Welcome to a whole new year!
Last year ended in such a busy frenzy I haven't had time to blog in quite a while (sorry...!)
Between a rush of markets and festivals (I think I had 6 markets days in November?), online orders and Christmas orders, and topping up my retail stockists - it was a fantastically busy time!
The downside is, although the shops have a nice lot of stock, I have very few soaps left in my soapy workshop, so the online store here on the website is looking very sad :-( I have been making a lot of new batches though, so rest assured your favourites will be appearing again from mid January and full stock should be back by end Feb.
Somehow last year I also forgot to mention quite a milestone - I now have my own little space for The Natural Soap Emporium in a local co-operative called The Nook in Leura. It's a fabulous place filled with all kinds of gorgeous goodies! We currently have around 38 members- all makers, creators, crafters and artists from the Blue Mountains. 5 little rooms in a lovely old building above the shops at the top end of Leura Mall - make sure to visit next time you are in the Blue Mountains and pick up some truly special locally handcrafted gifts. Each member rents a small area for their own stand, and also shares in the running and responsibilities of the shop, so make sure to look for my soapy stand and if you pop in, I may be working too!
I still also have a few retail stockists in other villages who have a smaller range of soaps, but well worth a visit. Check out my link above for current 'Stockists & Markets'. Speaking of markets, I am excited about 2015! I have applied for some awesome markets and festivals this year, and will post about them later as I receive confirmation. January and February will be 'market-free-months' for me, as I work on creating more fantastic soaps and body products for you!!
Until next time, happy soaping :-)
They say there's a first time for everything... well yesterday was my first time of making soap without any power at home!
We had a massive amount of SNOW dropped here on Tuesday night, which was unseasonal for our mountains Spring, in fact rare at any time, but incredibly beautiful :-) The downside was that we lost power to our home, as did most of the upper mountains and valleys, from Tuesday evening through to late Wednesday afternoon due to fallen trees and power lines.
Now, I'm more than happy to 'ooh' and 'ahhh' at the pretty snow, I really do love it, and enjoy watch my children delight in making snowmen / snow bunnies / snow seals, but at some point I had to get some work done.
Our power returned briefly in the late morning, so I was straight into the days soaping... and then it promptly went out again. (Sigh). So, feeling like a true pioneer woman (!!!) I popped my big steel pot of solids (in this case coconut oil and beeswax) on top of our old woodburner to melt slowly. (It is truly an old and ugly woodburner, but it proves it's worthiness to remain in our home in a blackout!) After all other ingredients were ready, I braced myself for a long session of hand stirring with a whisk, as my trusty stick blender was lying there useless without electricity.
Turns out it didn't take long at all, as yesterday's recipe was my Honey, Goats 'n Oats soap, and the raw honey always accelerates the process along nicely due to the natural sugars. After roughly five minutes of stirring, it poured like a dream.
Unmoulded this morning, I have to say I am a little bit proud of this one. Beautifully creamy, it tells the tale of a 'new way' of working, (which of course is really just the 'old way' of working), and a bit of faith that sometimes, we just need to trust the process.
I might even try 'old style' soaping again, when I'm feeling the urge to get back to a simpler life.
See us here.....!
Sunday 3rd Aug - Leura First Sunday Market, Leura Public School, 9am - 2pm
Sunday 31st Aug - Harmony Market, Mount Victoria Public School, 9.30am - 2pm
Saturday 6th Sept - Bathurst Artisan Market, Keppel St (Library & Art Gallery Forecourt) 9am - 1pm
Saturday 13th Sept - Hazelbrook-Woodford Garden Festival, Hazelbrool Public School, 10am - 4pm
Sunday 5th Oct - Leura First Sunday Market, Leura Public School, 9am - 2pm
Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th Oct- Leura Village Fair, Leura Mall (9am - 4pm, to be confirmed)
Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd Nov - Craft and Art on Show, Royal Bathurst Showground
Friday 7th Nov - Twilight Market, Faulconbridge Public School, 6pm - 8.30pm
Sunday 30th Nov - Harmony Market, Mount Victoria Public School, 9.30am - 2pm
Sunday 7th Dec - Leura First Sunday Market, Leura Public School, 9am - 2pm
....keep checking for updates ......!
What a fabulous day we had last weekend at Winter Magic Festival! The one-day festival is held annually in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to celebrate the winter solstice, and is a vibrant mix of stalls, music, street entertainment, food, arts and other events.
This year marked the 21st birthday of Winter Magic, and it was pretty special indeed! We were so pleased to be part of the celebrations. The weather was amazing- incredibly mild (for a mid-winters day in Katoomba!), the grand street parade was spectacular and people visited from far and wide in their thousands .... literally... over 40,000 visitors came during the day!
This years theme was 'Phoenix Rising' - symbolic of the rebirth and regeneration, after our devastating bushfires in the local area last year it was a beautiful and positive symbol. I had made some felted soaps in honour of the Phoenix, matching the vibrant colours and stepping away from our usual, more natural tones and shades. They brought a vitality to the stall that was in keeping with the buzzing, energetic day.
