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Think Spring, and vote for your favorite fragrance! February 12 2017, 2 Comments

Which soap fragrance would you like to see in March?
Grass Stain (The crisp, sweet and green smell of . . . . fresh cut grass!)
Pikake Flowers (The traditional blossoms used for making Leis in Hawaii, this scent evokes that sweet welcome as you step off the plane and begin a relaxing, fun-filled vacation)
Grapefruit Lily (Light, romantic and airy, this scent heavier on the Lily than the citrus).
Amazon Lily & Rain (A light scent that smells just like line dried linen . . . pleasantly comforting with notes of fresh cut grass and pine enveloped by sweet florals)
Yuzu (Based on the Japanese fruit of the same name, this is a fresh and sparkling citrus scent)
Please Specify:
survey maker

Happy Valentines Day! February 12 2017, 0 Comments

Artisan SoapsI've been on a soap making frenzy over the past few weeks! There are over a dozen different soaps sitting on the curing shelves and I'm pleased to say that they should start rolling out next weekend. The holidays did a number on my supply, and I've got quite a few empty bins that need to be replenished!

Meanwhile, I've been making a few fun soaps for Valentine's Day, and I'm pleased with the results! If you are looking for something besides chocolate to give to your friends or sweetheart for Valentine's Day, consider giving them the gift of handmade soap!

Valentine's Day Soap

Valentine's Day Soap

Valentine's Day Soap

Valentine's Day Soap

The Fatty Acids that Help Your Soap Perform February 04 2017, 0 Comments

It's been a busy week in the soap kitchen this past week; so far, there's about 500 bars of soap on the curing racks. Among them are two new bars of soap: the Activated Charcoal Detoxifying Soap Bar (below) and a Mint Grapefruit Soap Bar.

Activated Charcoal Soap Bar

I'll write a little more about the Charcoal Soap Bar when it is ready. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, the soap shelves will start to look a little fuller!

In addition to making soap, however, I've also spent some time studying. Specifically, this past week I focused on learning more about the various fatty acids that help (or hinder) your soap's performance. Very simply, your soap is made up of a combination of oils on one hand, and a liquid (lye) solution on the other. Soapmakers have hundreds of oils (and butters) at their disposal that they could use to make soap. Each oil or butter is made up of a unique combination of fatty acids that effect how the final soap product will perform. 

Fatty Acids

Three-dimensional representations of several fatty acids. (Credit: The original uploader was (Automated conversion) at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link).

For example, some fatty acids cause soap to lather while other fatty acids kill the lather. Some fatty acids are very moisturizing while others will dry skin out in short order. Some fatty acids clean, and others do not. Some fatty acids will last a long time, while the short life-span of other fatty acids will cause soap to go rancid very quickly. 

Choosing which oils to use in soap making, however, can be like choosing a political candidate: none of them are perfect! The fatty acids that generate lather and clean well are also the ones that will dry out skin. And the fatty acids that provide the best moisturizing qualities are the same ones that will kill the lather, or hardly last a month. The trick for soapmakers is to pull together just the right balance of oils, i.e. fatty acids, to accentuate the positives and minimize the negatives, for the perfect bar of soap.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be putting together a display in the soap shop with some single-oil soap pucks (olive oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, lard, coffee butter, mango butter, cocoa butter, shea butter, grapeseed oil, peanut oil etc.) for you to see, touch and feel. Tea Tree and Lavender DeodorantThe real difference will be most apparent when you go to use each of the single-oil soap pucks, but still, I think it will be interesting and fun for you to see. When it is completed, I'll post here, as well.

Finally, this last week, I made a second test batch of aluminum-free and baking-soda-free stick deodorant. Following feedback and experience from the first test batch, I've made some modifications, and we're ready to put this one through its paces. This product is still in its testing phase, but if you are interested in an aluminum-free deodorant option, let me know.

Wash Your Hands and Say Your Prayers Because Jesus and Germs are Everywhere! January 28 2017, 0 Comments

Karma Soap BarsIt was good to get back in the soap kitchen this past week! To show for it, I have eight logs of soap sitting on the shelf including Vetyver, Karma (at right), Dragon's Blood, and Sandalwood soap. The Karma soap bar (and lotion) is made with an essential oil blend containing  Patchouli Oil, Orange Oil, Lavendin Oil, Pine Oil, Lemongrass Oil, Elemi Oil, and Gardenia Extract. This time, I'm really pleased with how the color of the Karma soap turned out. Since the essential oil blend is a DEEP amber color that plays havoc with any colorant one might want to add, the blue that I added to the last batch became a light lack-luster gray. I wasn't thrilled about it. This time, I added a touch more blue, and color has turned out to be an interesting Karma-like turqoise sea color. I'm not sure the picture does it justice. I am anxious to cut the logs in the next day or so and see what the bars look like!

