What Do You Do to Keep the "Spark" Alive?

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BrewerGeorge

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It's been close to a year now since I started making soap, and I'm finding myself uninspired. The "thrill" is gone.

As typical of myself, I jump into hobbies HARD. Last year I was reading everything I could, buying and making equipment like gangbusters and testing oils and scents every chance I got. I made something like 12 batches of soap in the first three months. Giving it away to my kids, friends, and extended family I still had more soap sitting around curing than I could use in a year. If I can presume to think that anyone might have noticed my absence on the forums for the last few months, that is the reason - that and simply having more things to do during the summer.

But now that winter is approaching again, I want to do more with soap. Still though, I find myself rather uninspired. I've recently made batches to restock what have become our staple soaps around the house, but that is straightforward and uninspiring. Where's the fun?

I'm not really the sort to keep tweaking recipes around; once I find something I like I stick to it. So now I've got a good general body bar and its slow-moving variant, a vegan body bar, a facial bar, and a liquid (GLS) in the recipe stable and have no real desire to experiment with them any further. I DO plan to try a castille soon, but that will provide just a brief spark of interest before being put away for a year. I don't need a laundry soap or a shaving soap.

I make our household soaps with a homogenous color from clay or at most an ITP swirl, with the thought "why bother" making our home soaps pretty.
Similarly, after trying several scents I've settled on favorites and bought big bottles. Perhaps I should instead take those opportunities to experiment with new scents and decoration techniques instead? With the thought being that it doesn't matter if I screw them up since nobody else sees them?

My friend who got me interested in making soap has reached the point where it has become just another household chore: Every three months make a couple of batches of soap - white and scented with a bit of peppermint EO - to replace what her family will use until the next batches are made. I can definitely see myself moving in that direction of losing the hobby too, and I don't want that to happen.

Please excuse the long read, and thank you for making it this far. If you've had this struggle as well, what do you do to overcome it? I haven't gone into this with any desire whatsoever to sell soap, but a friend is encouraging me to make up a few batches and hit the local farmers' market, mostly for the fun of it. What do you think of that idea? Basically, I'm just looking for suggestions.
 

penelopejane

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I suppose it's inevidable that the shine wears off a hobby eventually. But it will wear off selling, too, I think. Like you I have a few recipes that I'm sticking to now.

When I first started my boys were horrified when I gave them coloured soap. They were used to white store bought. Now they comment on the swirls and the different scents and they give me great feedback which makes me want to perfect the soaps I make for them.

I am trying to perfect a few colour techniques. I don't want a lot but I do want some stunningly pretty and masculine/ unisex variations that I can give away.

The thing about scents is that something one person likes another will hate. So it is a good idea to have a few "men's"/ unisex soap fragrances And some floral or citrus scents.

You have been quicker than me and I'm still trying to find a selection of about 10 scents I like and 10 colour combinations I like. This keeps my interest because I haven't got "there" yet.

Maybe going in the monthly challenges may make you step outside your comfort zone and give you back that "this is new" feeling again.

Have you made coffee soap yet?

I am nowhere near ready to sell so can't comment on that for you.

When you make Castile try a plain unscented one, one with vanilla bean scrapings, one with honey etc. there is still a lot to think about with Castile!
 
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powderpink

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I would suggest playing around with colours too. That's actually my favourite part!
Maybe you could enter the great cakes soapworks challenge to keep you on your toes?

Another thing is that, eventhough soaping is a hobby... you don't *have* to spend every single moment soaping.
I have a lot of hobbies on rotation in which I invested a lot (knitting, diy cosmetics, cooking/baking, soaping, painting, polymer clay etc. etc.). And though while I don't always practice them ( sometimes not for years) somehow the urge to pick one up where I left off always comes back, and when I get back to it, it's just as fun as the first time I got into it.
 

lenarenee

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First, it's okay if you lose interest in soaping.

Second, if sounds like you enjoy "newness", so that should be the focus as you try to re-inspire yourself. I can't really tell you what new thing you could try, you'll have to find that yourself. Maybe new shapes of molds, designs for individual bars, matching types of beer with soap. Go historical...Castille, Aleppo style, beldi, - use the classic recipes and try to replicate their old world appearance.

