1. Tell me a bit about your background and how long you have been an artist/crafter.
I am a completely, self-taught crafter. While a variety of crafts have attracted me my entire life -- including sewing, polymer clay, and crochet – the crafts that have really taken hold during the last seven years are handcrafted soap making, paper making, and jewelry designing. A big “thank you” to Sara for featuring my soap and paper making in this feature!
Handcrafting soap using the cold-process method is a labor of love, and can be compared to gourmet cooking. I enjoy creating my own soap recipes, planning how the oils and scents will worth together, and sampling the final products. My handcrafted paper is made one sheet at a time from reclaimed, ink-free scraps. I tear these sheets to make the packaging sleeves for my soap. It is my small way of contributing to the environment by recycling paper that would have otherwise gone straight to the landfill. Combining these two crafts produces a completely handcrafted end-result that nourishes your skin and is friendly to mother earth.
I am a third grade teacher by day and a crafter on nights and weekends. Crafting is my creative outlet and my mental therapy! It is an added bonus when others can enjoy and appreciate the things I create.
2. Where do you find your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from natural sources. I notice color combinations in nature, and I love scents that come from nature such as mint, rosemary, citrus, and a variety of floral fragrances. These make for awesome soap recipes! I always try to coordinate the color and texture of my handmade paper with a particular soap recipe too.
3. Do you sell your work, or is it purely for pleasure?
For several years, I just kept family and friends well stocked with handmade soap. Within the past year, I have managed to set aside enough bars to begin selling it at home shows and on Etsy. Cured, ready to use soap can be purchased from my Etsy shop: DLPom Handcrafted Expressions . Once you try it, you will never go back to store bought soap!
4. If someone was looking to take up this craft should they have any related experience before they start?
You don’t really need any experience to start making your own cold process soap. However, you do need to be well versed in the safety precautions of making cold process soap, as well as awareness of the overall techniques and options available to you. I spent hours reading on the Internet and bought several books on this topic before making my first batch of soap, which turned out to be a complete failure! Don’t get discouraged, it usually takes new cold process soapers 3-10 batches before they have a successful, useable soap.
Experience is not required for papermaking either. Again, reading about the technique and process is the place to begin to see if it is something that interests you.
5. What would be your top 5 tips for a soap-making beginner?
- Be very aware of safety precautions when handling lye. ALWAYS pour the lye crystals into your liquid, and not the other way around. NEVER pour water onto the lye crystals as this can cause a very dangerous volcano effect in the container you are using. The lye solution can cause a very serious alkaline burn. Accidental splashes from raw soap can also burn and irritate the skin. Have a bottle of white vinegar handy to immediately neutralize any contact with your skin.
- Assemble all your equipment and tools ahead of time. Sometimes the process moves quickly, and you need to have everything handy.
- Use a simple soap recipe with only 2-3 oils that has already been tested as a successful recipe. Creating your own soap recipes is an advanced technique that requires more understanding of soap making chemistry.
- Buy your fixed oils, essential oils, fragrance oils, and additives from a reliable company that has experience with cold process soap. Bad or inferior ingredients will lead to bad soap. One exception I’ve found is for olive oil, which can be purchased from your local grocery.
- Get an electric stick blender solely used for soap making to help speed up the tracing process. Otherwise, you may wait hours (and I do mean many hours!), for the soap to reach a trace state. And you can’t pour the soap into a mold before it traces.
6. What would be your top 5 items of essential, soap making equipment?
- A scale that measures to the nearest tenth of an ounce. Use it to weigh both the oils and the lye.
- A pyrex measuring cup for the hot lye solution.
- A thermometer to measure the temperature of the lye solution, which can get as hot as 180 degrees Fahrenheit, or more.
- A wooden, loaf shaped soap mold.
- A wooden, soap cutter and blade to make uniform bars from your soap loaf.
7. Can you recommend a technique or ‘tips’ book ideal for a beginner?
Crafting Soap at Home, Mike Hulbert, Hearst Books, New York. By countryliving.com
Papermaking Techniques Book, John Plowman, Quantum Books, London.
8. Can you recommend any brands to look out for, when buying equipment or kit?
My favorite suppliers of soap making supplies are Majestic Mountain Sage and Bramble Berry. Some of the best quality wooden soap molds and cutters can be purchased from Creekside Soaps.
The simplest form of papermaking requires a stick blender with a blade to turn paper scraps into pulp; a large and flat plastic tub to hold the water and paper pulp; a mold and deckle to form the paper; and a press to flatten and dry the sheets of handmade paper. Many of these items can be found locally, and it is fairly easy to construct your own mold, deckle, and press, as described in the papermaking book reference above.
I hope you have found this feature interesting and helpful. Above all, enjoy whatever craft makes you happy!
Thank you Dana... I'm sure I speak for everyone in saying that this has been a great feature!