Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Soap

Why is it that every time I get a big soap order, I cringe? I love making soap. It's soothing and meditative -- I feel really connected to the work.

I think I cringe because I realize what it takes to make soap -- even a small bit of soap. It takes a big steel pot, a big heavy-duty plastic bucket, a small heavy-duty plastic bucket, various wooden spoons, a heavy-duty plastic spatula, measuring spoons, measuring cups, molds, mold liners, a hand blender, a scale, lots of time, and space to store the drying soap. That's only half of the 'ingredients' needed to make soap. Now you need oils (olive, sunflower, coconut, jojoba, etc.), butters (shea, cocoa, avocado, mango, etc.), lye and water -- in industrial-sized amounts. And then there are the additives -- essential oils, clays, seeds, flowers, herbs and whathaveyou. Then you have to make everyone leave the house for a few hours so you're not freaking out every time they go near your soap lab.

But, when it comes right down to the actual making of the soap, it is bliss. The measuring and the melting, the stirring and the blending -- it's beautiful. Especially when the end result is something so vastly different from the single elements from which it is composed.

When I first began making soap, I was an absolute fiend. I would kick out four or five 12 lb batches a day, every day, for weeks on end, no problem. When the closet space got so full I couldn't fit more in, I made room -- in the den, in the garage, in boxes under the bed -- anywhere there was space. And when I finally reached every soapmaker's nirvana -- the perfect bar of soap -- I quit obsessing. I followed the same formula time and again and each time I would get these gorgeous bars of soap. The goal had been attained. Production dropped. The lure of the soap pot didn't seem so important anymore. Now, instead of an obsession, it's a meditation. I really dislike setting up for soapmaking, but I dearly love making soap.

So that's what's going on now -- making a big order of soap. The house smells like an herb garden with mints and lavender and rosemary in the air. Another reason to love making soap.

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