Home Sweet Home at Last!

We got a house!!!

Finally, a place to call home… three bedrooms, full basement, big attic, fenced yard, nice landscaping, good neighborhood… all the bells and whistles!. Lots of room for soaping- complete rooms for storage and curing. I'll never make soap in my kitchen again! This house not only will get us out of this apartment I hate, but allow for me to get all my supplies and inventory into one place, set up a nice little workshop and really turn it up a notch. We go on Saturday to finalize the lease and take some measurements to see where the furniture will fit.


Week 11 Accomplishments

Happy Easter!

We may have gotten an Easter Wish granted- we looked at a house that we like! It’s a 3-bedroom ranch with a finished basement. The yard is big and fenced in and a big, clean attic to store stuff in. We just have to send in the application and see if we get it- wish us luck!

This week I have been gearing up for a wholesale show in Saratoga Springs. I've also gotten orders from two new stores (got to get them listed on the web page), one near Lancaster, and one near me in Buckingham as well as an inquiry from a place in Louisiana.

So this week I:

Picked up and inventoried stuff from the Holiday Craft Boutique in Chalfont (I did a show report in an earlier post)
Labeled the fizzies made last week.
Sent out a bunch of orders that came in
Went over to storage- brought over a ton of things that were complete and just sitting here in bags
Packed the truck for the wholesale show- tables, displays, etc.
Milled soap so I am ready to get making once I get back from the show
Made up sampler crates (about 65)

That's about it. The rest of the time has been packed with homework as my classes end this coming Wednesday. Sort of tough since I'll be out of town, so I have to get all my final project and papers done early so I can go with a clear conscience. Have a big web design project- so look for an updated web page soon!


Holiday Craft Boutique- Spring- Show Report

First Retail Show of the Year: Holiday Craft Boutique

First, to explain a boutique. It is often referred to as a "drop off show" by crafters because you just drop off your items and pick them up later, although it is a little more complicated than that:

1) First, you apply to the show and get accepted. There usually isn't a jury fee, just a straight show fee. Then they take a percentage of sales, depending on if you work at the show or not. (see below for an explanation of this)

2) Then you label your products. The label consists of a "crafter code" or a ID unique to you, the crafter, the product number (usually something you've made up, or a specific inventory code), and the price of the product. Until Avery came out with itsy bitsy labels I could send though the printer, this process took hours, sometimes days, to complete.

3) Then on a specified day and time (sometimes you even need to set up an appointment) you go drop off you items. Sometimes you need to set up your space, sometimes they do it for you, sometimes you need to "check in" and have a show administrator count everything again, sometimes you don't. It all depends on who runs the show, what kind of computer system they use (if any), and how much they trust you as a person. I say this because there is one show that every time I bring a baggie of 200 lip balms, they shake their head and say that they trust me, rather than counting them all again J

4) Some shows ask you to contribute hours to working at the show to lessen the load of the show administrators. If you don't work, some charge you a higher percentage of sales (like 25% rather than 20%) and some charge you by the hour (like 10$ for every hour you don't work), still others don't penalize you but "pay" you for your hours in "money" that can only be used at the craft show (like 4 hours of work = 30$ of credit).

5) Then at the end you go and pick up your product. Just like check in, check out differs for every show. Some you just pick up and leave, others you count everything you have left in front of a show administrator.

6) Then you go home, figure out what you sold and how much you should get a check for, sit back, wait for your check, and then argue any discrepancies with the show administrators (if its worth that much to you).

So I've completed my first boutique show for the year and for the first time I didn't work it because of house hunting. I'm sort of glad I didn't work 4 hours (+ 2 more to drive there and back) because I would have saved less money than I will make in future income by sitting at home making soap for those hours. All in all, it went better than last years spring show. But I am also trying to decide if I will continue at this location at all in 2006. I'll have a better idea after the fall boutique.

As for a show report, my best sellers were:

Soap: Tied: Lavender, Plumeria, & Rejuvenation
Bath Salts: Tied: Lavender & Love Potion
Bath Fizzys: Wisdom
Lotion Bars: Lavender
Lip Balm: Butter Crème
Glitter Gel: Blue

Best thing is, I put away everything left that I have a large inventory of in a big box with the labels still on them. This will cut down on labeling time for the fall show quite a bit. I used to tear off all the labels and re-label for the next boutique coming up in May, but decided to try something different this year and see how much time it saves me.


