Monthly Archives: May 2012

Foamy News

Bits and pieces I want to be sure to share with people!

  1. First the sad news: My supplier for Red Currant and Thyme fragrance has discontinued it. I have a bit of the soap and of the fragrance (for making other products) left, so it’s not gone yet, but its days are  numbered. I’ve got my eye out for a replacement, but preliminary searches haven’t been promising. But Pomegranate & Black Currant soap is coming soon, and there are several other fruity scents of not-entirely-dissimilar profiles already in the lineup, so the lack of a(n immediate) replacement is not so much of a problem as it might be.
  2. I just got a huge shipment of fragrances on Tuesday, as well as that new mold I posted about last week! I’m so excited, and can’t wait for the next soaping day.
  3. Due to Etsy changing some of its rules, the Foam on the Range store now has adjusted the available quantities for items upward. It’s still not a hard limit – I can usually get you more than the quantity listed – but for people who want to buy two or three of a given thing, the new changes should really streamline your shopping experience.
  4. Our air conditioner is finally fixed! Praise be to climate control; we don’t appreciate you enough when everything is working properly.
  5. Lots of new fragrances coming very soon, from tests and roll-outs in the weeks past. Keep an eye out on our Google+ and Facebook pages for announcements as these get listed in the store!

Making of: Blackberry Sage SunSoap

It’s been quiet around here of late, so it’s time for a post with lots of pictures, depicting the making of Blackberry Sage SunSoap. This is not a how-to post; I’ll get around to that at some later date. This is just a bit of inside information for people who want to know some more about how soap happens!

Fragrance Oil

Weighing the fragrance oil…

Oils

…and the melted oils.

Generally at this point I add the fragrance oil to the base oils, unless I have some specific reason to hold off until later. Another bit of prepwork:

Pigment

Colored mica, about to be mixed thoroughly into a bit of avocado oil to disperse any lumps.

So, the oils have been melted together and then cooled to ~110 degrees, the lye, while not pictured separately, has also been mixed and cooled, and the pigment is blended and ready to go when it’s needed. So, it’s time to make soap!

Adding the lye

Pouring the lye in a thin stream into the oils

Stirring

Stir it up!

Near-emulsion

Almost emulsified.

I didn’t get a photo of the soap as it reached trace – once that happens, it’s usually time to work pretty fast. So we’ll skip over that and go on to the bits with color.

Soap into pigment

Pouring a bit of soap over the prepared pigment

Colored & uncolored

Cup of colored soap and pot of uncolored soap

Back together again

And back into the main pot goes the colored soap!

As the soap is fairly thick at this point, it is possible to create a fun, random swirl in this fashion.

Swirls!

After a single pass with the spatula.

Most of my soaps are poured into a trough-style mold at this juncture, to be sliced like a loaf into bars after a few days. This one is made in a flat mold, with dividers, though:

Into the mold

Into the mold…

Divided soap

…and in with the dividers.

And then the lid goes on, and some blankets on top of that, and this soap, together with the rest of the day’s soapmaking yield, gets put to bed to undergo a pretty awesome chemical reaction – but that’s a topic for another day.

This particular soaping day was several weeks ago, meaning the soap made above is already off the curing rack and into inventory, though the photo hasn’t been updated yet – it still shows the previous batch, made in the other style of mold:

Blackberry Sage

Blackberry Sage SunSoap

And that’s that – materials to finished product in 13 quick photos! Hope you enjoyed this lightning tour of soapmaking, and do please let me know if there are any specific parts of the process you’d like to hear more about, as I plan to expand on several details in time.


Memorial Day…

…one day late, as the lack of air conditioning caused a near-complete computer shutdown at our house.

Anyway: I’m not much of one for Memorial Day’s traditional celebration, in general. I don’t visit graves with flowers, now or at any other time – I fully respect the use this ritual has for many people, but my own memories of people I’ve lost are not helped by visiting a memorial marker. My remembrance is much more day-to-day.

For example, the most recent loved one I’ve lost was my maternal grandfather; a role model to me in more ways than I can easily describe. Grandpa was at least in part responsible for my lackadaisical approach to recipes when cooking, my belief that one should never stop asking questions until one is damned well satisfied with the answers, my distaste for being expected to follow someone else’s rules – and, most relevantly to the general subject matter of this blog, my entrepreneurial spirit.

See, he was self-employed for most of his life. This doesn’t mean he started a business and watched it flourish and grow for 60 years, of course. No, it means he started a business – selling something, or making something – and threw himself into it for a while, and then it folded, leaving him with leftover widgets to stash in the garage and, usually, a New Idea for whatever his next business would be – once, it was even making soap! During my childhood, he opened a neighborhood hardware store, which he ran successfully for ten years and then sold, thinking, I expect, that he would then retire. After all, he was in his 70s at that point. But he got bored just sitting around at home, and drove my grandmother crazy for a few months raising chickens in the yard. After the chickens met their eventual end, he ran for the city council on a whim, driving back to Wichita early from a trip out of town to make it to the office before the deadline to file to be on the ballot – and won!

I don’t possess even half of my grandfather’s determination, and my ability to believe a business into being is still being honed. But Foam on the Range is not my first entrepreneurial endeavor (although it’s most definitely the one I’m most passionate about), and all of the times before, when I’ve sat with my dreams crumbling around my shoulders and then dusted myself off and set about building another one, I’ve done it with my grandfather’s example before me, and his support behind me. He’s been gone now for several years, but every time a business challenge comes up, I swear I can hear his advice on how to deal with it.

