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May 12th, 2004
Adventures in Heat

The custom order I talked about here did not come out, as it turns out. This basically was a total disaster.

So, I trooped over to Goodwill and bought myself a very large crockpot (you know, the slow cooker things) and dove in with both feet into the world of hot process soapmaking. Usually, I make soap by the “cold process” method — no additional heat added, this method uses the heat generated by the chemical reactions to “cook” the soap. The result is a soap that is very soft (like cheddar) after 12 hours, but firms up by 24 and is on its way to solid by 48. The chemical reaction is completed by hour 6 or 7, I think. The soap will cure for several days more before I sell it — lets it get good and hard.

Hot process involves adding heat to “cook” the soap. The result is soap that is quite hard by the time it cools, and is usable right away. You’re basically speeding up the chemical reaction, and evaporating most of the water while you’re at it. The whole process takes maybe an hour and a half, plus an hour to cool.

I’ve been wanting to try hot process for a while now, but I just needed an excuse. Having to produce usable, hard soap in less than one day presented just such an opportunity. Needless to say, it came out well although it’s not something I’d want to do for custom orders all the time because cosmetically it’s not quite up to par. Cold process is notable because it’s very liquid when you pour it in the mold — it comes out very smooth. Hot process is “gloppy” when you’re putting it in the mold and has a tendency to be rough around the edges.

But the process was the most fun I’ve had in a while. I’ll be doing more of it, because I can use all the fragrance oils I have that misbehave in cold process (causing it to quickly get too solid to pour, or causing it to separate like applesauce — both spell ruin). Mmmm… welcome to the hot side of soapmaking! The water’s fine!

Posted by Claire at 12:26 AM | Soap Habit | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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May 9th, 2004
The Best Thing

The market was pretty bad today. Last year we did okay the day before Mother’s Day but this year was cruddy. The weather, I think, was mostly responsible, and possibly that Cinco de Mayo thing on the waterfront.

I was unusually productive this evening. I fudged up the lavender soap I made last night (plain lavender, boo hoo!) so today I “rebatched” it (involves cutting it up, sticking it in a 250 degree oven until it melts, adding some more water, and pouring it back into the mold). What you get is really ugly, but usable soap.

Next, some soap I’m making for a special order. I’m paranoid about it because it had to be right (not enough time to make it again). I think it’ll be good. Then I made a large batch of my honey oatmeal soap (mmm, smells like cookies) and then…

My favorite… the best thing about this job is blending new scents. The most important way to set yourself apart from all the other soapmakers in Portland and on the internet is to have unique, different scents. Admittedly, there will always be overlap: people expect and want some classic scents (lavender, bay rum, a honey oatmeal, almond, etc), but you can still put your stamp on it with ingredients and color. But blending scents is where it’s really your time to shine. You can combine an endless variety of scents (there are very few things whose scent I can’t duplicate in soap) to make formulas that are uniquely yours.

Tonight, I tweaked my sandalwood vanilla soap — sandalwood vanilla is getting too popular so I wanted to adapt it. I threw in some jasmine fragrance and black pepper essential oil and the result had me practically rolling in it. This one will be good.

Too much fun. I can’t wait to cut it tomorrow.

Posted by Claire at 02:13 AM | Soap Habit | Comments (7) | Tweet This Post

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May 1st, 2004
Saturdays Are Cool

Everybody wave hello to Isaac, who said hello to us today at the market. He bought some soap too, which was very kind :)

We had a pretty decent day. I (finally) got the beginnings of a sign up — it at least has our name on it. Tonight I’ll try to finish the rest of it. Our new chairs arrived last week, so we have nice wooden chairs instead of falling-apart camp chairs to sit in. Last, but definitely NOT least, my soap is FINALLY in boxes. Earlier this year we purchased a *really* expensive printer that is earning its keep and then some. It’s a Xerox Phaser 8400, a solid ink printer. Solid ink isn’t laser or inkjet, but this cool sorta hybrid beast that produces BEAUTIFUL stuff. If you are a small business and you intend to print lots of labels and brochures but don’t want to have to buy a whole bunch at once from a print shop, this printer rocks.

So, the printer rocks. I loooooooove it. Oh yeah, and for a small fee, I’ll design and print stuff for you in small batches too… (shameless plug — hey, I’ve got an art degree, I should use it!)

Anyway, another successful Saturday, and the first official Saturday without a “day job.” I desperately want the soap to be a success, so the pressure to get another day job lifts a bit. We’re on our way…

Posted by Claire at 06:28 PM | Soap Habit | Comments (1) | Tweet This Post

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March 29th, 2004
Claire Luna

[shameless self-promotion]

My new website is almost finished. I’m rather proud of it…:)

Claire Luna Handmade soap and other fine products for your bath!

[/shameless self-promotion]

Posted by Claire at 08:40 PM | Soap Habit | Comments (2) | Tweet This Post

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March 20th, 2004
So Tired

We had another nice day at the Portland Saturday Market today. The weather cooperated (except for the blasted wind) and tomorrow is supposed to be nice. Sales weren’t bad (especially compared to last March).

But I’m just exhausted. I’m definitely not back into the swing of working seven days a week.

Posted by Claire at 10:11 PM | Soap Habit | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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