After these first few logs, however, I came down the with the flu that's going around and the soap kitchen was abruptly shut down for the rest of the week! It just goes to show: just being in a room surrounded by soap doesn't keep the flu at bay; you've got to use the soap! As the sign in our soap shop states: "Wash Your Hands and Say Your Prayers Because Jesus and Germs are Everywhere!"

According to the Centers for Disease Control a good hand washing with soap and water is the best defense against germs. Completely wet your hands with warm water, and then suds-up. Completely cover your hands with lather, and then scrub in between fingers and the backs of your hands. The advice for children and adults alike is to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or the Alphabet Song twice through---at least 20 seconds---before you rinse off thoroughly and head for the closest towel to dry off completely.

Thankfully, the flu has moved on, and I'm once again in action. Here's to healthy and active days ahead for ALL of us. And if you need some soap to keep those germs at bay, come see me!

Have Your Say! Which Soap Fragrances Would You Like to See in February? January 21 2017, 0 Comments

Which Soap Fragrance(s) would you like to see next month?
Fruity Fusion (Top notes of sweet, juicy peaches. Ripe apple, pear and pineapple are followed by a heart of coconut, honey orange blossoms and wild berry jam. A base of sweet malt and vanilla round off this delicious scent)
Alien Type (Rich, warm and alluring. Opening notes of Indian jasmine and Italian bergamot. Warm and sensual notes of cedarwood, ylang ylang and patchouli, and finally, golden amber, cashmere accord and vanilla)
Sugared Grape (A sugary, sweet purple grape scent. This fragrance is sure to be a favorite for kids!)
Sultry Black Jasmine (Warm, smokey and alluring. Begins with bergamot and cassis that flows to a heart of rose, neroli and jasmine on a base of ambergris and smoky musk)
Black Opium (Opening notes of rich coffee mingle with sweet vanilla and cream. Mid notes of orange blossom, cedarwood and a hint of patchouli)
Rose Quartz (Bright, fresh take on a traditional rose scent. Top notes of bergamot, orange zest and grapefruit open to a heart of dried rose petals and jasmine. Soft sandalwood and musk round out this crisp rose scent)
Green Salsa (Zesty top notes of bergamot, ginger and sea salt enhance the heart of fresh cut jalape�o pepper. A rich sandalwood accord brings up the base of this invigorating, green scent)
Please Specify:

Gearing up for 2017! January 21 2017, 0 Comments

It's been a little quiet in the soap kitchen over the last few weeks, and it's apparent by some of the empty shelves in the soap shop! After the Christmas rush, I took a couple of weeks to take care of my parents; dad had a partial knee replacement, and mom has Alzheimer's that has progressed further than I could detect through our phone calls over the past year. It was alarming to actually see, but I am really grateful for the conversations and laughs that I was able to have with my mom, and my dad was moving around pretty good with a cane by the time I left.

Shaving SoapMost work-related things really ended up on the back burner while I was with my parents, but I did manage to read up on a few soap-related matters. Carrie Seibert, a fellow soapmaker (and along with her husband, Darren), a master shaving soapmaker, just published a book called How to Make Shaving Soap. I have made a few trial batches of shaving soap, but I am excited to take what I am learning from Carrie to refine my efforts. As any man who is serious about traditional shaving will attest, good shaving soap is a far cry from regular hand soap! 

A few years ago, I met husband and wife soapmaking duo, Amanda Gail and Benjamin Aaron, before they were married. Separately, both have been involved in the handcrafted soapmaking business for quite some time. Together, they started the Lovin' Soap Project in 2013. In their words, "They travel to developing nations and teach women how to make soap and start businesses. The women that they teach are then able to provide soap to their local communities to tackle hygiene issues and are able to sell their soap in the international market to earn an income." The video below is from their trip to India in 2015.

Amanda and Benjamin offer a wealth of information for soapmakers, and I have been reading up on some of their work regarding soap colorants, masterbatching, business matters and more.

All of these resources, along with a few too-many empty soap buckets provide more than enough motivation to get back to work in the soap kitchen! Each year, I have added a few more things to the soap shop. For example, this past year, I added and expanded our soy candles and wax melts, and our bath bomb/fizzie selection. This next year, I plan to add shaving soaps, charcoal soap, room and linen sprays, a small selection of basic essential oils, and perhaps a small selection of natural cleaning products. Most of these items have been requested, and it never fails that what one customer requests, goes really well for others as well. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, and our website for the release of these products throughout the next year.