Third, take a look at your motivation for making soap to see if changing that will help re-inspire you.

I've lost a lot of interest in soaping because I felt I needed to always keep up with the latest and greatest swirl techniques. Truth is, the more technical and fussy the swirl, I more I don't like it. Some people use soap making as art, and I guess I don't. It takes me too much time to pick a fragrance and choose a swirl and color scheme that measures up to the professionals. And I loathe wasting materials in order to perfect the very complex techniques - so I had no interest in the butterfly swirl.

Just a couple weeks ago I realized that my motivation comes from 2 things: making soap for people I care about - using their fragrance choices, favorite colors, but more so - just knowing that my soap has improved the quality of life for many people - helping with dry, sensitive, eczema or acne suffering skin. (not claiming to be a miracle soap - just better ingredients).

After realizing that, I'm ready to make a ton of soap for Christmas - doing it my way and fulfilling my expectations.

Good luck to you George, in finding your way.
 

Susie

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Just a couple weeks ago I realized that my motivation comes from 2 things: making soap for people I care about - using their fragrance choices, favorite colors, but more so - just knowing that my soap has improved the quality of life for many people - helping with dry, sensitive, eczema or acne suffering skin. (not claiming to be a miracle soap - just better ingredients).

After realizing that, I'm ready to make a ton of soap for Christmas - doing it my way and fulfilling my expectations.

Good luck to you George, in finding your way.
This is my motivation, also. I simply could not care less about this swirl or that fancy color. I think they are beautiful when someone else does them, but I like making soap that people are not going to be afraid to use. Soap for the shower or sink. You know, the practical stuff.

I like helping those itchy folks get away from the syndets. Just to know I can help them gives me a rush like no other.

I enjoy interacting on this forum. I like helping folks, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not learn something new. And there are sometimes questions or thoughts from someone that strikes my fancy and I have to try whatever it is just to KNOW for myself.

I accepted a long time ago that soap making is something I can keep learning about for a very long time, and that is half the equation for the mad scientist part of me.
 

dibbles

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I started out using M&P. I didn't use color, but did use pretty molds. The creative part for me was fragrance blending. I made the switch to CP when I wanted 'more' and I could convince myself that if so many other people can deal with lye, I probably could too. I wasn't really interested in fancy swirls and challenging techniques. And then I ran across Handmade in Florida's butterfly swirl videos. I was absolutely smitten, and still am.

At the beginning of the year, I made a bucket list - 16 soapy things to try in 2016. One was using avocado. One was using beer. Many are techniques I want to try. That could be an approach to keep the 'spark' alive.

If you decide to sell, from what you are saying, I'd try it on a very limited basis. Once you make your hobby a job, it can lose its appeal. At least that is what I have found.

Maybe try the SMF Challenge for September. It is fun, and you are among friends - no pressure.

Whatever direction you decide to go, I hope you do continue to pop in.
 

dibbles

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At the beginning of the month, there is a new thread announcing the challenge. There is a direct link to the current challenge just above all the posts on every page.

The thread announcing the challenge will have a tutorial and a list of challenge specific criteria, with dates listed as well. All you have to do to enter is add your name to the sign up list. Then make one or multiple tries at the technique or design for the challenge. Take a picture of your efforts. When the entry thread opens, you will upload the picture of your soap with any comments you care to make. The entry thread is open for a week. After that, if you signed up, whether you entered or not you will receive a message with a password for voting. Any number of people can help you if you get stuck along the way.

Check out the August Challenge (link at the top of the page), or find the past challenges with a search. There haven't been too many entries yet this month. End of summer, back to school, vacations and work all have an effect on how much time people have to play.
 

