When I first had those initial inklings that I needed to make homemade soap, I imagined myself barefoot running through a field of wildflowers to gentle music. Then I imagined myself quietly stirring soap in a gingham apron with a daisy tucked behind my ear. Enter reality. I often feel that I look like Frankenstein’s wife. I have learned throughout the years that I have to not just wear one of those little white masks but a full on respirator mask that scares small children if they happen to wander past my home as I am running back and forth to the kitchen where there is running water that I always wished I had in my workshop.
I have learned that I must wear closed toed shoes, long sleeves, and protective eyewear. And once in a while, I might forget to put on my glasses when I am checking the temperature of my lye and have splashed lye in my eye which is really no fun. All of my clothes have oil stains on them and sometimes dark stains of things like alkanet root. My rubber gloves that I use become hard and crusty and sometimes I can barely put my hand in them, but I am always out of right-hand gloves and must force my hand into a left-hand one when desperate.
I somehow thought that if I had a part time soap making business I could easily work it around raising my children. Which was true in a sense. But enter reality again, and really I had to do things like wake up very early to pour my lye and melt my oils, then make the kids breakfast, pack their lunches, drive them to the ferry and school, get home do the laundry, chop kindling, mix up my batch, go to my other part time job… (to help pay for my supplies), get home start dinner, get the kids do all the homework and clean up stuff, then put soap in the freezer, fall into bed and remember around 10 at night to get soap out of freezer. Then start your day again. Exhausting for sure. This did not even include all of the time I had to create the different things and label them and promote and sell them on a small island where there are about 20 other people who make and sell soap. A tough racket for sure.
So what has kept me going all these years? The love of creating new exciting bars of soap, mixing up different essential oils, finding new exotic moisturizing kinds of butter to add to my batches, finding natural ways to colour my bars. I love that part. And the labeling is fun too. Flexing my creative muscle is what has kept me going. Also, I realize having to do all sorts of different things to run a small business is fun. I have had to organize craft fairs, do internet research, compare prices, order supplies, meet interesting customers and other crafters, and experiment with different ingredients. How lucky. But very different from my romantic version of running wild through a field of daisies, instead I have found myself hacking my way through a patch of stinging nettles, to make my coveted nettle shampoo bars– which I will definitely share in another post one day soon.
I have sold soap at farmer’s markets in the pouring rain, with drips of water smearing my labels and dampness creeping up the tablecloth. I have had dogs pee on the edge of my tablecloth and small children place their snotty noses on my expensive rose geranium soap and then run away laughing… and still I persevered. I have been to Christmas craft fairs where I have spent months making product, pay a huge entrance fee, show up and find that there are 10 other soapmakers right next to each other and realize the person who created the fair, just wanted to fill spots and didn’t care who was successful or not.
I have tried quitting but have always come back to it. I guess all I can do is warn you. Soap may overtake your life. It will seep into- not only the pores of your skin, but into your soul.
So there you go, you have been warned.