Regardless of the new products, handcrafted soap will always be the central product at Artisan Soaps. One of my guiding principles has always been to provide sufficient quality, quantity, variety and value to make it worth your while to stop in. That includes offering new soap fragrances, and I want to include all of you a little more in choosing what those new soap fragrances will be. Each month, I will post a poll on Facebook for new soap fragrances. The fragrances receiving the highest voter rating will be the ones that I make and put out on the shelf for the following month. Beyond these, if there is ever something you'd like to see, be sure and let me know! 

Need Coffee? July 27 2016, 0 Comments

We have some in a variety of forms! Enjoy!

On the Shelf: Castile, Confetti, Lavender and Spearmint June 04 2016, 0 Comments

What perfect weather for June Jaunt---a weekend of festivities all along K-96, from Ellinwood in the center of Kansas, all the way to Tribune, which is just miles from the Colorado border. Here in Great Bend, retail locations have been having fun with Jumbo Monopoly! Customers pick up a Monopoly game board at any of the participating stores, and then visit at least 18 of the stores on the Monopoly Board where they answer a local trivia question and get a stamp for that store's location on their board. It's kind of like McDonald's monopoly, only without all of the food! It's the perfect nudge for people to come to the soap shop, especially if they've been meaning to, but just haven't gotten around to it!

Meanwhile, I've filled four soap bins this week: Castile, Confetti, Lavender and Spearmint. There's something unique about each of these bars.

Handcrafted Artisan Soap

You may have already heard of "Castile" soap. The name comes from the Castile region in Spain where thousands of rows of olive trees march across the land. Besides cooking, what does one do with all of that olive oil? Why, you make soap! Thus, following the Castilian tradition, a true bar of Castile Soap is made with pure olive oil; there are no other oils mixed in. This makes for a very moisturizing bar of soap, and a lather that is more creamy than bubbly. It's a perfect facial soap bar. Here at Artisan Soaps, the Castile Soap Bar is probably one of the purest in the shop: it doesn't contain any colorants or fragrances. It's just olive oil and filtered water. Click here to order; don't forget that there is free local delivery in the Great Bend area.

Being in the soapmaking business means that there are a lot soap scraps. Whatever doesn't go into the Imperfect Soap Boxes (A 1.5 lb box of imperfect soap that we sell at the shop for $5) can be made into Laundry Detergent or Confetti Soap Bars which, at $3, is just a little bit cheaper than the other bars. It's a perfectly good bar of soap! I've been using it at the kitchen sink for awhile, and I love how my hands smell after using it; just don't ask me what's in it, as it could have a little bit of everything BUT the kitchen sink! Not literally, of course, but you get the idea.

Those of you who are fans of the Lavender Soap Bar may notice that it looks a little bit different. Since the Lavender Soap is made with a relaxing Essential Oil, it's another soap that I want to keep as pure as possible. For this reason, I've chosen to move away from the lavender colorant that I have used to distinguish this soap in the past, and am using lavender buds in the soap instead. It's still a wonderful soap bar, and hopefully, even better than before. It's back on the shelf, and four bars have already flown out the door today. You can order that one here.

Finally, there is the Spearmint Soap Bar. This one is also made with Essential Oil, and it smells almost exactly like a stick of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum! No kidding! It's a delicious and refreshing minty smell.

So that's what's happening in the soap shop THIS week. There are more bars, and candles on the curing shelves, so stay tuned to see what comes out next week!

Play June Jaunt Jumbo Monopoly at Artisan Soaps! May 28 2016, 0 Comments

Enter to win one of five $50 gift cards!

On June 3-5, Central-Western Kansas rolls out the carpet for the Annual June Jaunt "All American Weekend!" Every year, the Kansas communities along K-96, from Great Bend to Tribune, coordinate to host an amazing array of weekend activities: games, sidewalk sales, city-wide garage sales, outdoor movies, tours, breakfasts, art contests, live music, tournaments, beer gardens, fairs, and more. There's something for every single member of the family, and it's a great weekend to take a stroll, explore, and to just have fun! 

June Jaunt Jumbo Monopoly Game BoardOne of the events that you'll find in Great Bend this year is the first ever JUMBO MONOPOLY GAME! And Artisan Soaps is pleased to be one of the shops on the "Gameboard Square!" 

Here's what you need to do to play: Visit Artisan Soaps, or any of the participating stores, and pick up and sign the back of your Monopoly game board with your name and contact information. We'll ask you a Community Chest question and give you a sticker to place on the Artisan Soap Square of your game board. Then, take your game board around to at least 17 of the other stores to pick up their stamp as well;  you'll need 18 stamps altogether.