Jury Committee

I also participate on the committee of a crafts show and this week was our jury process. I have a hard time with this because I don't consider myself a "fine artist" and think of myself on the fringe of being a "fine craftsperson"*. Years ago when I was accepted into the show I was very surprised, and when I was asked to be on the committee, I almost passed out.

We jury by going through slides, pictures, or samples, of applicant's work and deciding if the work itself is good enough to be included in the show, and if it is good enough to be included, if we think it is a medium that belongs in the show. For example- we don't allow photography or painting because we consider ourselves a "fine crafts" show and those mediums belong in a "fine arts" show, so no matter how good you are, you won't be accepted if you are a photographer. However, if you are a potter, wood turner, or glassblower, you've got a really good chance of being accepted, as does jewelry artists, doll makers, and fabric artists.

My problem is that I know what I like, and I think I can eye quality work, but with some of the slides and photos we have to decide from, its like flipping a coin. Some of the pictures are terrible, the artists give no information on how the piece is made, and I have a limited understanding of many of the processes anyway. Sometimes the entire committee thinks "yes" when I say "no" and vice versa. I think must be akin to being on a trial jury and defending your position when you are the last holdout, but I need to go through it 50 times or so in a morning.

I'm glad I am there because every time I learn so much, about arts and crafts in general and about myself.

* To explain more on these thoughts, many shows don't allow in items they consider "consumable": candles, food, soaps, and sometimes even flowers (live or dried). This is why I think of myself as being on the "fringe". In some places my craft of soapmaking is embraced (especially craft shows that showcase "traditional" crafts), and in others, I am shunned due to the fact that the soap can be used up. I like to think of myself as a "functional craft" artist. I make somthing that looks and smells pretty enough to leave out, but you can (and should) use it, much like functional pottery.

Week 10 Accomplishments

Well I did more house hunting this week and found one finally that has some potential. I was trying in vain to get a hold of the landlord so I could make another appointment for C to see the house when he gets back from him business trip, just to find out that someone that was quicker on the draw snatched it out from under us

Things accomplished this week:

  • House hunting- and you know how that went
  • Jury Committee- see other post
  • Dropped off at a boutique show in Chalfont
  • Milled soap
  • Sent out orders
  • Submitted show applications
  • 80 Lotion Bars- Made & Wrapped
  • Made soap: Love Potion, Chocolate, Raspberry, and Gardenia
  • 400 Fizzys (thanks for the help J!)
  • Sold some extra supplies on e-bay (better to sell than to move them!)


Even Still More House Hunting

Well today we learned a few important things....

1) yes, there is such a thing as too big (we are gonna have to heat it & keep it clean)

2) a little character is good in a house

3) if you can't decide than its a "no"

4) we are more set on a geographic area we like than we first thought

5) no off street parking is pretty much a deal breaker

We looked at three.. drove by 2.. and need to call about another 6 or so......

Oh what fun......


Still More House Hunting

More house hunting…

First, drive into the middle of nowhere. Then walk up the driveway that is so steep, you'd never get permission from the building department to ever duplicate it in 2005. Enter through the basement into some guys Frankenstein like concoction of wood stove, oil heat, and solar energy that is supposed to keep the place running. Then go upstairs where the last tenants dog trashed the rug, the kids put up all their posters using drywall screws (at least I guess why there are so many big holes in the walls), and the owners admit they don't have much time to get up there to fix it up any…That was house #1.

House #2 feels like it belongs in one of The Series of Unfortunate Events books. The wood floors are uneven and stained, the walls are painted battleship gray (on purpose) and the empty lot next door looks like the setting for the next Stephen King novel…add this to the fact that its on the edge one of the most unsavory part of town and you can start to imagine our experience in looking at House #2.

House #3 was beautiful from the outside, not bad on the inside (some exposed beams and neat nooks), but lacked off street parking. Given the fact that its on the busy main street of town, the idea of lugging boxes of soap blocks to the car so we can go to a show quickly turned us off. Even best case scenario, we'd have to cross the road to the car since you can only park on the other side of the road. Too bad, it's been the most promising of the ton we've seen.

