Category Archives: Others

Inspiring Soap Maker: Jennifer Young (Part 2 of 2)

Here’s the second half of my interview with Jennifer Young of Naturalmente Mediterraneo and Jenora Soaps.  In case you missed the first part (questions 1-5) of the interview, you may find it here.

If you have any questions about the soap business, please don’t hesitate to ask Jennifer. Not only is she passionate about what she does, but she is also passionate about inspiring people. 🙂

6.  What are your most saleable products?

50 to 60% of what we sell is soap. They all sell pretty well.  Maybe our 3 best selling soaps are Orange Poppyseed (Exfoliating), Andaluz (Gentle) and Green Clay (for oilier skin).  If a soap doesn’t sell well, we cut it from the line, like for example our Aloe Vera soap was our slowest seller (I believe that is because it is very common, there are already so many on the market) so we cut it, but as it has a fresh, minty essential oil blend, we will bring it back seasonally for the summer. As for moisturizers, our Oliva hand and body cream sells well, as well as our Rosehip cream for the face.  Our best selling scrub is Orange poppyseed and our Moisturizing Serums are relatively new but selling well.  It often depends on the venue and the time of the year.  I keep a very detailed record of every product that sells, where and when it sells and we analyze the data at the end of each month.

7.  Personal favourites?

Our Goat Milk soap – I adore the scent, a blend of patchouli and geranium essential oils. I love the creamy lather.

Lavender Rosemary Moisturizing Salve – I use this every night before bed on my hands, legs and feet. It is soothing, moisturizing and so comforting.

Our new Oasis Moisturizing Facial Serum with Rosehip & jojoba oils among others… I love the neroli in the essential oil blend.

8. What is your favourite soap additive? Essential oil?

Soap additive – Essential oils.  I am passionate about essential oils.  I love researching them, experimenting with them and blending.

Essential oil – I have so many favourites and this also changes.  Lavender is probably my all time favourite, I adore Patchouli and Bergamot.  I also love Sweet Orange and Vetiver.

9.  Soaping tips or tricks you wish you knew early on?

I have loved the whole process of discovery and learning and would not want to have speeded that up.  So I don’t think there is anything that I wish I knew early on.  I continue to research, learn and discover things. At one point, I ruined an entire batch (100 bars) of our most expensive soap because the lye hadn’t mixed in properly. But in the end, I am glad it happened because it meant we changed the production process and now we always strain the lye mix when pouring into the oils.  Most of the time, I find that something great is learned from our mistakes.

10.  What advice would you give to soapers thinking of turning their hobby into a business?

–   It is possible to make a living from soap making.  However, it may mean re-defining what “making a living” means to you and reducing your lifestyle.

–   You may wish to consider selling other products as well.  For us, unfortunately soap, the product I most love making, is the product with the lowest profit margins.  So we introduced other natural skin care products as well.

–   It is very important to know how to run a business.  Numbers, pricing, organization & prioritizing are keys.  Selling is as important for the business as making good soap, so if you want to enjoy running a soap making business, you had better enjoy selling or employ someone who does!

–   Don’t waste any negative energy on the competition. Focus more on your own products uniqueness and identity. What makes your product different from others?

–   Patience is important.  If you have a good product, the clients and sales will come, but it may take time.  If you want it to happen quicker, you need to bring them in.  Opening a shop or a website does not mean that people will somehow find you, you need to do a lot of work to bring them there, from advertising to markets to fairs, social networking.

Naturalmente M 2

At the store front.

Naturalmente Mediterraneo JRY in Shop

Jen with her beautifully packaged soaps.

Thank you so much for this interview, Jen!  May your success continue to grow, and may you always be a source of joy and inspiration to many. 🙂

 

Inspiring Soap Maker: Jennifer Young (Part 1 of 2)

Drumroll, please…….

As promised, presenting to you the brilliant, dynamic, and lovely Jennifer Young: owner, manager, and chief creator of natural soaps and beauty products of the highly successful Naturalmente Mediterraneo, and author of the blog, Jenora Soaps.

[Thank you so much, Jen, for saying yes to this interview! 🙂 ]

In just a short span of time, Jennifer was able to successfully make the leap from hobby soap making to full time business.  From making 3-bar batches, she now makes 100-bar batches! Some weeks she makes 1000 bars! Wow, right? And on top of that, she has a whole range of skin care products.

I hope this interview with Jennifer serves as an inspiration to you, as she has been to me.  If you have questions for her, please leave them in the comments section, and she will answer you within a week of this posting.

