Interview with Vicki Hinde of The Soap Mine
I have known of The Soap Mine for some time by the distinctive and colorful drop pour soaps, however, I have recently connected the name with the company. So delighted to actually meet Vicki Hinde!
Read along and learn more about this amazing soap artist.
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When did you know soap making was for you?
At some point in 2010 a friend showed me a small piece of brown soap that she’d made herself, and I realised that I had absolutely no idea how soap was made. The question had never even crossed my mind, and, as I don’t like not knowing something, I got researching. I very soon decided that this was something I had to try and my first batch was made soon after. I was utterly hooked from that very first time.
When did you discover you loved soap making?
I loved it right from the beginning. I had quite a few failures, and each one taught me something important – I made batch notes from the beginning, and never made the same mistake twice. There were many mistakes though – lye heavy soap, soap that was never going to harden up, vanillin discolouration (boy was THAT a disappointment!), omitted fragrance, the list goes on… But that was part of why I loved it so much from the beginning. There’s SO much to learn, and there’s as much science as there is art.
What are your favorite parts of soap making?
I think it would be easier to say which bits I don’t like! Like most people, the wash up process is probably my least favourite, and if I’m honest, I’m not so keen on the wrapping or labelling either. However I LOVE choosing new fragrances and coming up with new colourways for them – most of my soap-making these days is restocking soap from my core range so I don’t get the opportunity to ‘play’ as often as I would like. That relatively small portion of time during which I’m actually pouring the soap into the mould and creating the design is really important to me. I focus quite intently on what I’m doing, and find it a very calming process. My husband knows that I don’t appreciate
any interruptions at that point! And of course cutting each bar is a thrill. I deliberately haven’t invested in a multi-wire soap cutter (yet!) as I enjoy the ‘reveal’ of each bar as I cut the loaf with my single-wire cutter.
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
Soap making is MY thing. I have two young children (aged 4 and 7) and for a while they took over my life; I seemed to have very little time for hobbies. These days, no matter how challenging the day has been (yes, I’m looking at YOU ‘Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-your-
mouth-four-year-old daughter’!!) I can always spend an hour or two immersed in my soap business, and all is well again. I may be extraordinarily busy ALL the time but it does make me very happy!!
What are you favorite oils, butters, micas and/or processes?
All my regular bars are made using the same six fats – olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, Shea butter and castor oil, so I guess they’re probably my favourites (or at least, they combine to produce my favourite result!) My go-to place for mica is U-Make it Up in Spain (recommended to me by the lovely Carolyn of Siennalily Soaps). They have a fantastic range of mica specifically for soap, and I’ve found that even including postage costs to the UK they’re significantly cheaper than the UK based companies I used to use. And process? There can be no doubt which is my fave – cold process with a drop swirl – my whole core range is made using a drop swirl.
What were your hopes for creating your soap business? (To help you answer: What hopes came true, so far, for your soap business/process?)
My first hope was to make enough money selling my soap to enable me to continue making soap! To begin with, it wasn’t a particularly expensive hobby – basic oils, a bit of fragrance and makeshift moulds are all relatively cheap as far as hobbies go – but as I got more into it and wanted to experiment more and more then the costs escalated. So basically I started selling to fund my continuing experimentation, but I soon started to wonder whether this was something that could become a bona fide company, one that would allow me to make an income without having to go out to work while my children were young.
What I didn’t expect is that it would take over my life so utterly and completely. I work in the mornings, before the children get up, and I work in the evenings, after they’ve gone to bed. I work after 4pm, as soon as my long-suffering husband finishes work, and I work at the weekend, when he’s not working. In September, my youngest child starts going to school full-time and I’ll have time DURING THE DAY *gasp* to work and I. Cannot. Wait. which brings me to the next question:
What other interests do you have when not in your soap or bath products laboratory?
Oh so many, and come September I fully intend to free up some of my evenings to be able to enjoy some them! I’m currently working towards my green belt in kickboxing – it’s just one one-hour class a week, but it’s fun, and it’s challenging. and I leave each class feeling energised and ridiculously happy and motivated. I also try to get out for a run a few times a week, but that’s fallen by the wayside a little recently, purely down to lack of time. Another of my passions is linguistics, particularly the history of language/s, and learning languages generally. I’m bilingual (English/Welsh), have a good knowledge of French. At the moment I’m learning Russian, and I’ve studied German and Spanish in the past. I used to be an avid reader, but that’s another thing that’s fallen by the wayside due to lack of time, so this coming winter I plan to challenge myself to read more AND to finally learn to crochet.
Do you have concerns and/or hopes for the soap industry?
I hope that I can convert more and more people to the joys of using (and making, if they so desire) handmade soap. I know of so many people who claim to be unable to use bar soap, but I’m sure that for many this is because they can’t use COMMERCIAL soap. I’m on a mission to convert the public, and it may be a long road but I’m up for the challenge
What do you want people to know about your soaps/business?
I’m a one-woman outfit, and I do absolutely everything, from ordering the raw materials through to delivering the final product. I use only the best ingredients and I’m utterly passionate about creating quality products that I can be proud of.
What makes you laugh about making soap?
How many people does it take to make a batch of soap? 10. One to make the soap, and nine more to argue about whether or not it should contain palm oil…
Only kidding of course, but I have to laugh, somewhat ruefully, at people who just can’t accept that different people have different ways of making soap. Personally I don’t use palm oil, and all my soaps are vegan friendly, however I’m not vegan myself (I’m not even vegetarian, and I have experimented with lard soaps in the past – they’re flippin’ wonderful!). I have no issue with others choosing to use animal derivatives or palm oil in their recipes. I’ve done my research, and there are arguments on both sides, but I will not decry or criticise any soap-maker for their particular choice of ingredients.