Back in 2004 I did a soapmaking course. My daughter had signed up for it, but couldn’t find the time to do it, so I did it by default.
Before long I had a special soap room set up, and my partner Rod had created some nifty little soap drying racks out of wood and shadecloth. He’s always been the creative one and has turned his hand to everything from making furniture and fixing clocks to building a big extension on our house. I bought a big stainless steel pot to mix up my creations, and a long handled wooden spoon. I felt a bit like a witch about to create a potion!
I decided my soaps would be made from only the best ingredients, and sourced the supermarkets for extra virgin olive oil (made from the first pressing). I started with Castile soap, which is made purely from olive oil without any added perfumes, colourings etc. I bought numerous soapmaking books and salivated over their contents.
The soap making experience is quite hazardous as you need caustic soda mixed with water to make the solution achieve the required consistency to make soap. Caustic soda is extremely hazardous and cause serious burns to skin, so soap makers have to wear rubber gloves and a mask is recommended to protect your throat from the toxic fumes. I soon mastered the process, heating the oil to the right temperature before adding the caustic soda and water mix and then pouring the properly thickened mixture into an assortment of plastic mold containers.
Soon my soap room was filled with drying racks containing various shaped soaps, and I decided to experiment. I sourced a company which sold beautiful pure essential oils and French clays, and started adding them to my soaps, sometimes separately and sometimes together.
Now my soaps had beautiful scents of cinnamon, rose geranium and lavender, and contained other exotic oils such as neem and palmarosa and clary sage. The French clays added subtle shades of pink and green and I even made soap containing coffee, which is great for scrubbing ingrained stains off your hands.
I had become a soapaholic! Next I decided to to send for some exotic molds in the shape of shells, celtic hearts, daisies and even litle seahorses and fruit shapes.
This still wasn’t enough, so I decided to start selling them at the local markets and to register a webname on the internet. I came up with the name ‘Soaps for Precious’, as I had recently seen Lord of the Rings, and loved Gollum with his ‘precioussss’ ring.
So began my foray into the wonderful world of soap selling. I didn’t sell any on the internet, but managed to sell quite a few on my Thursday market days. I also made up little lavender bags which were quite popular. The costs of making my soaps however, because of my expensive ingredients, combined with the length of time I took to make sure that they had sufficiently cured, combined with the cost of the market stall meant that some days I sold at a loss.
I enjoyed meeting people and sitting out under my waterproof cover. I developed a rapport with a lovely Guatemalan stall owner, who was selling delicious freshly brewed coffee and beans from Guatemala. He used the money earned to buy computers for his countrymen and children, so they could become educated and earn a living. Eventually however the amount of work and effort to required to make a few dollars dulled my enthusiasm and I ceased selling at market.
|Green French Clay soap|
For years now I have been making up little gift bags and giving friends and family some of my soaps and lavender bags. They’ve been taken back to the States and England by visitors. I haven’t made any soap since 2004, but there are still drawers full of my frenzied efforts in the Box Room (originally the Soap Room, but now taken over with boxes.
The soap is still smooth and creamy and lathers up beautifully. Soap, like old wine, improves with age and I haven’t had to buy a bar for 8 years now! I have the added satisfaction of knowing that I made it and that it contains no harmful hidden ingredients or synthetic scents.
So in the end doing the course by chance turned into a passion and a satisfying burst of creativity as well as a sense of achievement.