support me and help to make the event memorable and successful. After the market we soaked up some sunshine (and wine for me!) on the deck and relaxed. I'm looking forward to doing it all over again in two weeks!

Two of my market day helpers, relaxing after a long day in the sunshine.

My strong little man was such a great helper at the market!

Friday, May 29, 2015

The GIVEWAY Winner Is...

Today's the day! I finally get to draw a winner's name at random for my Wake Up and Smell the Soap Giveaway.

Breakfast-themed soap trio

My winner is Kim Benefiel! She'll receive my breakfast-themed soap trio, including Cappuccino CoffeeOatmeal Honey, and Grapefruit Orange soaps. I've known Kim for probably 20 years, and I'm so glad that the soaps are going to such a cool lady. Congrats, Kim!

Thanks so much to everyone who commented on my blog or participated via Facebook! Use coupon code SOAPBLOG on my Etsy shop for 15% off of your order.

I'm off to prepare for the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market next weekend. It's going to be a wonderful, busy summer!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Wake Up and Smell the Soap!

Anyone with who remembers going to school (or has school aged kids like I do) can attest to the fact that the last few weeks of the school year seem to I can't help but fantasize with gusto about warm summer days (it only gets "hot" in the Pacific Northwest about one week out of every year) sleeping in, lazing about on my deck, reading trashy lengthy books, sipping sauv blanc while the kiddos run amok in our back yard. Alas, we still have 17 more school days of early mornings, homework, and routine (not that I'm counting).

To galvanize our collective mornings during these last few days of Spring, I thought that now would be the perfect time for a Wake Up and Smell the Soap! giveaway.

Wake Up and Smell the Soap!

I've hand picked three of my favorite breakfast-inspired soaps to help wake you up before you go-go! The winner will receive one each of my Oatmeal Honey Soap (available scented or unscented), Grapefruit Orange, and Cappuccino Coffee soaps.

C'mon, You know you want them in your shower.

There are 4 ways to enter:
  1. Place an order on my Etsy shop or by contacting me directly at!
  2. Comment on this blog post about which fragrances you'd like to see in my shop
  3. Like my Facebook page
  4. Share my Facebook page status about the Wake Up and Smell the Soap! giveaway

I'll pick a name at random and announce the winner at Noon (Pacific time) on Friday, May 29, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Stay clean!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Big News and Mother's Day at the Ocean!

I'm so excited to announce that I'll be vending at the Des Moines Waterfront Farmer's Market this summer! I'll be there every other week this summer, beginning on Saturday, June 6 (see the full list of dates here). I can't even put into words how elated I am to be able to bring my soaps to a regular market in my own home town. Not only do I get to do what I love, I get to do it in my own back yard!

This past Mother's Day weekend was a whirlwind! We set out to Ocean Shores, Washington (about a 2 hour drive from our house near Seattle) for the 2-day Shoppin' at the Shore event late on Friday night. My family wanted to spend Mother's Day with me, so not only was I hauling soap to the shore, I was also hauling my husband and two kids! It felt so special to be "working" (I feel guilty calling it "work," since I enjoy making and selling soap so much) knowing that my family was nearby having fun at the beach. I have to give a huge shout-out to my husband, who carried all of those heavy totes filled to the brim with soap for me. My hero!

My kiddos "helping" me sell soap on Mother's Day

I feel like I learn so much about this business and the sales process with each new event that I attend. With the farmer's market coming up, I'm really focusing on tweaking my booth setup, which is always a work in progress. The farmer's market setup will be quite different, and will include a 10x10 canopy and an extra table. I've also ordered a full sized banner for the event. It's going to be so cool to have a backdrop with my company name on it!

Booth setup is always a work in progress.

The Shoppin' at the Shore event had a steady stream of customers and visitors, and the time seemed to just fly by! It's so much fun to network at these events with fellow crafters and vendors. It's funny how some soap fragrances are hot sellers in one market, but not at the next. My Cappuccino Coffee soap and Beer soap were great sellers at my last market, but sales were just lukewarm last weekend. People absolutely loved my Lavender, Lemongrass and Litsea, and Apple Rose soaps this weekend!

After a long weekend I came home, had a glass of wine, and immediately got back to work! After all of that selling, it's fun to get back to actually making the soap. I did another batch of Lemongrass (since I ran completely out this weekend). I'm also trying a new fragrance combo, Double Mint! It's made with peppermint and spearmint essential oils. My husband says that he thinks that it smells like gum (okay, maybe a little), but I think that people will really respond to the minty freshness of it. Hey, it seems to work for Dr. Bronner!

Lemongrass and Doublemint Soaps in the molds

If you like my soap pics, check me out on Facebook at I post soapy pics and anecdotes about my misadventures almost daily!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pics From the Drying Rack, Part 3

Whew! It's been a busy month preparing for a couple of craft shows, a new wholesale account, and a new eCommerce partnership (hopefully more details on that soon!). I'm also crossing my fingers as I wait to see if I was accepted as a vendor at my local farmer's market. I feel like so many plans are up in the air right now, but I'm enjoying creating new soaps, bath bombs, and lotion bars every day.

Here are some current pics from my drying rack:

My Lemongrass Litsea soap looks like it's making googly eyes at you!

A sea of Lavender soap. An oldie, but goodie.

Pure Rain Soap. I ordered this fragrance based on its description online, only to find out that it's a Lever 2000 knockoff.. It's a lovely scent, but I'm not sure how I feel about that...

Calendula Oat Milk Soap

Champagne and Strawberries Soap

I have back-to-back weekend shows coming up in May! If you're local to Washington state, I'd love to see you at either event (or both!). Make sure to mention that you read my blog, and there may be some freebies in it for you.

The first show, the 2nd Annual Shoppin' at the Shore is over Mother's Day Weekend in Ocean Shores, WA. My husband and kids are coming with me so that they can "help," and spend part of the day with me. Being a mom means so much to me.

The following weekend is another special date for me, since the Shabby & Sew Much Mor Vintage Spring Market will be my first ever event in my own town of Des Moines, WA. I'm hoping that it will be the first of many, but we'll wait to see what the farmer's market has to say about that. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin