4. If someone was looking to take up this craft should they have any related experience before they start?
- Stay organized. Keep all supplies labeled, keep an Excel inventory spreadsheet, and write down your recipes!
- Invent and innovate. Keep your creations fresh and unique!
- Practice. Test your soaps in your own shower and see if they behave like you expect.
- Keep your area clean. Keep all utensils well maintained, counters scrubbed and knives sharp.
- Buy in bulk and anticipate demand. This is my biggest challenge of the moment -- my shop has taken off, which is lovely, but because it's the holiday rush I've had to return to my supplier almost every weekend, which takes precious crafting time away! Having supply on-hand makes life great.
6. What would be your top 5 items of essential equipment?
- High-quality MP base. Base found at craft stores is great to start with, but there are much better bases out there. Find a good, independent shop and buy locally when you can. The base I buy was originally not an MP crafting base, it was developed for higher-end stores to make their soap with.
- Knife and bench scraper. These go hand-in-hand -- a gigantic chef's knife to cut my 43 pound tubs of base with, and a bench scraper to gather up the cut pieces for melting.
- A good scale. Works for soap, oils, additives and shipping!
- Pipettes. Get precise measurements of scent so that recipes are easily duplicated.
- Mentors!!! You've got to continually learn to be able to grow. I learn the best from others, so I spend time with people who love to teach. It doesn't even have to be for your particular craft -- you can learn a lot from someone in another field, and everyone's going to have tips on running a business, too, which cannot be neglected if you sell.
7. Can you recommend a technique or 'tips' book ideal for a beginner?
I've read every book on soap I could find in the library, but I would say for my creations, I have learned the most from cookbooks. I don't have any particular favorite book. I do think it's important to continually read up on your craft.
8. Can you recommend any brands to look out for, when buying equipment or kit?
Warehouse and "dollar stores" can have amazing equipment that you may not expect. Wrapping/shipping materials, bowls, buckets, mops, sponges, towels, do-dads for photography, Tupperware to contain stock -- all of that can get very expensive but discount stores can take some of the burden off.
As far as brands for the soap supplies themselves, I don't use anything yet except what I buy from my local supplier. I think it's important to support independent artists!