Soap Making is About the Details

Soap Making is About the Details

Even after having made so much soap I still have a long way to go in my apprenticeship. I am in awe of the amount of attention to detail soap making requires.  

I read somewhere that an apprenticeship requires 10,000 hours. (Actually, what I read said to master anything takes 10,000 hours.) I use that as a rule of thumb. If I work at soap making 40 hours a week to complete my 10,000 hours of apprenticeship will take 4.8 years. I don’t think even after 10,000 hours soap will be mastered and this is the allure of soap making for me.

So, to glean as much information as I can while I’m making soap, reading about soap and thinking about soap.  I pay attention to a variety of details. I have not fully fallen down the rabbit hole and am still absorbing aspects of combining NaOH and oils/fats to make a product that cleans skin – soap.

Why do I say I haven’t fully fallen down the rabbit hole? Because much like Alice I haven’t yet picked up the cadence of the speech of the other world, not yet found my power (fully) in that other world as to make myself completely comfortable. If I have this awareness then I realize I also haven’t fully grasped the subtleties of the other world, the soap world and the magic that is soap making.

It’s much like playing Euchre. One can gasp the basics of the card game well enough to play. To know the feelings, subtleties, and nuances of this fast paced game, takes playing the game and time. I have been playing for 30 years. I am a reasonable Euchre player. I can mentally keep track of the cards and still I’ll throw off-trump. I can tell when someone plays the rules and not by gut-feeling. I also can tell when they cannot read me or the other players. All these layers of awareness take time. Some can be taught, but to fully understand and win takes practice and a dash of luck.

I also realize no one can teach these layers of awareness to me regarding soap making. I must keep my eyes open, pay attention to as many details as I can absorb and keep turning the spiral wheel; with every turn I pick up something new. With every batch of soap I have an opportunity to learn something new. Each batch is practice.

Details are Important

Not to overwhelm new soapers, because you will only see the top layer of information in the beginning, but with every new soap another layer of understanding will reveal itself, no worries. In essence, you will only see what you are ready and willing to see. This applies for soap and just about everything.

I recently asked for help in a soap group about soda ash. I know more than I did last time I asked the same question, and the time before that, but still its rather illusive. Weather (local humidity), condition of the NaOH, temperature of the room, temperature of the oils, additives, how the soap is treated after pour… All these things are important.

I also realized that there are many soapers who do not see soda ash on their soaps.  If one is not getting soda ash, does it mean they know how to avoid it? Or did all the important elements come together and soda ash was not created? That is why I brought this point to the surface, “Create Soda Ash.” No one wants soda ash, but knowing how to create it is another aspect of knowing how to avoid it.

I have realized that creating soda ash or not creating soda ash has been one of my bigger lessons. I might be more focused on it because of the detailed embellishments I put on top, which means I cannot easily wash the soda ash off or steam it off either. Therefore, I have to focus on this details and KNOW how it happens.

Another Aspect of Soap Making

Another detail, shifting gears, is how we build relationships in our soaping world. Many of us are independent thinkers, creatives, doers of the world.  Soap gets made. Doers do. Doers move elements of this world and bring ideas into the material world. This power is not to be taken lightly, but it has been – for thousands of years.

When it comes to making business alliances we (I am speaking for all of us in a general sense) want to be treated fairly, not like employees.

It has been my experience that retailers think we, when wholesaling, work for them. This is a slightly incorrect view.

A rule of thumb: If the person (assumed to be an employee) stops doing what they do, does your business stop? Then that is the most important person to your business and therefore should be treated with at least that much respect, even if you pay them. Paying someone does not equal “employee.”  An employee is also (or should be) treated with respect, but I’ll save that topic for another day.

We have an opportunity to re-design how business works. Its not as if business has been working so well it can’t stand improvement.

We can see each other as vital and important, treating each other fairly.

There are a few things to consider when wholesaling hand made goods.

  1. Can this easily be found anywhere?
  2. Am I offering something it would take my customers effort to discover and/ or make?
  3. Is this product unique and different?
  4. Am I making a quality item available?
  5. Am I saving my customer time and effort?
  6. Am I delighted to offer this product?
  7. Will my customers love this new product?

All these things should be compensated, and therefore, a deal can be struck. Simply making money is not a good reason to build a business relationship. That is the old way of thinking and conducting business. Clearly, our world needs a new way of relationship building and a new business model.

I have been approached by big and small businesses to wholesale. Those who ask me do not understand how much time and detail goes into what I create and are just tickled and excited about my soap creations.  That’s cool, they don’t have to understand in the beginning.  It is my job to explain what I do and keep a level head for both of us. With that said, I am no one’s employee. Treat me as if I am an employee (typical condescending disrespect) and I will balk.

I work 8-12 hours a day, spend most waking moment studying and applying myself and work for myself to avoid this type of treatment. I treat myself with respect, honor and dignity. You don’t have to, but I will also know that too.

Ask me in a short email “do you wholesale?”  I will reply with as much effort. “No.”

Ask me to wholesale and after much effort in negotiations, deliberations and many emails and if you don’t keep your phone appointment three times. I will refuses you. Quite simply, our business models don’t align. I’ve seen this many times, and have learned. When it comes time to pay me for my efforts, if you cannot respect my time in the beginning you won’t respect my time later.

Just because you can get something cheaper doesn’t mean you should. Just because everyone else is doing something one way means its the best or ideal way to do a thing.

I learned a great lesson early on. If someone tells you through words or actions not to trust them, believe them. I do not doubt or argue their truth because it will result in more of what they are offering. (This applies to dating, marriage and all forms of relationships, in my opinion).

In conclusion, I focus on everything – everything in my awareness. I strive to not over look or dismiss any detail. After all, what else is there in life, but the details?

With this new lesson truly learned if I get stuck on a detail I pick up my needle, move it to a new place on the record and keep listening to the music.

The devil is most certainly in the details.



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