1.  Can you please share with us how Naturalmente Mediterraneo came to be?

I began soapmaking in October 2009 as relief from a stressful job. I had been toying with the idea of what I could do with all of the Aloe Vera plants I was looking after and it hit me one night in bed. I bolted upright suddenly thinking – SOAP – Could I make my own? I went downstairs and got on the internet to see if making soap at home was even possible and was amazed at what I found out.  I didn’t sleep that night and after reading many book reviews, I finally picked out and purchased a soapmaking book online. It felt so urgent that I paid more for the shipping than the book itself.  My first soaps were Castille soaps – with only olive oil as it was all I could find in the area… and it all grew from there as I researched and experimented.  I learned a lot about natural lifestyle growing up with my mother, who is stunning but has never dyed her hair, doesn’t use plastic or even Teflon. I was the kid at school with the “healthy” chocolate chip cookies with sunflower seeds in them. At first it was an obsessive hobby. I created my Jenora Soaps blog and made wonderful connections with like-minded people around the world, then starting Naturalmente Mediterraneo and expanding to moisturizing creams, scrubs, salves, lip balms, serums, and liquid soap with a focus on local, natural ingredients.  In July 2012, I opened our retail shop and studio where I continue to hand-make our products in line with 4 core values 1) Enjoy what I do  2) Use only natural ingredients, from this are whenever possible 3) Support the local community and economy and 4) Treat the environment well.

2.  How has owning and running your own business changed your life?

In my previous job, I had a lot of responsibility and stress and it was eating at me to the point when I got sick.  So how has that changed? My life quality has improved immensely.  Since the driving force behind this business was and still is my passion for the creation process, the ingredients, the products, this area and natural life-style, rather than money, I enjoy what I do every day, even during the moments when sales are low. I choose each day to do what I love.  With my own business, all of the choices are mine… and I remain ever conscious that core value number 1 is ENJOY WHAT I DO.  So although there are many routes I could have and still could take with the business that might bring in more money, I choose not to go down the routes that may lead me somewhere where I won’t enjoy what I am doing.

3.  What’s the most rewarding aspect of doing business?
A list:

–   The soapmaking process…. Soaping away on an early morning with music on.

–   Creating a new product, not only the finished product but the whole lead up to it, the research and experimenting, testers feedback and then finalizing and launching the product onto the market!

–   Repeat clients

–   Positive feedback (although negative feedback is just as important to me during the testing phase of a new product)

–   Opening the soap mould after making a new soap for the first time

–   Cutting soap

–   Sales

4.  What do you struggle with the most?

–     Administration work.  Paperwork can bog me down, especially here in Spain where red tape is incredible and health and safety require a TON of paperwork for each batch I make

–     Lack of support for small businesses here in Spain.  It is expensive to start and run your own business here.

5.  How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

– Fortunately this is something I have not had a problem with since the moment I started soap making.  It has been the most creative time in my life. I suppose paper work and admin, email etc. can get me down so I try to swap it up.  I begin each day making something.  It may be simply opening up the moulds, cutting and stamping soaps or it may be a full batch of something new.  Then I will allow myself 1 hour on the computer, then I head back to the production room, where I am happiest.

Jennifer's first soap.

First soap.

Naturalmente M 3

First market.

All-natural soaps.

Jennifer’s all-natural soaps.

I hope you enjoyed the interview and are feeling inspired. 🙂 Don’t miss the second half of it on March 21!

And please stay tuned for SoapJam’s First Soap Anniversary Giveaway:  your own customized soap stamp – open to all soap makers from anywhere in the world.  Contest commences on March 27, and winner will be announced on the anniversary day itself, April 3.  🙂

The Kaolin Connection

Upon my friend’s invitation, I joined a field trip organised by the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, to Jingdezhen, China, last February 20-24.  I had never heard of this city before, but apparently, it is considered the porcelain capital of China, with a rich history in ceramics production dating back at least 1700 years ago.

It’s undeniably a ceramic city, as you will see…

China - ceramic window

Ceramic window border

Wall of antique ceramic shards

Wall of ceramic shards

Ceramic bridge

Ceramic bridge

Ceramic trash bins (read the English text)

Ceramic trash bins (read the English text)

Great wall of ceramic

Great wall of ceramics

More ceramics

What did I tell you? Ceramics, ceramics, everywhere!

I have a fondness for ceramics, but my knowledge is paltry at best. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to be in the company of people with a keen appreciation and in-depth knowledge of oriental ceramics.  For our guide, we had a brilliant young archaeologist and scholar who took us to the museums, markets, pottery studios,  historical sites, and even her apartment – where she keeps a good collection of porcelain shards from the different dynasties.  I was quite the ignorant at the start of the trip.  I still am, but a wee bit less, and a lot more appreciative of the history of porcelain.