House #4: We didn't actually stop at since we had no appointment, but we did drive by and decide that at least the neighborhood was nice enough that we should call about seeing the inside.
Tomorrow we have 2 more to see inside, and 2 more to drive by (so we can decide just how rural is too rural)…


Figment Soap: Fig Fragrance, Rose Clay for Color Posted by Hello

Week 10 Accomplishments

Well, after last week and the stuff that didn't get done, I guess I went pretty far in actually accomplishing something.

I got into another unexpected show- Mayfair Festival of the Arts in Allentown. Its May 26-30. I say unexpected because I applied a few years ago and wasn't accepted, then they started a real push toward "fine artists", so I figured I'd never get in. When I got my application this year I decided I'd give it one more try, and if I lost my $25 jury fee- so be it- but I wouldn't apply again. Today I got the acceptance letter!!!!

For those of you who don't know much about the way Art/Craft shows work, many of them are juried. This means you send in pictures or slides and sometimes information on how you make your products, a price list, photos of you making things, etc. Most shows charge a "jury fee"- (I've paid as much as $40) for them to look at your work and decide if you are good enough to get in. This fee is supposed to make their job easier by weeding out people who aren't real solid about participating in the show. Cuz who wants to loose $ by by sending in pictures of bad work, or loose the money if you are accepted but decide not to participate. After you are accepted, then you pay more money (the booth fee) to actually participate in the show, and sometimes a % of your sales on top of that.

This makes the second show that I made a decision to apply to, expecting full well not to get in, and then got accepted to! The other was the Philadelphia Folk Festival- and I was accepted into that one a few weeks ago too. Just one more to go- lets see if I can get a hat trick and get into all three!

Anyway, the other things that got done around here are as follows....

1) I printed flyers and order forms for my upcoming wholesale show. Also got them folded. For once I won't be AT the show folding flyers!

2) Made a ton of Dutch Chocolate soap. I colored it with Cocoa Powder, it came out just beautiful!

3) Made lation bars: 100 lavender, 60 Peppermint, 40 Bug off and 30 Autumn Amber. Got them all labeled and wraped as well. Ran out of containers and ordered more.

4) Ordered a bunch of other supplies, bags, crates, lables, shrink wrap, all that jazz...

5) Got the rough edges off of all the soaps that finished curing this week and are ready to go into storage.

6) Made bath salts and got them labeled and such. Made about 48 before running out of containers. Need to order those now too...

7) Cut up 6 batches of unscented soap. Need to mill it next week.

8) Started talking to two new stores. One is in NY state, the other out near Lancaster, PA. I'll keep you updated on the status of each.


Ingredient for the Week- Salts Part 1

What Is Salt?

Sodium chloride or common salt is the chemical compound NaCl. Salt occurs naturally in many parts of the world as the mineral halite and as mixed evaporites in salt lakes. Seawater has lots of salt; it contains an average of 2.6% (by weight) NaCl, or 26 million metric tons per cubic kilometer. Underground salt deposits are found in both bedded sedimentary layers and domal deposits. Deposits have been found to have encapsulated ancient microorganisms including bacteria. Some salt is on the surface, the dried-up residue of ancient seas like the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Salt even arrives on earth from outer space and its presence on the planet Mars makes scientists think life may exist there. Conversely, surface salt depositions and man-made saltworks can be seen from space.

Purity of rock salt produced in North America varies depending on the type of salt (evaporated, rock, solar) and on the source. Rock salt typically ranges between 95% and 99% NaCl, and mechanically evaporated salt and solar salt normally exceed 99% NaCl. Evaporated salt made with purified brine has the highest purity, in some cases 99.99% NaCl. Voluntary standards, such as those developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the American Water Works Association (AWWA) assure appropriate quality for the intended use. Mandatory specifications for food grade, drug/medical and analytical use include Food Chemicals Codex, U.S. Pharmacopoeia, and Reagent Grade Chemicals. Special devices, refractometers, are used to measure salinity.

Dead Sea Salt Info : About The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea lies at the bottom of the Syrian - African Rift Valley, about 400 meters (1280 feet) below sea level. Known in Biblical times as the Eastern Sea, the Romans called it Mare Mortuum, the Israeli Geographic office called it The Sea of Salt. This remnant of the sea, which covered the area over two million years ago, is the lowest natural place on Earth. Its depth ranges from 1376 feet (430 meters) in the north to 32 feet (10 meters) in the south.The waters of the Dead Sea are unique, having a total salt concentration that is 10 times higher than ocean water, reaching 33% versus 3%. But that's not all! The composition of the brines is also unique, comprising magnesium, potassium and calcium chlorides, in addition to a high concentration of bromides.