CTAnton

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I share that mad scientist persona with susie...my latest wow moment was making LS...but I'm also of the mind that all this swirling etc is nice...but people I know don't use a piece of artwork to wash with..it sits in the "powder room"...like my mom's seashell soaps of a bygone era...
I gift my soap to one gal and getting her to wash with something other than a white soap was, well, difficult to say the least.Amber and Lavender from Brambleberry colored the soap brown and another woman FINALLY used it...and you know she loved it....another Ivory/Dove buyer bites the dust...
I enjoy perfecting the craft.. for me.its how to package,appropriate scents...I will say this time of year gardening pays my bills but I still allow some time almost every day to hone my skills.. `but the best is what you hear from the public. I sell at my friend's coffee roasting shop.Someone came in and asked if the soaps were tear free. My eyes went to the ceiling but my mouth didn't utter a word other than no.Time went on and my friend said to me;"You know, if your soaps were tear free that women probably would have bought a bunch of them". Grr. I go online that night and poke around on the web and learn Johnson and Johnson adds an eye numbing ingredient to achieve that remarkable quality.while the general public thinks its all about the purity of the ingredients used it's actually another chemical. You know folks, you simply can't make this stuff up.
 

dibbles

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I only give my soaps away, so once people figure out they will get more (a LOT more) they got over the 'too pretty to use' mentality. I did have to tell my father in law that if I saw the same bar of soap in a soap dish one more time, I'd cut him off. If someone shares a bar with another person and it doesn't get used I won't know about it so...

I love plain jane soaps, and make those too. I love the elegance of the simplicity of a smooth white soap. This hobby is a never ending source of fun for me.
 

fuzz-juzz

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To be honest, I've also lost interest in making my soaps look pretty.
I'm somewhat similar...
These days, it's one colour mostly. Two if I can be bothered.
I never participate in monthly challenges, I have a look at other entries and I am in awe from all the talent and respect other's will to do to it and their time.
I understand for most, it's more hobby that anything else.

I think I've gone the "necessity route". I have VERY sensitive skin that's is getting increasingly worse, especially in the last year or so.
Making soap for my body and hands is a necessity. Otherwise, I will end up buying it from other soapmakers.
I still enjoy planing the FOs I'll use, recipe, molds etc, but to me, it's more about making decently cute, nicely fragranced soap that will be kind on the skin and lovely in the shower, than about how it's going to look.
I have my favourite FOs, oils and recipes that I stick to and that I make on regular basis. I always enough LS made up to last us months. Or 5-6 different bar soaps already cured and ready to go.
I'm also not into trying millions of different additives in soap. At first I was, I tried milks, herbs, this and that... now, I stick to just plain soap, FO, colour and bit of AC or clay.

I don't think I'm stuck in a rut. 5 years on, this is still my hobby, I don't feel I need to make 10 batches a month, I'm not selling, I have limited resources ($$$) so why waste. I make enough to use up and that's enough for me. And my skin and my family are very thankful for that. :)
 

newbie

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Nothing wrong with going the necessary route at all. I guess it depends on if you want soaping to be a hobby or not or if now you feel obligated to keep it up after investing so much in all the stuff.

I make only small batches; it's quite unusual for me to do more than a 17-18 ounces (oils) batch anymore. I make small batches so I can try to make the soap do what I want it to do without feeling like I'm wasting if it's a botch. Trying to find a new look, trying out an idea for a color combo or a pour, trying to be consistent with a technique are all drivers for me although I have my lags where I can't think of anything I want to bother to try. I have found it's very difficult to make soap batter do what you want it to do, to go where you want it to go or to move like you want it to move. Trying to find the key can be fun and interesting. However, not everyone is motivated by the same things.

If you decide to let it go as a hobby, hopefully you can find someone local to buy your stuff. I just put out two boxes of FO's, free on the curb, and had to bring them back inside because no one wanted them! Go figure.

If you want to try your hand at getting good at a technique and see if that sparks your interest, try the challenge for September. It's a technique one.
 

Arimara

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I make soap once a month, which ensures I'm not over doing it. I also use cavity molds since 16oz typically produces 6-7 bars for me(depends on trace). I'm also trying to narrow down recipes I like and keep my daughter as a focal point. Her allergies raises the ante for the oils I have to limit and/or avoid. So coming up with the ideal recipe for her skin is high on my list. Finding what additives she can benefit from is also a priority since I know I have some sensitivities to some pigments.