We had plenty of shoppers and were kept busy all day right up until closing, and even then I had customers looking at soaps whilst I was trying to pack them away! (not that I minded really...!) Incredibly busy but a wonderful time. We had many lovely comments and feedback from customers throughout the day, which always fills up the soul :-)
Lots more photos of the festival are on our Facebook page The Natural Soap Emporium
Wowee this year is flying by! Has it really been that long since I updated this blog? Shame on me!
I've had some busy times with making soaps and other lovelies, expanding the range, topping up shops, attending markets and festivals, and generally trying to balance business with everything else in life :-)
Just over a week ago I was fortunate to attend the very first Leura Harvest Festival here in the lovely Blue Mountains, and what a gorgeous day! It is mid autumn here (for those followers in the Northern hemisphere!) and the whole street, closed to traffic for the day, was lined with leaves of red, orange and yellow... absolutely beautiful! The day proved to be a huge success for all involved, stallholders and organisers, as well as the crowds of shoppers. Once again I seem to have underestimated the busy-ness of the day, and had pretty much sold out of stock by mid afternoon- no small feat considering we had 3 large tables full!
This weekend sees us at Bathurst Artisan Market for the first time, followed by Harmony Markets right here in our lovely little village of Mount Victoria. As much as I enjoy making for my stockists and shops, I do love chatting directly with customers and finding out what they like, and helping to find just the perfect thing...
Speaking of stockists, a new centre has now joined The Natural Soap Emporium stockist list too - a wonderful space in Blackheath called The Hub - Arts & Crafts Centre. Filled with all kinds of amazing hand crafted artisan goods from local makers - it was quite an honour to be part of their establishment and to have my creations for sale in there :-)
Right now it is full steam ahead in preparation for our first visit to the Blue Mountains Winter Magic Festival in June - I am crazy excited and terrified at the same time - it is by far the biggest festival for our little business yet! With a crowd exceeding 40,000 visitors not unheard of, it is going to be HUGE !!! Best get my soaping gear back on...........!
I have had a nice little break over the Christmas holidays and happy to be back in the swing of soaping again (and when I say little break... I mean I had 5 whole days of not doing making, labelling or selling!)
One of my aims for 2014 is to use more local ingredients in my products, supporting local people and businesses. Many of the main ingredients in soap-making do come from interstate or overseas, as we just don't have the climate locally or the industry that is required to manufacture the oils. But wherever possible, I try to use local ingredients, including herbs and flowers I grow myself.
I am happy to have found a local honey source, beekeepers right here in the Blue Mountains, for my honey soaps. Karen and Lyle at Woodford Honey have a beautiful property in the mid-mountains, surrounded by natural Aussie bushland as far as the eye can see - heavenly for bees! Their raw honey is just what I wanted for my soaps (and it tastes pretty amazing
During my visit I saw the bees in action around their hives, amidst lovely gardens, and you know it is such a nice feeling to be connected to the workers and producers where you buy your ingredients, like a farmers market where the true workers are all bees!
I have also managed to source some local raw goats milk, which will be perfectly paired with this honey for my Honey Goats & Oats soaps. Delicious!
Oh how time flies when you are busy soaping....!
I cannot believe it is almost Christmas, and even more surprising to me is how crazy-busy I have been over the past month or so!
Considering this is my first Christmas as a business, I am thrilled with progress, setting a record of selling over 200 soaps in 5 days at the start of December, (and that is not including my monthly market, that was just from Christmas orders and shop top-ups!) I actually got to the point of being sold out of everything at one point, despite making a couple of hundred extra soaps for this period. I'm still not sure whether this is a Good Thing as it means I had great sales figures, or a Bad Thing as it means I didn't plan ahead enough! As a result, my online etsy shop has been rather empty for the past few weeks.
I have a new stockist since I last blogged - Honey Gem Nursery is Springwood NSW is owned by Kaye & Mick, and they have the quirkiest, most interesting gift shop full of fabulous homewares and funky garden art, as well as a fantastic range of plants. The Gardener's Soap is a big seller there, but they also stock a range of other soaps too, something for everyone! I couldn't resist buying some Christmas gifts when I dropped off their soap delivery..... money in, money out... it's all about supporting local small businesses though right?!
I introduced a new product recently too, which I have been planning for a while. I made 10 initial tins of Hemp Hand Balm, with a blend of fresh essential oils in a very moisturising base, was a big success and sold out in 5 days! I guess that's one for the 'regular stock' list then?
At the moment I am busy making more new soaps as well as regular lines, to build up stock for early next year. With the current stock before I have a chance to list it, I am running at full speed!
It is such a truly great feeling though, despite the craziness, to think that my lovingly handmade creations are destined for so many places this Christmas. I feel honoured and blessed to have had such an amazing first year!
