I started making handmade soap about four years ago because I fell in love with the handmade soap I used to buy at the farmer’s market in my old home in Georgia. I don’t know if I thought handmade soap didn’t exist in Massachusetts or what, but I decided I wanted to learn how to make it myself because I was moving and wouldn’t be able to buy it from the farmer’s market anymore. I did a lot of research before I moved, but I didn’t make my first batch until after I moved to Massachusetts. It didn’t take long before it was one of my favorite things to do. I loved to experiment. I loved to create. I loved the end product. My skin is in excellent shape, and I attribute it entirely to the fact that I am exclusively using the soap and lotion I make myself. In fact, if I travel and forget to pack my own soap or perhaps think it’s a hassle and wind up using the hotel soap, my skin hates it.
I haven’t made a lot of soap this summer. My son actually asked me about it about a month ago. I have no intentions of stopping entirely, but it is true I’m scaling back. I am finding I want to make time to do other things, too. Spend time with my husband and children. Read. Travel. Write. I firmly believe, and have said often when people ask me how I do so much, that we make time to do the things that are important to us.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t find the business end of making soap a bit frustrating. I haven’t been successful at markets, and that has been disheartening. I can’t get into our local farmer’s market. I find keeping up with more than a few wholesale accounts exhausting, so I have elected not to pick up any more wholesale accounts. When I lost a wholesale account earlier this year for reasons that were not explained (and I didn’t pursue), I was secretly relieved because I could spend more time making the soap I want to make. That is what I love about making soap in the first place. Making what I want. But what I want to make is not always what people want to buy, and that has been a frustrating thing to experience. I want to show off a new technique or try a new recipe. But people want to buy their favorites.
If making soap was just a business to me, my path forward would be clear. I should make what sells and not worry about what I want, or perhaps indulge in making what I want for special occasions, such as gifts. But it’s not just a business to me, and frankly, it’s never been a very successful business. And I don’t really need the income. I have a full time job.
So, I am going to be scaling back. I actually already have, though I didn’t know it. I thought about it a lot over the summer, and what I will do is make soap when the mood strikes, and I will sell it in my Etsy store when I have enough, but I’m not going to be keeping the the store stocked, and what you will see there will be soaps I wanted to make. I am hoping people will understand that part of the reason I’m doing this is so I don’t actually feel the need to stop making soap because I don’t enjoy it anymore. I want to get back some of the passion I felt for making soap when it was a hobby, so I am returning it to more of a hobby. I have seen some good friends bow out entirely—either they have stopped making soap or they haven’t blogged about it a long time or both. I don’t want that to happen to me. I do consider making soap an art as well as a craft, and I want to make the kind of art that inspires me and makes me want to keep making art.