Tea and Antique Porcelain Shards at Prof. May Huang's house

Afternoon tea while studying antique porcelain shards.

Since I started making soap, I have always made it a point to find something soapy whenever I travel. I didn’t find handmade soap, nor did I discover new ingredients like I did during my trip to Taiwan, but I was thrilled to learn that kaolin clay, a common additive in soap making, had its origin in Jingdezhen!  It is more trivia than anything, but finding some kind of soap connection got me excited.

Kaolin: History and Importance

  • Towards the end of the South Song Dynasty (1127 -1279), top-layered china stones for ceramic production were getting exhausted. The search for alternative material led to the discovery of kaolin clay, named after the place where it was first mined – in Gaoling,  45 km northeast of Jingdezhen City.
  • Ceramics production may have started as early as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), but it was not until the discovery of kaolin clay, that kilns were able to fire ceramic bodies at higher temperatures of around 1300˚C, without breaking.
  • Because of the strength and durability it lends to porcelain, kaolin clay is called the “bone”, while the other component, china stone (feldspar), is considered the “muscle.”
  • Kaolin clay helps produce whiter and finer quality porcelain.
  • Chinese porcelain reached its epoch with the discovery of kaolin clay.
  • The famed blue and white wares from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) had to be fired at 1300˚C for the underglaze cobalt paint to turn into its characteristic brilliant blue colour.  Without kaolin clay, ceramic made purely with china stone would have crumbled at such a high temperature.
  • In 1712, Francois Xavier d’Entrecolles, a Jesuit priest, brought back to France the porcelain-making techniques of the Chinese. In 1771, the French found kaolin near the town of Limoges, which, to this day, is famed for its porcelain.
  • In 1755, kaolin deposits were found in Cornwall.  This spurred the ceramics industry of England.
  • Nowadays, kaolin is used in almost all industries: paper, rubber, plastic, paint, chemical, medicine, textile, petroleum, building materials, semiconductor, cosmetics, etc.
Origins of Kaolin Clay: Gaoling Hill

Origins of Kaolin Clay: Gaoling Hill

Semi-processed koalin clods. They were transported from Goaling Hill to the Yaoli river, to be delivered to the imperial kilns.

Semi-processed koalin clods.

Underglaze painting

Underglaze painting

Kaolin (White): Uses in Soap and Skin-Care

  • Kaolin is said to help retain the scent of fragrance and essential oils in soap.  I don’t know for sure how effective it is, but in my Yogurt and Oats soap, the scent is holding quite well.
  • Even though kaolin makes porcelain whiter, it does not work the same way in soaps.  I read that it makes the colour of soap lighter, but it does not make it whiter.  (However, Maya of Infusions blog, just posted her latest creation using kaolin to whiten soap.  Does anyone else have experience using kaolin as a whitening agent?)
  • It can be used in shaving soaps for a silky slip.
  • It is a good skin detoxifier and cleanser, and is suitable for all skin types. It is considered one of the mildest clays and will not dry out the skin.
  • It can be used in mineral make-up, body powder, and natural deodorant.
  • Mixed with water,milk, yogurt, aloe vera, cucumber juice, mashed avocado, or your favourite  fruit/vegetable, it can be made into a face or body mask.

What is your experience with kaolin clay? Do you have other uses for it?

I tried to look for kaolin clay so I could say I have kaolin from the original source. But the truth is, after centuries of mining, the kaolin clay in Gaoling – considered to be the finest -has been depleted.  In its stead are mountains of discarded coarse kaolin – the leftover stuff after the clay has been washed and sifted.  Now covered with vegetation, the mountains were once gleaming white.  Kaolin is still mined elsewhere in China. I wanted to buy anyhow, but it’s sold by wholesale only – by tons (!), according to May, our wonderful archaeologist guide. The United States, particularly the state of Georgia, is currently the largest kaolin producer in the world.

I had no kaolin, but I did find something else, though:

Tea strainers and what I think is something for the hair

Tea strainers and what I think is something for the hair

I bought the above items from a street vendor.  I think the design of the bamboo tea strainers would be good for dusting mica on soap, and the wooden stick (does anyone know what it is for?) would be worth a try in making swirls.

When I was in City Super in Hong Kong, I couldn’t resist this Hello Kitty silicone mold, which, as you guessed, won’t be for muffins:

Hello Kitty soap mold

Hello Kitty silicone mold

So, I did come home with a few things for my soapy obsession.  If one looks hard enough, one will always find.  😺

Update: Maya just made an excellent follow-up post on using white kaolin in soap and its effects. Please head over to Infusions to read about it in detail.

