February…romance and passion anyone?
OK…maybe not me, but I’m just out of the soap studio with my heart on my sleeve! This spring’s new soap is, “ROMANCE.” It has a complex blend of essential oils. Think of soft, sexy sandalwood, with a hint of patchouli, softened by a touch of citrus and then rounded out with a blend of rose, jasmine and ylang ylang. There are a few other secret ingredients, and of course, it is a great olive oil/shea butter soap.
If this works the way I hope it will, don’t be surprised to see a couple supporting products as well. I’m considering doing a massage oil with this scent blend and possibly a form of perfume.
The soap has a pretty swirl of soft colors, deep pinks and purples, but I wasn’t happy with the way this first batch came out. I’ll work on that for the next batch. This one smells great and looks pretty though.
The Kentucky Crafted Trade Show is coming up in two weeks. This soap will make its first appearance there, if only to get feedback from the crowd.
Yay! It’s always nice to have something new for spring.
Well, we made it through January. That’s a hard month, complete with after-holiday doldrums, winter blizzards, no social life and cold toes. On the good side, it’s the best month to just hibernate with a good book, or to think about and plan the spring’s activities. I did all of that!
And now February is here, and I’m in the thick of plans for March, April and May. I got into soap making mode last week and got two big batches made before my poor little scale, used to measure oils and such, gave up the ghost and said enough. I can hardly blame it. I do work hard to keep the oils from spilling near its innards by wrapping it in plastic bags, but eventually the oils win, and what scale in its right mind would tolerate that forever.
Anyway, I needed to order other supplies, so I managed to get a new scale here this week, and made another couple batches yesterday. The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea has placed another big order, so to accommodate them and have enough product for Kentucky Crafted, I have several more batches to make next week. Luckily, I was very energetic and got several batches made before leaving here in December to spend a few really good weeks with my family.
And one more happy thought…my daffodils are ready and willing again this year. They’re up about 4 or 5 inches and with any luck, there will be color out the back door soon.
Experimenting in the soap studio is pure pleasure…usually! It’s getting near the holidays, and I always try to save something new and interesting to do about this time, hoping for a great gift for friends and family as well as a winner at the soap table.
Today was…well…let’s just say it was a mixed-message triumph! I tried for a sugar scrub with a recipe from Anne Marie of Bramble Berry, It looked SO pretty in her photos. The idea is to whip up the foaming bath butter, add sugar, separate it into two parts and color one part pink while leaving the other part white. Put the scrub into two pastry bags, and then put those bags into another bag so that (in theory) you get a side-by-side stream of pink and white, swirling around in your jar, and a dollop swirl on top!
Sigh. Well, I’ve always maintained I’m a flop in the kitchen (which makes my fascination with soap making even more puzzling), and the art of pastry bags was never, ever in my domain!
But undaunted, I gathered everything, made the scrub, colored it and got it into the bags. So far so good, but that’s when the pleasantries stopped. Pretty soon I had big globs of scrub coming out the wrong end of the pastry bag, and almost nothing coming out of the little hole from which it was supposed to flow. I sweated and strained and finally got one (ONE) jar filled, and soap scrub all over my shirt, the bowls and scrapers, and pretty much covering the table as well.
I may lack talent in the pastry department, but I’m no dummy. Those pastry bags went flying into the sink. I managed to fill the other 12 jars one spoon at a time, attempting a little swirl now and then. Maybe they are not as pretty as Anne Marie’s, but they sure smell great, and maybe nobody will notice they are less than perfect!
Oh, and I’ve been busy in the soap studio replenishing shelves. Here is a pretty slab of Lavender Patchouli with shea butter and rhassoul clay…a great soap. It’s waiting to be cut into logs and then into bars. Now THAT I can do!
Logs of this year’s handmade Christmas soap, 2012
It’s officially fall, but no, that’s not why it’s my favorite time. In fact, I’ve often said this time of year doesn’t fool me anymore. Those warm afternoons, cool evenings and turning leaves only remind me of what’s to come, and that’s something I’d rather deny as long as I can. Here in Kentucky, denial can last well into December.
However, there is one thing that does make this my favorite time. I try to get creative every year and come up with a soap for Christmas and the other holidays that will please and delight my good, loyal customers. Usually I begin mulling this over sometime in August. This week I have finished the Christmas 2012 soap, and I have to say, it smells extra good.
I used a combination of tangerine and sweet orange (gives the soap a beautiful golden glow) and added peppermint, frankincense and myrrh (they contribute a nice, soft spicy touch). With the pretty red swirl, I think it’s not only great smelling but very pretty. So this year’s special Christmas treat handmade soap is on the drying racks and will be out next month, in plenty of time to stock up for the holidays.
It’s the good ole summertime again…already…and fresh produce is everywhere. One of our favorite Farmers’ Market series soaps is Cucumber Basil & Green Tea. It’s on the drying racks and will be ready to go in a few weeks.
Every summer we wait until the freshest, best produce is ready before we head back to the soap studio with it under our arm. This shea butter soap is fantastic. It brings the vitamins and cooling relief of cucumbers to skin care, and that’s especially welcome this sweltering hot summer.
The essential oil scent blend combines basil with peppermint, anise, lavender, clary sage, grapefruit and lime. It’s one of our personal favorite combinations, and I think it lends itself well to the just-picked cucumbers and fresh-brewed green tea.
This is a soap we’re especially proud of. It will be a pleasure to get it out to the markets in a few weeks.