Next month will be my 12th month of soaping. I want to make something nice and reflecting of how special September is for me.
 

reflection

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i'm not sure if you're just in a soaping rut or having an existential crisis so i'll try to hit upon both aspects. :mrgreen:

since soapmaking is a hobby and is meant to be enjoyable then i'd just lay it down for a bit if you currently aren't enjoying it. you'll pick it back up when the mood hits. inspiration will strike again as that is how it works. it ebbs and flows. is it possible you overdid it initially and are feeling a little burnt out right now?

here's my example: a few weeks ago i bought a wooden stool for my art/craft table, and to sit on for stirring my first batch of soap, and i kept walking by it either ignoring it or thinking that i needed to make some wood polish for it. today, inspiration returned and i have wood polish in the freezer cooling as i type. i just didn't have the motivation to make it sooner but it returned. who knows why?

you could also ask yourself what is it about soapmaking that you enjoy, that drew it to you initially. is it the challenge of learning something new? then, you just need to up your game and try some new, challenging aspect of it.

lastly, if you find this is something that happens over and over again with a variety of hobbies then you might want to look a little deeper at what you are looking for from your hobbies. maybe they are not able to provide what you are really looking for. then, maybe you need to do something like read the book of ecclesiastes

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.” Eccl 1:2

…just don't stop reading at ecclesiastes so you don't fall into a vat of despair. ;)
 

IrishLass

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..it ebbs and flows.
Yep, that's how it is for me- it ebbs and flows. But I believe that's pretty common and normal with most things. I've been at it for 10 years now, and I find that my passion pretty much goes through seasons of , "Ooo, swirl!" to "(heavy sigh) Time to make the donuts", er I mean "soap". :lol: Out of all my hobbies, though, it's the only one (besides cooking) that is able to survive the ebbs and flows.


IrishLass :)
 

Arimara

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Yep, that's how it is for me- it ebbs and flows. But I believe that's pretty common and normal with most things. I've been at it for 10 years now, and I find that my passion pretty much goes through seasons of , "Ooo, swirl!" to "(heavy sigh) Time to make the donuts", er I mean "soap". :lol: Out of all my hobbies, though, it's the only one (besides cooking) that is able to survive the ebbs and flows.


IrishLass :)
I understand that. The only time I quit something for an extended length of time is after I get a painful cramp in my hand. It's why I don't bake, crochet, sew, knit, or write too often. Even soaping is a bit of a risk if I don't use a SB.
 

BrewerGeorge

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I, too, have had issues with getting some people to actually use my soap. For Christmas, I made my mother and aunt some absolutely beautiful soap flowers. Lavender-scented with a lavender swirl of color and even sparkly glitter. As far as I know, none of those bars have come close to getting the slightest bit damp. "They're too pretty." "I'm saving them." I'm like, Girl, you're 75 years old! When are you saving them for? :)

It's definitely possible that I'm new enough to the hobby that this is just my first rut. Thanks for the insights, Everyone.
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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I think that this is good. Soaping as a hobby is not like, say, hiking as a hobby. With hiking you can go and hike all day every day and all you have at the end is a fitter body. With fishing you would rarely catch so many fish that you can't give it away, so one could likely fish as often as one liked and not have a freezer overflowing with fish!

But soaping is different. Unless you keep yourself to small batches, it is easy to have too much soap if you soap out of want rather than need. Then people look to sell because they make too much soap. That is something I just don't understand.

I really love making soap. I really do. But generally I only make the bars when we are running low. It could be months between certain batches, and that's okay. If you don't have to make soap and you don't really want to do it "just because"........then don't!

There is no rule that says if you don't make soap every month then you are no longer a hobby soaper. Some hobbies don't have to be done all the time - in fact, with soaping it then leads to issues where people who have no place selling their soaps start to do so in a badly thought out way because "the hobby is expensive" or "I have too much soap".

Try some fairly small (say 500g) batches of tweaked recipes - even though you love your recipe, doesn't mean you won't love something else more. Colours might not be required, but can be an interesting diversion, too.

Try lotions and so on. Aftershaves, eau de toilette, bath bombs, sugar scrubs.......there are a lot of non-soap places to lose yourself in the times between batches.
 
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