When you are all done, drop your game board off at the City Hall dropbox at 1209 Williams no later than 8 am on Monday, June 6th. Five of the game boards will be drawn to win a $50 gift card that can be used at any of the participating stores . . . this is why it is so important to make sure that you sign the back of your game board with you name and contact information.

Game play runs from June 1 - 5, though, not all of the stores are open on all of the days, so you'll need to check days and hours for each location. As always, Artisan Soaps is open every Saturday from 9 to 5; I look forward to seeing you on June 4th when you come to get your Artisan Soap June Jaunt Jumbo Monopoly stamp!

Lavender Soap . . . It's Not Just for Ladies May 14 2016, 0 Comments

Those who know me, or who visit the Soap Shop regularly, are probably aware that some of the shelves get a little bare during April when my day job demands extra time and attention for a non-profit fundraiser. Our Catholic Charities Wine Tasting Event usually lands on the last Friday in April, and while the Soap Shop remains open on Saturdays, soap production gets relegated to the back burner for a few weeks. The fundraiser involves a significant amount of work; upon returning to the soap kitchen, my subconscious need for rest and relaxation must have been strong since the first two soaps I made involved lavender . . . that lovely spring-time scent known for its soothing and relaxing qualities!

Honestly, the lavender soap is also one of the most popular soap bars in the shop, and I was completely out . . . not a good thing when the soap needs to cure for 4-6 weeks before it's ready for sale. But the situation provided the perfect opportunity to change things up a little bit, and to add another lovely option for you to try. 

Lavender Soap Options

The original lavender soap bar that has been so popular is made with essential oil---a plant-based fragrance that is often discussed for its antibacterial, antimicrobial, expectorant, stress-relieving, antiseptic and analgesic properties. In an effort to honor the natural integrity of this lavender soap bar, I've chosen to make it with natural lavender buds rather than the lavender colorant that I have used in the past. The lavender color is now being used in a new soap bar that has a lovely lavender and cedar fragrance; if there was ever a masculine version of lavender, this is it. It's a fresh clean scent, and I think you'll like it.

So there you have it: wash the adults down with lavender soap after a tough day; wash the kids and grandkids down with lavender soap at night for a calm and peaceful bedtime; or get a fresh clean start to your day with the Lavender and Cedar Soap Bar. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Happy New Year! January 09 2016, 2 Comments

I reopened the Soap Shop today, after enjoying a couple of post-Christmas weeks off. The Christmas shopping season put a dent in some of the inventory, and in some of my energy as well! But I am recuperating, and the empty spots will be filled again soon. For those who are waiting, the top priority looks like this:

 Soap Bars

Oatmeal Milk & Honey
Tea Tree
Honey Ale
Oatmeal Stout

Candles & Tarts

Caramelized Praline
Hansel & Gretels
Peppermint Bark
Fresh Coffee

Despite these, and other empty spots, however, there are still over 50 soaps to choose from, and plenty of candles, lotions, bath bombs and more!

Of course, Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and I'll be making Valentine Soaps, Soap Bouquets and Valentine Gift Boxes for that special day. 

Rose Soap Bouquets
Rose Soap Bouquets

 Love Spell Gift Box

Love Spell Soap and Lotion Gift Box

Valentine Soaps

Valentine Soaps

Artisan Soaps is officially three years old now. I have really enjoyed meeting some great customers and fellow soap makers through this endeavor, and I am excited to see what the new year brings. I hope you all have a great year, and I look forward to seeing you soon, at the Artisan Soap Shop!

Support Small Businesses this coming Saturday! November 23 2015, 0 Comments

Are There Phthalates in Your Personal Care Products? July 26 2015, 8 Comments

Adult Smelling FlowerI think it's fair to say that walking into the Artisan Soap shop is a sensual experience. Visitors comment that they can smell the soap before they even get halfway down the sidewalk. Once they come in, I love watching them take a deep breath, exhale, drop their shoulders and soak in all of the delicious fragrances that greet them at the door. 

Being able to smell is one of our five primary senses; it's a delightful experiential gift that comes with being human. Not all fragrances are as safe as those that you'll find in the Artisan Soap Shop, however, and it's up to you as a consumer to be watchful and aware.

In 2009, I took many hours of training to become a Green Irene Eco-Consultant; our motto was: Greening the World, One Home and Office at a Time. We covered many topics including light bulbs, energy and water efficiency, air and water purity, toxins, packaging, recycling, composting and more. One of the toxins we discussed quite a bit were phthalates (tha-lates). Phthalates are industrial chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. There are many different kinds of phthalates, and they are also used as solvents (dissolving agents) for other materials, and as a mechanism to hold scent and color. It's in these last forms, especially, that phthalates appear in personal care products such as soap, shampoos, hair sprays, nail polishes and other cosmetics.

