SOAP MAKING 101 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My future daughter-in-law, Katie, has started a fun new hobby. Soap making. She’s always been artistic and soap making is another creative outlet for her. Soap making is creative aromatically as well as visually, so it provides multiple levels of artistry.

Katie in her kitchen getting ready to make soap

Katie makes beautiful soaps, whimsical soaps and some simple soaps that smell heavenly. She can play with design and smells to make an infinite variety of shapes, patterns and odors.

Katie is very industrious and motivated and she is trying to turn her hobby into a small business. She got herself on Etsy, the major craft site online. She has also done some craft shows and designed and printed business cards.

Her business is called The Phoenix Rising Shop because the symbolism of the phoenix rising from the ashes has tremendous meaning for her.

Another one of Katie’s charming designs

She also came up with a clever marketing idea – the soap making party. She offers to come to your house and make batches of soap in your kitchen with you and you and up to twelve friends. It becomes a social gathering with a theme.

Katie did a test party at her home and it was great! Everyone had lots of fun and learned a lot.

To make soap, there is a very specific recipe that involves the mixing of different oils together at the right temperature. Everything has to be precisely measured out, mixed through and temperature tested. A lye mixture is added to the oils.

This is a recipe where the order in which you add ingredients is as important as what you add. At one point, the mixture thickens as you mix it. Very cool to watch.

Testing the temperature with an infrared thermometer

Adding scent and color is the fun part. There are a huge variety of scents,  from watermelon, cherry, lime, vanilla, ocean breeze, and pine. You can also mix a variety of scents to create your own, such as watermelon cherry, or white tea and ginger.

The quantity of scent you put in is also important. Too much and it is cloying. Too little and you can’t smell anything.

Party guests testing scents

There’s a whole artist’s palette of colors. How you add the colors can determine the design or pattern on the soap. You can also use a knife to swirl colors together to form different designs.

We did a simple pattern layering ribbons of different colors into the soap mold. We also chose the basic rectangular mold that makes bars of soap as opposed to fancier molds in any shape you could imagine – flowers, seashells, geometric shapes, whatever.

The soap has to set 24 hours in the mold before it can be cut into bars. Then it has to cure for four weeks before it can be used. So Katie has set up shelves in the basement to hold the finished soaps and the ones waiting for their due date.

Check out The Phoenix Rising Shop on Etsy to see the wide range of soaps Katie has created. Soaps are a wonderful Xmas gift! And she ships anywhere!

Discarded and oddly shaped chunks of soaps

19 thoughts on “SOAP MAKING 101 – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

    1. Definately go to the Etsy shop! Katie has so many styles and colors to choose from. Soap is a great gift when you don’t know what to get someone. Everyone uses soap.

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    1. Some soaps are so beautiful, I just use them as decoration in the bathroom, like an accessory. They add color and texture the room and they can be interesting conversation pieces as well.

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  1. Bravo Katie! I personally am not a fan and I’ve seen far too many of these ‘artisanal’ shops in GB and F as well as CH but I have to say that YOUR creations, and the idea of soap making parties sound wonderful. I prefer for myself liquid soap and the smell of ‘cooking’ soap makes me quite ill. And from those ‘discarded odd’ shapes I really love the ones looking like a slice of blue cheese and ‘half a tomato cut open’…. I wish you MUCH FUN AND SUCCESS with your idea. And hopefully this also creates (as a side line) new friendships and the sharing of interests.
    Another odd thing is that these soaps are so beautiful to look at that one keeps them, they get dusty and I (you see I did buy them too, for a long time!) took pain to ‘de-dust’ them from time to time until something breaks in me and I put them to good use (finally….). I had an angel soap for years before I could face using it, and of course the lovely perfume was long gone by then! 😉

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    1. I have many soaps that I use purely as decoration. but I do eventually use them to wash my hands when they seem to be getting faded or old looking. That gives them a dual purpose – design and cleanliness. It’s a win win!

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    1. Katie loves doing it. It’s a great creative outlet for her. But now that it’s a business, she has so much more to do in addition to the fun part of making the soaps.

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    1. Aren’t they wonderful? Some are so fanciful and beautiful! It’s actually a very versatile medium, like clay. But you also have the added dimension of smell. So it has even more possibilities than most art forms.

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  2. I’ve known other soap makers and the delight that comes from using a soap that is good for your skin as well as pretty is invaluable! What a wonderful business to become involved with.

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    1. It’s great to be able to run a part time business like this from home. Katie has a full time job so she has limited time to spend on it. But it is a creative outlet as well as a commercial enterprise so it makes Katie happy. Which is what really counts.

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    1. I thought the rejects basket looked so pretty! It would be fun to have a basket like that in the bathroom, with chunks and slivers and odd shapes of different soaps to choose from when you washed your hands. Maybe we’ll start a new trend!

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