Also, here are a couple more photos from today’s market in Owenton. First is Jim Bush and his produce wagon (source of cucumbers for Anna’s EsSCENTials), and then we have little Anasa Petzinger, riding along with Grandma Patty while doing some shopping. Anasa has been an Anna’s EsSCENTials soap baby from day one, and you can almost think it shows!
It was a lovely weekend at Arts On the Green in LaGrange, KY, where Anna’s EsSCENTials was awarded first place in the show in the consumables category! This was a huge honor since there were over 100 vendors in several categories showing at this prestigious event. And almost as good was the $150 prize that went with the award!
LaGrange is a charming small town in Kentucky (not far from Louisville), filled with amazing artists and craftspeople, many of whom I as able to meet at the evening social at the Oldham County Arts Association Gallery, which displays and sells a wide array of artwork…everything from fine art paintings to yard art and jewelry. (Maybe someday they will sell soap too! I’m looking into that.) LaGrange is also one of the few towns left with railroad train tracks running right through downtown Main Street. At first I thought perhaps they were for show only, but within minutes I looked up to see a huge freight train moving along the tracks. It was fun to watch…until I got trapped on the wrong side trying to unload the car!
The show went for two full days and was packed with buyers. Arts On the Green has a history of being a show to take in, and I even saw good friends from Owen County who had traveled to LaGrange just for it. Exhibitors must be juried in to attend, so everything there was top-notch, which makes our award even more valued and valuable. Weather was perfect, and everyone had a great time. They certainly made us feel welcome.
It’s that beautiful time of the year…early May, warm breezes, spring flowers and all the best hopes for the fun to come.
At Anna’s EsSCENTials, I’ve been planning something all winter, and I’m on my way! I started creating my herbal flower anti-aging soaps last fall, and two are done. See Karma & Hibiscus and Calendula & Mango for details.
The third in the series I could not do, however. The herbs I needed were NOT AVAILABLE here from any of the herb vendors I could find. So, I ordered some herb plants for this soap, and they arrived this week. One of the ginger plants is shown above.
This is pretty exciting stuff. Now I’ve just got to grow the herbs all summer and harvest them in the fall. Maybe the third anti-aging herbal flower soap will be done before Christmas.
Just a reminder, in case anyone needs it, that two Kentucky teams play next weekend in the NCAA finals…and, also in case anyone needs it, Anna’s EsSCENTials has two fantastic soaps called Kentucky Go Big Blue! and Go Big Red! So choose your poison and enjoy the big games!
Sometimes I take a batch of soap out of the mold and am moved by the delicate swirls and colors, the enticing aroma, and the feel of the soft, smooth edges. I cut the slab into bars and more of its beauty reveals itself. It’s an amazing thing…all those happy accidents! It makes me feel a little like an artist.
Today I finished a new batch of Lavender Rosemary and Lavender Patchouli. In addition to the soap studio smelling amazing, it’s always a pleasure to work with a new batch and in fact, is just a teeeennsssy bit like giving birth. There’s that hopefulness when you begin work with the ingredients and finally they come together with whatever little inspiration you might have during the process that makes each batch unique. Then there is the magic that happens when the ingredients interact and produce something entirely different from what you start with. And there is always the surprise 24 hours later when the batch comes out of the mold. It’s hard not to feel very personal about each batch, and they’re all slightly unique.
This latest Lavender Rosemary batch produced several logs that had such a beautiful light blue swirl that I had to try and photograph it before cutting it into bars. Sometimes I wish I could just take the log and sell it like that. It seems a shame to cut it up. However, this log is cut and on the drying racks. And…tomorrow is another day!
Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2012 is in the books now, but it was pretty wild and even what you might call “hair-raising” for a while. It started out soggy…lots of rain to load and unload the booth in…then came the tornados which devastated parts of Kentucky and came close to both the convention center and my own place…and then it was cold, followed by four or five inches of snow and finally, a 60-degree day. And that’s only the weather!
Inside the convention center, things seemed to be going well until we all got herded to the storm shelters for safety. After that was over, the first public day of the show brought something like 7,500 people through the convention center on the first day. I heard people were lined up around the block to get in, and between opening at 10 a.m. and mid-afternoon around 3 p.m., it was so crowded you had to fight your way through the aisles. Sales were good as well, and if it had kept going at that pace, I worried about running out of soap.
Actually, my anti-aging herbal and flower soaps were very well received, and I vastly underestimated how many of them to bring. My good buddy, Bill, brought reinforcements so I could restock the shelves. My friend Veronica stayed with me during the busiest of the times, and I am ever so grateful.
By Sunday evening when we closed down, I was really ready to head home. It was a good show, and although this year’s venue moved to Lexington from Louisville, we were well-received. I expected sales to be down given the fact that people would have to get to know Anna’s EsSCENTials’ products. But they were just slightly above last year’s sales, and that meant a whole lot of one-bar sales. If I can muster the energy to do the show for the next few years in Lexington, I think I can hope for those one-bar sales to turn into bigger numbers.
The organizers of the show did a remarkable job of advertising the show and making us all comfortable in the new space. And now that it’s all over, I can look back with pleasure at sharing space with so many great craftspeople and artists, who seem to get better every year. My jewelry-making friend, Ann Klem, and I shared a lot of dinners together and even some funny stories we’re still thinking about whether to tell. Her work just gets more beautiful all the time. We were also just beyond the food aisle, and that is always good.
So now it’s back to the soap studio. I have found myself low on too many kinds of soaps, and with spring coming on, that’s a dangerous place to be.