In fact, the use of phthalates in personal care products may help to explain why researchers have found significantly higher concentrations of these phthalates in women. In their Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (Fourth Report), scientists from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that measurable levels of many phthalate metabolites had entered peoples bodies, and that women have higher levels than men for those phthalates that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, cosmetics and similar personal care products. 

The debate about the adverse health effects of phthalates in the human body continues. On one hand, a CDC Phthalate Fact Sheet states that, "finding a detectable amount of phthalate metabolites in urine does not imply that the levels of one or more will cause an adverse health effect." On the other hand, several studies and writers are pointing to a link between phthalates and birth defects in the male reproductive system. Earl Gray, a phthalate researcher with the US Environmental Protection Agency refers to hundreds of animals studies that show that phthalates can block male hormones, leading to a host of problems. In 2005, Shanna Swan PhD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester, confirmed the subtle effects of phthalates on male reproductive development with the first human study: 

"[There was] a significant relationship" between the levels of phthalates in the mothers' bodies during pregnancy and changes in the genitals of their baby boys. The pregnant women with the highest phthalate levels---equivalent to the levels currently found in about a quarter of US women---were more likely to have baby sons with smaller penises and incompletely descended testicles. The boys were also more likely to have a shorter distance from their anus to their penis (called anogenital distance, or AGD), which is an indicator of masculinity."

Additional human studies have begun to emerge showing connections between phthalate levels and lower sperm quality, sperm motility, and DNA damage in men's sperm that can lead to infertility or miscarriage.

Monitoring your exposure to phthalates isn't easy because you aren't going to find the word "phthalate" in the ingredient list. Still, there are some things you can do to reduce your exposure:

  • Specifically look for toys, and other products (including personal-care products) that are labeled "PVC-free", "Fragrance-free", or "Phthalate-free". If it has a fragrance, or lists fragrance in the product ingredient list, be suspicious unless the product has been specifically labeled as a phthalate-free product.
  • Avoid products made of PVC plastic (#3), or that have that potent "shower curtain smell." I generally tell people that if it's a flexible plastic (vinyl shower curtains, rain coats, shower mat, etc), or if it has a potent plastic smell (vinyl shower curtains, new cars, wall paper, etc), be suspicious!
  • Don't microwave food in plastic containers; use microwave-safe glass.

Here at Artisan Soaps, environmental responsibility and sustainability, and the quality and purity of what you purchase matters to me. For example, Artisan Soaps are made without palm oil, and we use as much recycled packaging as possible in order to protect and care for the earth and its inhabitants. Similarly, all Artisan Soaps and Candles are currently made with phthalate-free fragrances so that you can be assured of the purest and safest product for yourself, and your family and friends.

Nature is full of delicious (haha . . . and some not-so-delicious) smells, and we've been gifted with noses and an ability to take in all of those fragrant aromas. Just be aware, however, and know what you are sniffing! If you have questions, concerns, or more to add, please leave a comment below. 

Mary Ann's Colorful Washcloths July 25 2015, 4 Comments

WashclothsIt's been over a year since I met Ervin Huslig at Perkins for lunch one sunny afternoon. He had been sent with a special delivery: a charming wicker basket of neatly folded hand-crocheted wash cloths and puffs that his wife, Mary Ann, had made for me to sell with my soap out at the Farmers Market, and wherever else I decided to set up shop. The basket was clearly filled with the same love and colorfulness as the couple behind it. 

I first met Ervin and Mary Ann at St John's Catholic Church in Lawrence---a vibrant community that left a lasting mark on me. When I left Lawrence and moved to Great Bend in 2007, I felt great fondness for anyone from that community who stopped by on their way through. This is how I got to know Ervin and Mary Ann even more. They had just moved to Pratt, KS which was only a short drive from Great Bend. Over the years, we found ourselves together at diocesan functions, dinner theater events, and they even came to the Annual Charity Wine Tasting event that I coordinate for Catholic Social Service. I loved seeing them because of our common Lawrence connection, and I loved getting to know them even better at these different events. 

Ervin and Mary Ann HusligAnd so, when I started selling soap in 2013, Mary Ann was one of my first and most enthusiastic  supporters! She encouraged and gave suggestions, and eventually, she offered to crochet washcloths to go along with my soap. After all, she and Ervin were traveling a lot in their RV, and crocheting was something she loved to do as they drove across the country. She would make and sell the washcloths on consignment, and I would get a portion of the proceeds. I loved the idea! 