Custom Soap Stamp & Sneak Peek

(Whoopsie! I just corrected my spelling. I originally wrote Sneek Peak!!!)

From the very start, I’ve always wanted a custom soap stamp. I think it adds that extra touch to the look of the soap, and is a great way for branding and personalising.

Not withstanding the lack of a logo, I had a generic stamp made. These were some of my earlier soaps (they looked so rough!):

Stamped Coffee Soap

Coffee Soap

Stamped Charcoal Soap

Charcoal Soap

I used my “handmade” stamp for only a few months.  This year, I had two new stamps made with my logo. One is for my all-natural line (will post about that in the future), and featured below, is the general all-around stamp.

The first few batches I stamped didn’t produce very clean impressions.

Peach Sunset 1

Peach Sunset

Citrus Berry

Citrus Berry

Peach White Tea

Peach White Tea

Then I remembered Modern Soapmaking’s tutorial wherein Kenna stamped her soaps immediately after cutting, and used a rubber mallet to whack the stamp. I didn’t think the mallet would make a big difference, but it did the trick! I only had a metal mallet, though.  Thankfully, nothing happened to the stamp, even with its flimsy makeshift wooden handle.

Stamped Oatmeal Soap

Yogurt and Oats

Wake Me Up!

Wake Me Up!

Would you like to have your own custom soap stamp? 😀

My first soap anniversary is coming up this April 3 and I feel like celebrating! I’ve got two activities lined up: 1) an interview with an inspiring and talented soaper, and 2) a custom soap stamp give-away (open to soapers from all over the world!)

If you’re not yet following this blog, I’d like to invite you to follow through e-mail or Facebook, so you don’t miss a thing. Stay tuned! 😀

Acrylic soap stamps



Versatile Blogger Award and Nominees

image

A week ago, as I was doing my routine blog surfing, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Oksana Mylchik of My Soap Factories had nominated SoapJam for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you so much, Oksana! I am honored and humbled to have my blog considered for this award.  It’s like getting an early gift for my upcoming first soap anniversary, this April 3. 🎉

Congratulations to all the other wonderful bloggers who were also nominated by Oksana. To find out who they are, head over to Oksana’s blog!

VBA RULES: 
(Copied from versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com)

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

MY 15 NOMINEES: 👑

1.  Aomori Workshop

2.  Bubbles in My Head

3.  Curious Soapmaker

4.  Diva Soap

5.  Ecoviolet

6.  Elephantine

7.  Five Messy Babies

8.  Humblebee & Me

9.  I’d Lather be Soaping

10.  Infusions

11.  Kotikemistin Pieni Paja

12.  Moj Sapun

13.  Oil and Butter

14.  Tenth Avenue Soapworks

15.  The Soap Mine

7 THINGS ABOUT ME: 😇

Coincidentally, I had just decided to write 40 Things About Me🌻.

 

40 Things About Me

Last May 2, 2013, I emailed Jennifer of Jenora Soaps to let her know I admired her work and to ask her some questions.  I was so excited to receive her immediate reply.  She wanted to be posted on my progress and asked if I had a blog.  Umm, no. But that gave me the push I needed, and so my first post was published on May 11.

I used my blog to document my new hobby on soap making. I didn’t know anything about blogging and I was just in my own little world.  I visited a lot of blogs, but it never occurred to me to leave comments.  After a few lonesome months all by myself, I read somewhere about the importance of leaving comments.  And so I did.  It felt good to interact and slowly become a part of the soaping community.  My blog was no longer just about soap, without feelings.  It started to be a little bit of an extension of myself.

Please don’t worry, SoapJam will still be primarily about soap!  But I would also like to share a little bit about food, travel, discoveries, DIY, and things that catch my attention – subjects I think most of us share common interests in.

I am a very private person and prefer to remain in the background or anonymous.   But after being here for nearly a year and enjoying your company, I thought it would be nice if you knew a little bit about me. It would be an honour if our awesome little community also got to know a little bit about you. 🙂

So let me start the ball rolling…

1.  My name is Silvia, but friends and family call me Bunny – a nickname my late father gave me when I was small.

2. I live with my husband and 2 dogs, Thor – a pug, and Chewie – a shi-tzu, in Cebu City, Philippines.

3.  I am crazy about Chewie.  Please don’t judge me for playing favorites.

4.  I’m addicted to making soap (isn’t it obvious?)

5.  I love blogging and the people I meet here.

6.  I hoard tea towels and kitchen towels.

7.  I have a thing for pure linen, especially vintage.

8.  I love porcelain, china, and glass.

9.  I love cookware, kitchen gadgets, tools and equipments.  A lot of them are useful for making soap, too.

10.  I love cute/small containers.

11.  I love carbs in all forms, and cheese, from mild to stinky.

12.  Comfort food for me is a bowl of hot noodle soup (wonton noodle, pho, ramen, etc.)

13.  I was a vegan for 5 months in 2011, after reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Christmas came and the ham did me in.  I now eat anything but I wouldn’t mind going vegetarian again.

