August – the time when everyone goes on holiday, factories close for Wakes Weeks (do they still?) and the sun shines.  In the world of Blue Box Studio it is the time when my husband disappears to the US for an annual convention of like minded souls who teach, follow and study Heart Rhythm Meditation . He’s one of their teachers so it’s his main event of the year, especially as (I think) he’s their only retreat guide and mentor in the UK.  This leaves me not so much a Grass Widow, we have no grass and Arizona I should imagine is a bit short on it too, more of a spiritual widow?  Whatever, you get used to this, he goes I stay.  Someone has to, we have elderly and ailing cats and an elderly and ailing parent to keep an eye on; and a stack of books to catch up with.

Normally I do what I do every day, work, feed the cats, fall asleep, but with the onset of ill health in 2015 and what seems a very quite ‘school holiday period’ for online sales, I’ve decided things will be different this year.  I’m told I should ‘listen to [your] body’, ‘take time to smell the roses’ and this year that is just what I am going to do!  My Etsy shop is open as usual, and I am around but I am catching up with old friends and taking time out from working with glass for something new.  I’ve been dithering over ‘something new’ for a while.

handmade natural soaps
Time to come clean – I’m thinking of making soap (those above were my first attempts).  OK enough of the puns. Read on – I need your input below.

For years I have happily slapped on anything that looked like it might do the job, then I got the animal testing guilt trip (and still have) so looked more at what I bought and (the shocking part) what it contains!  Last year, as I became unwell, favoured brands started causing me issues.  ‘It’s your soap/shampoo/shower gel’ they said.  ‘Balderdash’, I said. But I’ve always loved handmade soaps, lotions and potions so raided my supply and discovered my skin felt better for it.  Hence thinking of making soap.  I feel the need for something new in my life.

So far I have several soap making sessions under my belt, I’ve another course booked for later this year to polish the finer points.  I’m still trying recipes and thinking things through.  There is a lot of legislation surrounding any cosmetic making for sale, including soaps and bath bombs – check those bars and bombs you buy, I’ve realised a few of those I bought aren’t certified and that is illegal!  Look for the batch number, usually a clue.  Some people at fairs think they can sell the kit they bought a week ago and it will all be OK.  No!  Oh there’s no harm in it, you kill joy. There could be …… all soap starts off with sodium hydroxide, that’s caustic soda to the rest of us, the stuff you clear blocked drains with and the word ‘caustic’ should sound alarm bells?  Not done correctly and the soap could remain caustic, probably wouldn’t want to be using that one, or worse get it in your eyes?  But for me it is early stages.

Next on my ‘discuss and sort out in August’ list is the ton of legislation, from speaking with Trading Standards, they’ll want to know about weights and measures (I remember that from when I sold hand spun yarn, special scales and trips to check calibration); before I can sell my soap has to be approved by a chemist in a Cosmetics Safety Assessment (£3-figures for not a lot of recipes), then once that happens I need to sort out new Public & Product Liability Insurance as my current insurer is arts based and soap is not art; then there’s CPNP – the Cosmetic Products Notification Portal, which might not be as complicated as it looks; and before all of the registering and reporting, I have to have the product made and packaged in my brand as it is product testing not hypothetical product testing.  This could all fall at any of the hurdles, a bit like the Horse of the Year show!

So watch this space – if I can get my head around all of this, find the money for testing, equipment, etc etc etc, find the market for this …. then there might be a little brother or sister to go with Blue Box Studio.  I’ve not thought of a name yet, depends what I can get as a domain name as well I guess.  So far I am toying with Susie B natural soaps – the B is my married name which I rarely use, husband would be chuffed if someone actually called me by it, he’s getting a bit bored of being Mr Harris, it’s not his name.

Any thoughts?  Tell me, you can comment below, do you use handmade soaps in bars, or liquids?  Do you buy, or is this only given gifts? What would you like to see? There will initially be a limited range as the 3-figure sums to test products is for each product type, so soap, liquid soap, hand cream for example would be 3 lots of 3-figure sums.  It’s why they cost more than a bar of something in the supermarket – but then unless it is made from sodium hydroxide, it’s not a soap, it’s a detergent bar, just look at all those chemicals in the list.

Here’s your chance to be in at the beginning of perhaps something big.  You’d be able to say to your friends ‘I knew her when she opened her 2nd gallon of olive oil’ and at some stage, when I have got past the certification stage I will be looking for people to test my new lines for me, that could be you with the freebies – but not if you don’t let me know.

And for those who are going ‘pah’, ‘get back to work’, ‘holiday?’ normal service resumes in September, and ad-hoc service will be available, with new listings, beads made, cakes baked …. throughout August, in-between going on courses and making soap.  I’m just taking time to smell the roses essential oils.