Sadly, just a few months ago on April 20th, Ervin and MaryAnn were on their way to a quilting show in Kentucky when a tire on their RV blew just outside of St Louis and Ervin lost control of the motorhome. Reports describe a fiery crash with no survivors, and just like that, Ervin and MaryAnn were gone. It was such a sudden and shocking lost.

Today, I think about Mary Ann often as I pass by the shelf where her beautiful colorful washcloths lay. I treasure them, and I am reminded that handmade items, whether they be washcloths or soap, are special life-giving treasures because they contain a magical kernel of human life that no machine-made object can ever match.

Please join me in admiring Mary Ann's handiwork in her Star-Shaped and Square-shaped washcloths. She also made some pretty cool puffs and scrubbies. Her puffs were my personal favorite!

Bath Bombs July 19 2015, 9 Comments

Bath bombsEverything in the Artisan Soaps Kitchen is covered with a fine white dust after mixing bath bombs, or bath fizzies for the last two days. One of my customers bought a large English Rose Bath Bomb a couple weeks ago. Yesterday she came in with a grin on her face as she marched purposefully over to the bath bomb shelves and immediately picked up the last four English Rose Bath Bombs. She obviously loved the one she tried! Many of my customers, however, don't know anything about these colorful balls when they see them for the first time. I didn't either, for that matter. So today, I thought I'd tell you, and show you, a little more about them.

Bath bombs, also called Bath Fizzies are effervescent bath time treats. I make three different sizes: small, medium and large. Bath bombs are typically made with some combination of oils, butters, or salts, as well as ingredients like baking soda, corn starch, and citric acid, which causes the fizzing action. The trick when making these is to combine the ingredients into a tightly packed form (balls, hearts, discs or whatever) without setting off the fizzing action! Bath bombs are also made in a variety of colors and fragrances, or essential oils. 

Some of my customers use the small bath bombs for a foot soak. More typically, bath bombs are dropped into a tub of warm bath water. As soon as the bath bomb hits the water it begins to fizz and release all of those nourishing skin-loving ingredients into the bath water, as demonstrated in the video below.


As I mention in the video, my favorite thing about bath bombs is how soft and moisturized my skin feels after I get out of the bath tub. I find that bubble bath helps to cut down on any ring that might appear around the bath tub, and if you do have one, just wipe it out first thing when you get out of the tub, before it has a chance to set.

One of the questions I am frequently asked is whether these can be used more than once. That's certainly possible, especially with the large ones. just pull it out of the water and set it in a dry place until you are ready to use it again. Along the same lines, if you purchase these for a friend, or for your own future use, be sure to protect the bath bomb from high humidity or water, as the moisture will react with the citric acid and cause the bomb to break down before you have a chance to use it.

So tell me about your experience with bath bombs. Have you used them before? If so, what do you like or dislike about them? Do you have any suggestions or comments for me as I make them, or for others as they use them?

Lye in Soap? How can that be safe?! July 17 2015, 0 Comments

Sodium HydroxideJust about every good soap making book begins with a healthy discussion about the importance of safety when it comes to making soap. Goggles for eye protection; gloves for skin protection; aprons to protect clothing; an air mask for fumes; kids and pets out from under foot, a bottle of vinegar to neutralize spills, and a safety plan for any major accidents. The reason for all of this focus on safety boils down to one single and very important ingredient in soap: lye, otherwise known as sodium or potassium hydroxide. Lye deserves our healthy respect because it has the potential to cause serious injury.

Sodium HydroxideLye comes in many forms such as white beads, flakes, or powder, and it looks innocent enough. But lye is an extremely caustic substance that reacts and eats away at just about everything it comes into contact with. So, in addition to being careful about our own physical safety lest we receive serious burns from spilling it on ourselves, or having the liquid form splash into our eyes, we also need to pay attention to what kind of equipment we use. Aluminum is out of the question. Wood will splinter and disintegrate. Even the  thick pyrex glass measuring cup that I used to use for weighing lye began to look obviously worn, cloudy, and different than all of the rest of my glass measuring containers. Today, stainless steel, heat-resistent plastics and silicone spatulas are the go-to materials in all of my soap making tools and equipment.

So, you might be asking, if lye is all that dangerous, how can your "all-natural" soap possibly be safe for me or my family to use?! It's a good question, but I assure you that by the time you purchase a bar of Artisan handcrafted soap, it's completely safe for you to use because the lye is no longer there.

As I've given talks about soap making over the past couple of years, I've begun to use a religious metaphor to help explain how this works: "Lye gives itself up to make peace between oil and water."