I miss you, Grandpa. To the world, you were a city councilman, a local businessman, an active part of the local community, a veteran twice over. To the family, you were the patriarch, in a very real sense – and to me, an example of how to take life and make it into what you want.


Too Darn Hot

The air conditioner in our house died today.

This fairly substantially changed my plans for the rest of the holiday weekend – it may not be full-on summer heat yet, but without air conditioning, moving around enough to make soap or even do inventory is something I won’t be wanting to do in the heat of the afternoon, certainly! Instead, the afternoon today was spent in the basement, with a fan.

I’m such a creature of the modern day. I’m sure I could learn to live without air conditioning if I needed to, but I’m equally sure my coping strategies would include “become nocturnal”.

Fortunately, I don’t have any whipped body butter in inventory at the moment, because the temperature in the house is far above the temperature at which it de-whips! Of course, I could always put it in the fridge if there were any, I suppose. Still, it’s plenty hot enough in here to make me glad I don’t have any significant and immediate deadlines right now, and can therefore afford to take off a couple of days from production, etc., until we get the air conditioner up and running again. I will return you to your regularly-scheduled on-topic blog posts at a point at which my brain has cooled off enough to be coherent.

P. S. On the other hand, tomorrow’s plan includes going to see The Avengers, which I’ve been wanting to see for a month, and there’ll be plenty of air conditioning there.


Fragrance Profile: Blackberry Sage

With summer just around the corner, it’s time to start talking about summery fragrances – although, really, Blackberry Sage is popular year-round.

The description on the listings is short and to the point: “Berries galore, with a subtle undertone of sage: A glorious combination!” Well, that’s true, there’s no denying it. It’s bright and fruity, fresh and delicious, juicy and sweet, but with a slight herbal note underlying the whole picture to keep it from being cloying or overpowering.

Blackberry Sage SunSoap

It’s a very popular soap, but – and this surprised me when I realized it – it is my absolute best-selling solid perfume, at least in the last six months. Also popular in lotion, sugar scrubs, body butter – well, basically, the fragrance is very versatile, and loved by pretty much everyone who likes fruity scents and about half the people who usually don’t.

It was also a fairly early addition to our soap lineup, and while a good third of the fragrances that we offered at that time have fallen by the wayside, Blackberry Sage is still going strong and there’s pretty much no chance I’ll be discontinuing it any time soon.


New Toy!

Well, OK, I don’t actually have it yet. But I’ve ordered this new mold:

Once I get it, I’ll be able to make soap like this:

From thesoapking.blogspot.com

Or this:

From soapqueen.com

Or even this:

From soapqueen.com

Here’s a shot of the mold in action:

…and no, none of those are my soaps. But I’ll share pictures of the nifty things I come up with to do with mine when I’ve got it!


Testing, testing

The process of testing out new fragrances to add to the Foam on the Range lineup can be a bit overwhelming at times, but I love it. Obviously, I can short-circuit a lot of the tedious part – and most of the failures – by buying from great suppliers (Bramble Berry is my favorite!), who do exhaustive tests themselves to make sure the fragrance is actually compatible with the type of product I want to make. Cold-process soap is notoriously finicky about fragrances – some of them make it seize up into an unusable and very unappealing-looking mass, some turn it funny colors, some just plain don’t stick around and leave your soap smelling like nothing at all. So it’s great to start out with fragrances that have already made it through someone else’s obstacle course.

Of course, my recipes are going to be different than the ones they used them in, and I use less fragrance than most testers do, and what if the discoloration effect (if any) doesn’t work with the colors I want to use, and so on and so forth – not to mention, fragrances tend to shift a bit as soap cures, and I need to know if I’m still going to love the fragrance in its final form as well as straight out of the bottle. So I do need to do a bit of testing myself!

I’m a fan of the two-pound test batch. I have in the past made tiny four-ounce (single-bar) test batches of fragrances as a first pass, to weed out any that I knew I wasn’t going to like. But really, the look of the soap is almost as important to me as the scent, so I settled on two-pound batches as a compromise between potentially wasting materials on a soap that won’t go anywhere but also having a chance to test out “looks” for a given soap at the same time as I’m testing the fragrance.

…and, of course, if it passes my own test – smells good, looks good, no funky weirdnesses during the soaping process – I have six bars ready to go straight to market testing. And by the time those are gone, I have a good idea of what people other than me think of it, and know whether it will make the cut and get made up in larger batches and added to the lineup.

Current tests, from yesterday’s photos:

Honey Ale; no color in this one despite what I said above, because it’s likely to be a discoloring fragrance and if it turns a creamy enough tan, that’s pretty much what I want it to look like. I’m also going to make another test batch of this one including actual beer, but that didn’t get done this weekend.

This one doesn’t have a name yet. It’s green and bright; woody undertones with citrussy top notes. Also very cheerful-looking, even with that little wrinkle in the lining paper!

Ginger Lime. This one is INCREDIBLE. I hope the lime doesn’t fade as the soap cures, because it’s absolutely gorgeous.

I usually make four test batches at a time, but one of the two-pound molds was otherwise occupied this weekend, so this is what I’ve got for now. I have about 15 more fragrances to test – one of these weeks I’m going to have to do a dedicated tests-only soaping day or I’ll never get caught up!