14.  I have struggled with procrastination my whole life.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.

15.  I think I have ADHD.  It’s so hard to focus on one thing, unless it becomes an obsession.

16.  My memory is bad.  My college roommate and I think it’s because of all the disposable aluminum pans we used back then.  Her memory is also bad.

17.  I am tech-challenged, but I will learn if I really really have to.  I will hang on to my antiquated phone and computer as long as I can.

18.  I am considered anti-social in the world of social media.  Not wanting to be completely irrelevant, I am trying to change this.  I used FB for a few months and didn’t open it for over 4 years until last year.

19.  I have been running 2 small cafes the past 15 years.

20.  My passion for cooking and baking has been overshadowed by soap making.

21.  I am guilty of neglecting my work.  I should fire myself already.

22.  I love the people I work with. When they’re not giving me a headache.

23.  My family is fruity and nutty, but I love them anyway.

24.  I love my husband and his family.  It’s far from perfect, but I am happy to be married to him and to have in-laws from heaven.

25.  I don’t have many friends, but the few I have, I treasure.

26.  My friends are scattered all over the world.  I would like to be better at keeping in touch.  FB seems to be the answer, but I still need to learn to embrace it.

27.  I enjoy walking and letting my mind wander.

28.  I like quiet.

29.  I love staying at home.  Maybe a little too much.  Luckily my husband likes staying home too.

30.  I admire Anne Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry.  I think she’s a genius and Superwoman.

31.  I would like to be as crafty as Martha Stewart.  I also wouldn’t mind to be as wealthy as she is.  But honestly I wouldn’t know what to do with all that money.

32.  I would like to learn how to sew, make pottery, write calligraphy, etch wood, do all sorts of paper craft, study about herbs and natural medicine, and learn how to become a perfumer or a nose.

33.  I love paper.  I used to collect stationery and barter single sheets with my elementary classmates.

34.  I would like to learn graphic design, but since I am not very good with computers, I will just let someone else do it.

35.  I enjoy photography.

36.  My favorite attire, or what I call my uniform, is a t-shirt, pair of jeans, and ballet flats.

37.  My favorite accessories are a pair of earrings and a scarf.

38.  My favorite scents are Arancia and Mirto, both by Aqua di Parma.  I also like Eau Ressourcante by Clarins, and I have very fond childhood memories of Tartine et Chocolat, and Love Baby Soft.

39.  I am too lazy to fix my hair and blow dry it, so I opted to cut it short instead of tying it in a bun or pony tail all the time.

40.  My husband stumbled upon this ad campaign.  I never tire of it and I am in love with the music and choreography.

Whew, I got carried away.  I didn’t think it would reach forty.  🙂

Thank you for taking time to read my blog.  I hope you linger around, and if we haven’t met yet, I would love to make your acquaintance.  🙂

Below the title of every post is a button that says “Leave a Reply” or “Reply”.  Wordpress requires that you leave your name and email address (won’t be shown) before you can write your comment.  It is a bit inconvenient but you have to fill up the required fields only once.  You won’t need to with your future comments.

Chewie

Chewie

Ode to Handmade

I got this Ode to Handmade from Michele of Tierra Verde Handmade Soaps, who ran across it on Facebook.  Whoever wrote it couldn’t have expressed more perfectly the heart and soul of an artist or a soapmaker.

“When buying from an artist/maker you’re buying more than just an object/painting. You are buying hundreds of hours of failures and experimentation. You are buying days, weeks, months of frustration and moments of PURE JOY. You aren’t just buying a thing; you’re buying a piece of heart, part of a soul, a moment of someone’s life. Most importantly you’re buying an artist more time to do something they are passionate about.”

Milk Paint

Just wanted to do a quick post on a fun little project my friend and I did last weekend. We painted some trays with all-natural, environment friendly Milk Paint.

Milk Paint

You simply mix the paint powder with an equal amount of warm water, and you’re ready to paint! We just did a few brush strokes on the tray to give it that vintage, rustic feel. A little sanding smoothened it and completed the look.

Milk Paint tray 2

Milk Paint Tray 3

Milk Paint Tray 4