Basically, soap is made of oil and water. Normally when you put oil and water together in the same container, they won't mix! You could shake and stir for hours, and still, the minute you let the container rest, the oil and water will separate into different layers. This is where the lye comes in; lye initiates a  chemical reaction that causes the oil and water to actually mix; lye gives itself up, i.e. it disappears so that oil and water can bind with each other and hold together in a solid bar of soap.

This solidified mixture and tension of oil and water in your common soap bar is what gets your hands clean! Since oil doesn't mix with water, the use of water, by itself, can't remove the oil and grime from your hands. When you use soap, however, the oil in your soap bar binds with the oil and grime on your hands, while at the same time the water in your soap bar (still attached to the oil-loving molecules) binds with your tap water, lifts the oil and grime from your hands and sort of drags it away and down the drain.

So the next time you're scrubbing away, rest assured that there's no longer any lye in your Artisan Soap bar! Just remember to wash long enough so that the new-found love between oil and water has a chance to get you clean--peacefully, safely and naturally. Now, how about a nice bar of Lavender Soap?

Happy 4th of July! June 27 2015, 0 Comments

American Flag and FireworksThe Artisan Soap Shop is open every Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, but since next Saturday is July Fourth, the shop will close at noon to make way for the afternoon and evening festivities.  After all, I have four fresh batches of soap hitting the shelves next weekend that I wouldn't want you to miss --- the two year-around favorites: Oatmeal, Milk & Honey, and The Kitchen Coffee Soap Bar; and two that are perfect for these summer months: Summer Fling and Ocean Rain. All together, there are over 60 bars of soap to choose from, along with lip balms, lotions, bath bombs, sea salt, candles, and a variety of accessories. If you like or need some handcrafted soap, come on over and we'll get you set up!

As we celebrate July Fourth, one of the things I am grateful for is the freedom and opportunity to start this small Artisan Soap Shop business. It's not something I ever really thought about doing until it happened, and I am still surprised, delighted and grateful for how it's all gone over the past three years. The entrepreneurial spirit that powers small businesses is a significant part of our American heritage where "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."

How very, very lucky I feel to live in this country we call America where life, liberty, religion, speech, the pursuit of happiness and more, are protected by law.

Essential Oil versus Fragrance Oil in Handcrafted Soaps June 04 2015, 0 Comments

When a new customer visits the soap shop for the first time, I like to give a short one-time introduction. Since there is a lot to look at, and smell, my intention is to give some guidance to the "lay of the land," and then let them explore and sniff to their heart's content.

The introduction always starts at the top shelf, and with an explanation about the differences between essential oil soaps and regular fragrance oil soaps. The primary difference is that essential oil soaps are made with a plant-based fragrance, while other soaps are made with a synthetic, or human-made fragrance. The plant-based essential oils are valued by many for their potential healing qualities. For example, lavender essential oil is said to promote relaxation, while peppermint oil is appreciated for its stimulating effects. I tell customers: "wash the kids and grandkids with the lavender soap in the evening; YOU wash with the peppermint soap in the morning!"

There are regulations that soap makers must follow when it comes to making claims about what a product can and cannot do. Thus, even though Cedarwood or Lemongrass Essential Oils are used by many as an anti-acne ingredient, we have to be careful about labeling soap as an "anti-acne soap," or making claims that a soap will remove or reduce acne. 

That said, there are many who value essential oils for their purity, and for their healing effects. As a soap maker, it is especially gratifying to hear stories from returning customers who have appreciated one of my soaps for this or that effect. On more than one occasion, for example, customers have lauded the Tea Tree Soap for keeping mosquitos away in the summer time.

At Artisan Soaps, you'll find essential oil soaps, regular fragrance oil soaps, and soaps that are made with a blend of essential and synthetic fragrances. With over 60 different scents to choose from, there's a good chance that you'll find more than one favorite scent!

Visit Artisan Soaps in November and You Could Win! October 26 2014, 0 Comments

Explore Great Bend Holiday Promotion
*There is no cost to register. Limit one entry per person per day per sponsor location. Need NOT be present to win. Open to all Kansas residents at least 18 years of age. Prize money must be spent at participating businesses.

Soap Break: $3.8 Million for Breast Cancer! September 30 2014, 0 Comments

While the Soap Shop remained open throughout the summer months, Artisan Soaps wasn't present at as many Markets and Fairs. The reason? I needed a little more time for fundraising and training for the Susan G Komen 3-Day 60-mile Walk for Breast Cancer that some friends and I completed this past month. Before we could even register for the event, each of us needed to raise $2300. In July, we had a MASSIVE yard sale outside the doors of the Artisan Soap Shop.

