Thursday, May 10, 2007

return of the soap queen, part 1

Way back in 2000 I got a hankerin' to make some soap. I had stalked the Primal Elements display at a local bath and body shop for months - you know, those pricey loaves of incredible looking (and smelling) soap sold by the slice/ounce? I started researching the melt and pour technique, because I've loved glycerin soap since owning my first Neutrogena bar as a pre-teen. I was also drawn to the intense colors and fun designs that were possible with glycerin soap-making.

I bought my first supplies from Michael's craft supply store- little pre-cut shapes for inserts, teeny squeeze bottles of fragrance and coloring, and some cheapo plastic molds. My first successful loaf of soap was some kind of berry punch; each slice was bright pink and looked like it had ice cubes floating inside. I was hooked. My mother-in-law ordered some expensive vertical molds from Canada for my birthday, which allowed me to branch out into some fun designs, one of which earned me first place at the County Fair (insert visual image of Nicole hooking thumbs proudly in her suspender straps).

My first craft show was a small gig benefiting the local volunteer firefighters auxiliary. I had no clue how to price the bars, my wrapping technique was iffy, and I was incredibly shy about selling. Still, I moved a decent chunk of my fledgling inventory that afternoon. From there I sold at a larger holiday gig in a nearby town, and the next year I hit the two biggest holiday craft fairs in Flagstaff. In 2002 the local paper came out to do a Sunday Arts & Living feature story on my little home-based soap business, which was incredibly cool.

In all, I had five good years of soap-making and selling before we picked up and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where the wonderful, glycerin-rich base I used misbehaved terribly; it actually sweated beads of glycerin in the humid air, making it difficult to package and work with. I did spend a day in my son's first grade classroom showing the kids how to make pretty jewel soaps for Mother's Day, but other than that the business went on hold.

Until yesterday. Yes, folks. The Soap Queen is back. Well, that might be a bit of a stretch, since soap-selling season really doesn't pick up until November. Applications for the big shows will be mailed next month, though, so it's not too early to start ordering ingredients. I need to update my website, too, since it's been languishing for over a year. Soaping, I've found, is a great way to get the creative juices flowing when it comes to writing, which is so non-physical. So, as I get ready for this latest book to leave the nest and start working on the next one, it will be good to get back to creating something that involves getting my hands dirty - er, clean.


  1. Wow...every time I turn around, Nicole...

    I LOVE handmade soap!!! There was a shop in my town that sold it and I got really hooked. I never buy soap at the grocery or drug store anymore.

    We've all got finicky skin so this stuff is great.

    I need an excuse to visit Arizona.

  2. OH!

    Happy mother's day!!!!

  3. Happy Mother's Day to you, too, Heidi! I hope we all get a blessed day of REST, and I hope you feel better.

  4. Yippee! I've been going through aromatherapy withdrawals since you left and shortly thereafter the remaining slivers of Auld Lang Zyne (sp?), as well as the kids' bars, finally diminished. I trust you'll be bringing a fresh batch with you when you visit? In exchange, I'll see what I can whip up in the kitchen--just name your, favorite foods :)