Why is Epsom Salt called Epsom Salt?

One of the earliest discoveries of magnesium sulfate, the scientific name of Epsom Salt, occurred back in Shakespeare's day in Epsom, England, which explains the first half of the name. The term "salt" probably refers to the specific chemical structure of the compound, although many people mistakenly assume it refers to the crystalline structure of Epsom Salt, which has an appearance similar to that of table salt. (Table salt, of course, consists of sodium chloride, so it's an entirely different substance than magnesium sulfate.)


Week 9 Accomplishments

Well I did get quite a bit done this week. I did realize that I am sort of between a rock and a hard place, if I order all the supplies I need, and find a house, I may need to move everything, but if I don't buy and make, I can't sell. Sticky situation....

I applied to and got accepted to a great little wholesale show up in Saratoga Springs, NY. The beautiful thing is that the jury actually sends you comments about your products. I was thinking about changing my packaging because of a conversation with another soap maker, but all three judges commented on how much they liked the packaging. They also let me in even through there are two other soap makers, so I guess I am different enough to stand out in a crowd. No I have a ton of muslin bags that need a home! LOL! I need to think things through better sometimes.

I also called about and we went looking at houses- but that's already another post

Well this week I:

1) Made 6 (16 lb each) batches of basic soap

2) Made fragranced soap: Almondine, Dutch Chocolate, and Just Plain Raspberry

3) Sent out a bizillion show applications- just watching that bank account dwindle....

4) Restocked two stores: Out of Our Hands & Bear Necessities- had to get everything packaged and labeled and delivered

5) Packaged and labeled stuff for an upcomming show: Holiday Craft Boutique: all ready for drop off two weeks early, amazing!

Next week I should accomplish a ton. I have finished a bunch of my homework early and plan on doing the rest tomorrow. No stopping me!

Looking For Houses

Everybody is a salesperson. They take their property and make it sound as awesome as possible just to get you to come look at it, but leave all the gorey details for the tour. We looked at three houses today, each with its own unique oddities.

House #1: Would have been cool when I was in college and wanted to live cheap with 3 or 4 of my closest buddies. (side note: I've been in and through college and never had the driving desire to live with 3-4 other people). The first floor living room had been walled off, leaving the fireplace in a narrow hallway, inorder to make 1/2 the room a "den". The kitchen needed all new cabinets, and the bathroom, well, the bathroom hadn't seen a makeover in about 50 years. It not only needs paint, but for someone to come remove the last 15-20 layers before adding more.

House #2: Pretty good until you learn the owner just inherited it from their grandparents who passed away. She plans on renting for a "year or so" and then moving in. This translates roughly into "I want your money to finance the remodel". I hate moving and sure don't want to do it twice in the next year or so.

House #3: It was a twin that has been remodeled into 4 units. Three units are on one side, the fourth is the whole other side. Besides the initial overwhelming smell of the previous renter's smoke, the house makes me feel like I was walking through the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum- the one that looks like the upside down house.. The door and window casings are all majorly crooked, the floors all go in different drections and the mastor bedroom/loft is accessed by a set of stairs at the back of the bathroom..... The basement is shared by all the units, some have stairs down, some don't. And the landlord's idea of having a washer and dryer is a pay for use unit. Not only does he make money off of rent, but off of the laundry too.

Well, off to search the newspaper for more...


Ingredient for the Week-

Sorry, there will be no ingredient for the week this week. But some upcomming ones will be...

  1. Palm Oil
  2. Milk
  3. Fragrance Oils/ Flavor Oils
  4. Coloring Soaps
  5. Sweeet Almond Oil
  6. Sea Salts & Dead Sea Salts & Epsom Salts

Week 8 Accomplishments

Nada, Zero, Zilch, Nothing..
Sick, Sick, Sick, Sick.....

I did look for houses and make phone calls- well, left messages about a bunch. Went and saw one that was just awesome- if we got rid of 1/2 our furniture :(

Did my homework
Knitted a lot
Edged a bunch of soaps (got the rough edges off)

Got some good news.. got into a show that is supposed to be fantastic!! Yahoo!!Yippee!!

But mostly sat home sick...

But I'm already working hard in Week 9!