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Feb 16 2016

Soapmaking: From fascination to passion and beyond

100_5189-soap-paste-300pxOften times I am asked, “What got you interested in, or made you start, making soap?”  Valid question.  I often wonder the same thing about fellow soapmakers and other crafters.  The stories tend to be quite interesting and vary from one to another.
Of course, sometimes similar themes are there:  Non-toxic alternative to the mass-produced chemicals that causes so many problems with the health of our skin.  That’s a pretty big deal, no doubt.  But aside from that and reasons like it, what is it about making soap that draws us to the craft?
Well, I can’t speak for others of course, but for me…soapmaking has always held a certain interest.  Perhaps because it’s one of those “old-timey” traditions that has always captivated me from days past.  Can you imagine what life must have been like back in those days?  Not only when you made your own soap, but your own lye as well?  And made your own lumber, and homes, and clothes, and shoes, and butter, and jerky, and tools, and…?  When self-sufficiency was not only king, but a “must” to survive?
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Another aspect of soapmaking I’ve always found interesting is the chemistry of it.  Well really, chemistry in general.  I had no problems whatsoever playing the role of a “mad scientist” when I was a kid.  I was always mixing stuff together just to see what would happen, and then hiding the experiment in my closet.  At least until the smell found me out.  Or until I got rid of it on my own.  😉  Yep!  My mom can attest to some of my crazy concoctions, sometimes simply out of pure convenience.  Like the brand new bottle of shampoo, bag of sugar, and salt that she left out after a shopping excursion and that I just had to dump out all over the table and swirl together the next morning.  I had an accomplice.  My little brother and I had our hands all in the stuff.  But truth be known, I was probably the instigator.  You know how these things work.
Ahem.  Well.  My mama was not happy.  We had gotten that stuff everywhere! She managed to get it all cleaned up with several towels, threw them in the washing machine and, without thinking, added laundry detergent!  The washing machine quickly overflowed with a sudsy mess.  Oooooooohh!  My mama was not happy with meeeee!!!!
IMG_0933-making-liquid-soap-paste-300pxNowadays I am a lot more productive when I mix things together.  Or at least a little smarter about it.  🙂
Soapmaking has come a long way in the last century, decades, and even last few years.  There is a process for making lye now that is a much more consistent product, which means much more consistent results.  Chemistry has taught us more about the process and what each material/ingredient will do and the properties it will impart into the resulting soap.  So much more is known now!
Soapmaking has become quite a creative outlet too.  It’s not just practical anymore.  It’s a craft.  An art.  Yet another outlet of creative expression, but still a very practical and necessary consumable product.  And perhaps that is the draw for many people that are fascinated and passionate about making soap today.  The creative outlet and expression.
There are so many visual techniques:  Swirls, stripes, embeds, pencil lines, textures, shapes, etc.  And there are tons of different fragrances and colors and natural colorants.  There are a vast amount of additives you could use, depending on what you want in the final bar of soap:  Herbal oil infusions, goat’s milk, coconut milk, activated charcoal, clays, herbs, teas, purees, oatmeal, pumice or other exfoilliant, and on and on.  So many possibilities!  And did I mention there’s bar soap, cream soap, liquid soap, foam soap, and “croap” (a cross between a solid soap and a cream soap, primarily used as a shaving soap)?  Oh my!
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So where do I fall?  <giggle>  Well, wouldn’t you know it?!  I fall on both sides!  I am fascinated by the chemistry of it.  I have always liked to learn how things work and how they’re made.  I am also very creative, so I love being able to introduce color and scent and other things into a batch of soap and make it my own.  I love experimenting and making a quality product that not only my family enjoys using, but that my customers also enjoy using. (And can’t live without…hey, I’ve got your back.)
There is no greater compliment than when a customer comes back because they love using the products I make, and when they tell me and others about how wonderful they think those products are.  So to all my awesome and fantabulous customers out there, thank you so much for allowing me to share my passion and my creativity with you.  Without your support, I could not continue.