Oh what a lovely day it was on Sunday! My usual monthly market seemed to have a little extra sparkle last weekend, I think the rise in temperatures brought more people out to the market and I was feeling pretty pleased with my new - look marquee after making a whole lot of bunting last month! I have also extended to a third table now to make a nice U shape set up. With 2 tables of soaps and one table of 'extras', it was easy to fill the space.
Meeting some lovely new customers and seeing some nice friends helped me to struggle through the day that had started extra-early due to daylight savings starting the night before...
Now to prepare for this coming weekend- my first 2 day special event! Eeek!
The gorgeous village of Leura holds its annual Garden Festival in October each year, ending with the Leura Village Fair, when the main street is closed off to traffic and the 2 roads are lined with great stalls, food, music.... all good stuff! It is costing me a lot more than a regular market, so I am hoping it will pay off with plenty of visitors and lots of shoppers!
Wish me luck, I will report back in a week or so!
It has been a busy month here making lots of soaps to stock up for a lot of markets coming up. I have only been attending one monthly market but I have booked in extra 'special' markets in the lead up to Christmas. As well as soaps I have made another large batch of lip balms - these were great sellers in the winter, and although I wasn't expecting them to move as fast at this time of year, I sold 12 as soon as I listed them! I really like the natural ingredients in these, a far cry from the cheap vaseliney type in supermarkets. I repeated my previous varieties of spearmint and lavender as they both were winners! I had thought of a citrus orange/mandarin lip balm as well, however some essential oils can react on the skin in sunlight, causing sensitivity, and that's the last thing we want so will leave the orange and mandarin for other uses :-)
I have intended to make another balm for a while now - a larger skin balm. I have many customers with eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, or just suffering from dry, itchy, easily irritated skin. They usually buy my Castile soap (plain olive oil) but some have asked for a skin cream or balm to use too. The choice was obvious to me - a simple calendula balm.
Calendula officinalis has amazing skin healing properties. It has been used for centuries for skin conditions, long before our modern pharmaceuticals and steroid creams. It has a much gentler anti-inflammatory action and works to soothe and regenerate skin cells. It is usually infused in oil or other liquid to extract the benefits from the petals (although I often include whole petals as well when I use in calendula soaps). To make a balm - or salve, or ointment - the infused oil is generally mixed with a melted wax to form a thicker, spreadable product when it sets. I used beeswax for mine as it also has skin nourishing properties which are perfect for this skin balm.
We have been using this recipe in our family since I made my first tin as a trial at the start of this year. Considering my children have had many scrapes and scratches, dry skin in winter and the occasional eczema breakout as well as dipping into it for dry knees and elbows, and a lip balm, I am surprised how little goes such a long way! We have used approx. half of our 100g pot in 9 months.
As with everything I make, the price I set for selling is based on my ingredient costs+packaging+(cheap!) labour. I had a look around at similar balms in health food stores and online and I was shocked how much they were and usually much smaller! I guess I am not paying shop rental costs and huge advertising/marketing costs, which helps me keep my prices down.
The Calendula Balm is for sale now on The Natural Soap Emporium facebook page for $12.50 for 100g tin, while stock lasts.... I think it could be a popular one!
Since making my 'trial' shampoo bars last month I have had lots of willing volunteers raise their hands to try them out, with very encouraging results! It is early days, but around 15 people have come back to me with very positive feedback.
All of the volunteers so far have been happy with the lathering and cleaning ability, the moisture level and the way it leaves their hair feeling and looking. Some have used their regular conditioner afterward, a couple tried the vinegar rinse and some have been surprised to find they didn't need anything at all following the shampoo bar wash. One lovely person who had been suffering skin reactions to chemical shampoos even wrote on my Facebook page:-
"Thank You Sooooo very much Lisa, 3 days in to using shampoo bar and olive oil soap and absolutely NO sign of dermatitis on my face for first time in what seems like forever. I'm officially hooked!!!" (Mel, NSW)
In fact there is only one person who wasn't 100% happy with the shampoo bar ..... ME! Now I must admit I am a pretty tough self-critic (!) and part of the reason for doing a free trial was to get as many opinions as I could, as I just couldn't understand why my hair didn't feel 'right' when everyone else in my family loved it. After much research it seems some people's hair takes more adjusting to than others, and they may have a period of their hair feeling very different to normal - I guess that's me! I must admit, it really didn't look any different to anyone else, it just didn't feel quite 'right' to me. I think this is probably due my previous heavy use of oil-stripping detergent type shampoos, followed by silicone-heavy conditioners, as well as the damage done by years of colouring..... like most new routines, it will take a little getting used to. But I will persevere! The benefit of not using chemical-laden detergents on my hair will be worth the time I need to get used to it.
Ultimately, I have enough positive feedback and encouragement from others that I WILL be addding shampoo bars to my range of natural soap products. I still welcome ongoing feedback of course, as I do with any of my products. The basic shampoo bar recipe will be unchanged for now, and I will add some gentle essential oils to lightly scent them, and they will be suitable for all hair types and vegan friendly. Full size bars will be ready and available for sale by the end of the month!