Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cookie Cutter Soaps

The other day, I was using cookie cutters to cut out some shapes to embed in soaps when I came up with the idea to use them to also create layers of color. I made a batch to test the theory and it works. I was having issues with pouring that day and kept over pouring so my surface is a bit uneven as I had to scrape off excess soap. However, if you don't do that while making your soaps they will be nice and smooth. Here is how I made them.

I selected what cutters I wanted to use and poured my first color in the smallest part of the cutter. The temperature of your soap during the pour is very important. You do not want it to be very hot. If it is too hot, your soap will seep out under the mold. I suggest pouring a little in the cutter to fill the bottom, spray with alcohol, and let cool briefly. After that, you can spray with alcohol, and finish filling the cutter. This will help to avoid the soap from seeping out.

After the first color cools completely, you can push it out of the cutter. I found the smallest ones the hardest to get out.

Place the first parts into the next size cutter. Spray thoroughly with alcohol and pour your second color. Again, make sure your soap is not to hot so it does not seep out or melt your first color.

Once this part cools, remove from the mold. Place into your next size cutter. Spray thoroughly with alcohol. Pour your final color.

Once your soaps cool, remove from the cutters. The shapes and color combinations that can be done with this is endless. Have fun and happy soaping!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Planning your soaps

Sometimes I get in such a rush on my project that I forget to plan them out. I experienced this on my fish soap. I am happy with the outcome but it was not quite I had in my head. First, I was a little messy with the the layering of colors. I figured it would be no big deal as no one would see it.

However, I wanted the background to be a light blue using clear soap so it would look like the water. In that case my little mess would be quite visible. So I went to work on that problem and poured a layer of dark blue over the back of the fish and that hid most of the issue. However, went I went to do the rest of the blue "water" my fragrance choice kept discoloring the blue to green. Point of this, is think out your soap first, check your fragrance choices, then go ahead. If not, as in my case, live and learn.

Adding & Changing Color in Displays

I like to frequently change the colors I use in my shop and the colors on my tables at craft shows. However, that can get very expensive. That was until I discovered two great things at Wal-Mart. 1) Sheets - they sell a flat full size sheet by itself in a wide variety of colors for approximately $2.50. I have used these as table cloths for at craft shows. They are light-weight, durable, easy to wash and not nearly as expensive as table cloths. I then add colors by using fabric. Wal-Mart has a good selection of fabrics that are $1.00 a yard. I have picked up many different ones that I have used to further enhance my displays. The yellow one in the picture was $1.00 per yard and the other two were a little more however it still makes changing colors and look very economical.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fall Soap

As we progress into the latter part of the year, we must recognize that it is time to be planning for fall and winter. I am soooo not ready for this but signs of the changes are everywhere. As I was out shopping today I saw displays out for Halloween, Fall, and more. So as I am thinking about was fragrances to incorporate, colors, and designs for my soaps for fall and winter, I stumbled across these phenomenal fall soaps by First In Line Soap. The use of colors and design is inspiring. These are great looking soaps.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Geisha Soap

This is a sample of my Geisha Soaps. I scented them with Japanese Cherry Blossom fragrance and used the Geisha Mold. The soaps are now available for purchase in my shop for $7.00. We will be able to ship them in the future. We prefer to wait until after summer as I don't think these little gems would be too happy in our 100 degree temperatures. We want to ensure that they arrive in the best condition possible.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We have a winner!

This past weekend, The Gift Garden participated in the Shop Tulsa event sponsored by Promenade Mall. We had a great time and met many wonderful people. Thank you to everyone who stopped by. We also had a drawing for a $50.00 Quicktrip Gas Card. Our winner is Jamie Conrad. Congratulations!!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Shop Tulsa!

This Saturday and Sunday, Promenade Mall in Tulsa is having their first annual Shop Tulsa event. The Mall has invited local retailers the opportunity to set up displays in the mall to promote their businesses and sell product. I could not let this opportunity go by. Therefore, The Gift Garden will be there both days. Saturday hours are 10am - 9pm and Sunday is 12:00 - 6pm.

