HSMG Conference-Sandy Maine: "The Artisan Market"

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Jan 9, 2008
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Sandy Maine was the Keynote speaker for the conference. She basically covered the future of our market. She discussed the various niches in which we can be playing and the marketshare available for each niche. One of the main takeaways from her talk was that, while the market for handcrafted, natural products is increasing, The amount of customers who want truly organic products (and are willing to pay for it) is relatively small compared with the share of customers who are just looking for something more natural, and trying to avoid the big chemicals and additives that goes into retail products.

After the conference, about fifty of us took a three hour bus ride to her shop, Sunfeather in New York. It was beautiful, thousands and thousands of soaps curing everywhere.

In one end of her shop she has a kitchen where they make balms, lotions and where they dilute the liquid soap paste. There were two girls making balm while we were in there... This work area, looked very much like many of our studios, no special equipment really.

In the middle of the shop is her soap room. She has a full time soap maker who makes 5-7 one hundred pound batches a day. While we were there she made a wonderful lemongrass and lavender soap. The soapmaker poured the lye into the melted oils in a huge pot tipper, then stirred with what looked like a canoe paddle with holes in it. Once the mixture was emulsified, she addded the essential oils and additives and kept stirring until trace. She did not use a mixer, just the paddle. The mixture reached trace within about three minutes. She said she ALWAYS adds her essential oils just after emulsion and NEVER at trace. Also she said she only has a few recipies that she uses the stick blender for (I assume the high oo recipies) And that most of the time she hand stirs so she can have better control.

Once the batter reached trace the soapmaker poured the mixture into a block mold which had been lined with crisco, then parchment paper, then more crisco. the block mold was then sent to "the oven". Sandy showed us how to make an "oven" it was nothing more than a box made of the hard sheets of insulation (like it looks like silver drywall sheets) taped together with ducktape. Then you put some towels over the top of your mold and put this oven-box over your mold.

Then the soapmaker demonstrated the cutting, she shaved off the crisco and then used a large hydraulic cutter to mak loaves.

They cut with one of those huge hydraulic or air wire cutter.
Thank you for sharing that for those of us that weren't ablet to attend. I have a lot of respect for Sandy, she's really a pioneer in the field.

So did you see anything that will make you change the way you do anything? A better way? It sounds like she pretty much does things the way we do, just on a little bigger scale :lol:
Wow, we are in the process of moving to a larger area and that really helps. I actually was just looking at her website. I have her book too.
What is emulsion? I am guessing that it comes before trace. My soap always looks emulsified right away, I think.

MissJules thank you so much for sharing what you have learned. That is
so encouraging. It sounds like you learned alot.

Moonbeam, Honestly, I didn't see anything she was doing that different than what I do! She just does more or it! It was actually quite comforting to see that!

Laurie, Yes emulsion is just when your water and oils are mixed together well. It happens for me right away, but I guess if you have a big batch, you might need a few extra stirs to get it all mixed... I was really suprised how everyone is adding the EOs before trace... I've been doing it at trace, but it makes sense to do it before, what way you get more time to work on swirls and pouring and such..