Come out and support your local businesses. There are approximately 30 vendors. Please stop by and say hello and enter our drawing for a chance to win a $50.00 Quicktrip gas card.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

4th of July Soap

I know I am late in posting this, but better late than never. I got inspired to try this mold and of course waited too long to order. Fedex decided to play hockey with my boxes resulting in damages and further delays but after 3 attempts my order finally got here. Then of course, I procrastinated. I finally finished but I was sad because I had worked so hard to try to get the stars perfect and when I took the soap out of the mold, 2 of the stars fell off. :-( I think my blue could have been darker and the colorant I used for the red is supposed to be non-bleeding but as you can see there is some bleeding. Back to the drawing board on this one. It is a really cool mold though, I just now have to fix the user errors.

Surviving the Times

Everyday we are faced with signs of the economic times we are in. Gas prices continue to rise, the rising rate of foreclosures, the stock market, and the daily news reflect the times we are in. As a small business owner it can be very stressful. Not only do I have to keep my home budget in place but also my business.

This subject has been on my mind and I have been evaluating options. The other day I was looking at buying some oils for making soap and one supplier had a message listed that prices for some oils are changing by the hour. How crazy is that? Some of the forums I belong to are filled with messages about the increasing costs of supplies. Even Walmart's prices are going up. Many vendors have posted announcements of forthcoming price increases. All of it can become very overwhelming. This morning I read one of my favorite blogs, Soap Queen, and the topic was pricing.

That is a very real issue and one that any business owner must address. During these times I hate to increase prices. Everyone is already struggling and the products I carry are mostly non-essential buys, so now I increase the price making it even harder??? However, if I don't increase my prices to coincide with the economy, my profit margin declines and I struggle. So I have been looking for reasonable options that would allow me to maintain my prices without decreasing my profit margin.

As a small business owner, there aren't many areas to cut. I am the only employee so can't cut there. However, I do try to watch expenses. So some recommendations that I am using for myself and suggest you to consider are as follows:

1) In soap making some substitutions can be made and still result in a quality bar. For example, some say you can use Pomace Olive Oil vs Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the Pomace is less expensive. Pomace Olive Oil can speed up the trace process so be prepared for that.

2) Rice Bran Oil can be used in place of Olive Oil. Rice Bran Oil contains similar properties of Olive Oil but is less expensive.

3) Soybean Oil is another oil to look at. Some say that soybean oil can cause those dreaded orange spots so if you go with soybean I would recommend using hydrogenated soy as it improves the stability of the oil. This could be used as a filler to help keep costs down. When used alone, it creates a hard white bar.

With any of these, you will need to experiment and find what you like and what works for you. There are other options to help with costs as well. You can consolidate orders. Instead of making little orders, stock up and buy in bulk. You will get better prices on larger quantities and you can also save on shipping. If you can't take on larger quantities, get with other soapers and buy your supplies together.

Also use slower times effectively. Since this is not holiday season and times are tough many business are slower. Use this time to experiment and test new recipes and formulas that you did not have time to do before. Work on your packaging design, create new products. Plan for the holiday season. Line up craft shows you want to do. Plan for the volume of products you will need (again helping you to plan out your orders). Market your business. Many companies are already distributing their catalogs for the holiday season. Get your info out there too. Take this time to follow up with your existing customers, this will also give you a chance to market and tell them about any new items or changes. Clean the soap room. Get organized. Hit the list of things to do that never got done. Use this time effectively because as the season progresses you won't have time to do it later.

Most importantly, don't sit by and do nothing. Be proactive in your business. Stay informed and get creative. You can use these tips at home too. Buy generic items, buy in bulk, and combine resources. Keep a positive mental attitude. We can all make it through these times, even if it does not feel like it at the moment.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Line of Soaps Coming Soon

I wanted to give an update to what is coming up at The Gift Garden. As some may know, I moved to Oklahoma a little over a year ago after living in Hawaii for about 15 years. I know, I know, Oklahoma from Hawaii but trust me I had good reasons. Anyway, I find myself missing the fragrances of the flowers found in Hawaii such as Tuberose, Pikake, Ginger, and Plumeria as well as the ocean, waterfalls, mountains and more. Therefore, I have decided to create a line of soaps that are inspired by all the islands have to offer. I am incorporating the vibrant colors, the amazing fragrances, as well as coconut, macadamia nut oil, and kukui nut oil in some of the soaps. I am enjoying the process of developing quality, handcrafted soaps with a touch of aloha in every bar. I look forward to making them available and hope you will love them as much as I love making them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Beautiful Soaps

This morning I was checking out Etsy and found these absolutely beautiful soaps. These were done by Carmel Soaps. The one on top caught my eye first. I love the richness of the colors. I ended up ordering that one which is Berry Patch, and the one on the bottom which is a Creamy Chai Tea, and a Key Lime (not pictured). I can't wait to get them. I bet they will smell just as fabulous as they look. The swirls on these soaps are amazing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Experiment Away

There are so many possibilities when it comes to making soap and it is very easy to settle in to one recipe and not experiment with different colors, oils, fragrances etc. Two of the biggest reasons that impact play and experimentation is time and cost. Do keep in mind, that if you are experimenting and you have a batch go bad, in most cases you can save it by rebatching. Or if it just comes out ugly or not quite what you were hoping for but otherwise is good soap you can sell it at a lower price. I usually have a discount basket at my craft shows where I put such soap. However another option is to make a very small batch or even just 1 bar. Here is a recipe for making 1 bar of soap:

1.5 oz Olive Oil
1.5 oz Palm Oil
1.3 oz Coconut Oil
.6 oz Lye
1.4 oz Distilled water
1/4 (or less) teaspoon of essential or fragrance oil

Be sure to double check it with your lye calculator and use proper safety measure when handling lye.

Happy experimentation!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Just Say Vitamin E

Over the holiday weekend, I was searching through various recipes online and I came across one for a foot scrub that sounded very interesting to me and I thought I would try it. However, when I was reading the list of ingredients I came across one I was not familiar with.... Tocopherol. So of course, I had to research this and it turns out that it is the INCI name for Vitamin E.

According to the Brittanica Concise Encyclopedia, Vitamin E or Tocopherol is a fat-soluble organic compound found principally in certain plant oils and leaves of green vegetables. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant in body tissues and may prolong life by slowing oxidative destruction of membranes. Certain rodents require it for normal reproduction. Besides uses in foods and in nutritional research and supplements, it is used to retard rancidity in fats, especially vegetable oils.

It turns out that Vitamin E can help to prevent rancidity in oils or cosmetics containing oils such as lotions, lip balms, and scrubs. It can also be used to extend the shelf life of oils. I have heard this about Rosemary but did not know Vitamin E could do the same.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Turtle Soap

I was playing around and trying out different soap molds along with some new micas and lab colors that I have not used since I received them. This is the Turtle Mold by Milky Way Molds. I used a clear glycerin soap base and a Sea Green Mica for colorant for the turtle and the Emerald Greeen Lab Color for the bottom of the soap. I don't normally like green but I do like this combination and how the final soap turned out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Water Resistant Labels

When I started making bath salts, body mists, scrubs etc. I thought about the fact that most of these products are used in the bath and could very easily get wet. This would cause the ink on the labels to run. I have had this happen with products that I have purchased from other soapers and wanted a solution. I know I have seen "weather proof" labels and such but they can get expensive. Fortunately, someone shared a brilliant tip with me and I am now passing it on. Clear Acrylic High Gloss Sealer. I print my labels. Go outside (the fumes can be strong so you need a well ventilated area). I spray a coat of the sealer across my labels and let dry. It dries in just a few minutes and as stated on the can it creates a permanent, water-resistant finish. I have handled some of my jars with wet hands to test it and it worked great. For 2.99 (from Hobby Lobby) for a 6 oz bottle that is lasting me forever... I can't complain. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Animal Rescue Flights

I currently foster this handsome guy for Dachshund Rescue of North America. He was an owner surrender and was brought into foster care on Valentine's Day. He is so sweet, gentle, and loving, with the most amazing blue eyes. Recently I was talking with one of the organizers for rescue here in Oklahoma and was told about a dog that was recently transported from Tulsa to Virgina by Animal Rescue Flights. I went to their site and was so moved to hear about what they do and how they do it. If you click on the Photos link on the top you can see pictures and read stories about their transports. This is a terrific organization. If you know any pilots that may be interested in helping a good cause, please share this information. When we work together, wonderful things can and are accomplished. We hope that Hahns finds his forever home soon and lives his life with all the love and hugs he deserves.