The yard sale was a heck of alot of work! But we raised over $3000, and it was enough to finish off the rest of what we needed to raise. All together, we raised over $7000 for breast cancer!; the Philadelphia event where we walked raised over $3.8 million.

All three of us walked through the finish line together. Through sunshine, pouring rain, blisters, and aching feet and muscles, it was a sweet feeling to finish! Afterwards, we spent a couple of days visiting some of the sites in the area before returning home.

After taking a few days to recuperate, I am excited to spend some time catching up again in the soap shop! Some of the soaps simply need to be restocked, and new fragrances are on the way! I've recently added some new shelves, and some new equipment to help fill those shelves with fun bath fizzies, lotions, lip balms, gift baskets and more---just in time for the holiday season! In the meantime, don't forget that the Soap Shop is open every Saturday afternoon. If you are looking for that perfect treat for yourself or a friend, stop by and see me!

Spring and Summer Activities May 27 2014, 0 Comments

Crocheted WashclothsThis past week, I received a wonderful package of handmade crocheted washcloths, scrubbies, and bath puffs from my friend, Mary Ann Huslig. I am excited about offering these colorful accessories along with the usual soaps and bath treats; they will be a nice compliment for your own pampering needs, and for those fun gifts for special friends. The Bath Puffs are my personal favorite; I've been looking for something like that to add to our line-up for a long time! Thank you Mary Ann!

The 3rd Annual June Jaunt on June 6th - 8th is just around the corner and it marks the kick-off for our busy summer season. The event started in 2012 when several communities along K-96 banded together to create a fun-filled weekend for locals and visitors alike in Central and Western Kansas. In Great Bend, there is Outdoor Vendor Fair all day on Saturday, June 7th at Jack Kilby Square. Artisan Soaps will be there with a variety of soaps, bath salts, lotions, lip balms and other fun accessories---like colorful crocheted wash cloths and bath puffs! Come on out and stop for a visit!

After the June Jaunt, Artisan Soaps will be present again at the Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at the Great Bend Public Library. We still intend to make it back in time to have the soap shop opened at noon, though, we WILL be closed for a couple of Saturdays so that I can visit my folks on their 50th Anniversary next Saturday, and then help another friend get married the following Saturday. It's a busy time!

The Kansas Association of Bed and Breakfast February 24 2014, 0 Comments

Several weeks ago, Susan Curtiss from Simple Haven Bed and Breakfast in Wilson KS contacted me about being a vendor at the Annual Kansas Bed and Breakfast Association Conference. It's been really busy, and I keep telling myself I need to learn to say "no" sometimes. On the other hand, my journey with Artisan Soaps has been amazing, and enjoyable, and I had to say, "yes."

So this morning, I got up early enough to enjoy one of those Kansas sunrises on my way to the new Sundstrom Conference Center in Lindsborg KS. Driving across Kansas was a perfect preface for this conference. After all, Bed and Breakfast owners work at being 'Masters of Hospitality' for many of our Kansas travelers.

Holly Lofton, Director of the Lindsborg Convention and Visitor's Bureau, and other Ad Hoc community members talked about branding, and specifically, what they have done to brand and reinvigorate the Lindsborg community. Their success is obvious; Lindsborg is a quaint town with lots of character, culture, art, and more. Ad hoc members talked about how they chose to make a commitment to not look backwards anymore, but to focus on moving forward. To keep themselves on target, everyone was given a yellow card which they were empowered to hold up whenever anyone started looking backwards, rather than forwards. Fortunately, the yellow cards are rarely used. The idea of refusing to look backwards towards the way things use to be, and instead, choosing to turn a page and move forward into a new future, may be a helpful orientation for other rural communities who struggle with a history of diminishing populations and resources.

I was also grateful to meet Marci Penner, Executive Director for the Kansas Sampler Foundation, and a well-known advocate for rural Kansas. Marci provided Bed and Breakfast owners with some wonderful feedback that she received from 60 people about the good and bad aspects of their bed and breakfast experiences. The challenge is that a bad experience at one Bed and Breakfast reflects badly on the whole Bed and Breakfast Industry. The same could be said for the Handcrafted Soap Industry, and so many other industries as well. Whether we are business owners in the same industry, or business owners in the same community, we really depend on one another for our mutual success.

Snowbound? Gift Friends with Artisan Soap Gift Cards! February 16 2014, 0 Comments

From Kansas, to Georgia, to New York, record cold temperatures, ice, snow fall, and weather-related accidents have captured our attention. News of motorists, stranded for hours on highways may have sent the rest of us scurrying to the grocery store before tucking ourselves away to 'weather' the storms.

Then it hits you: your best friend's birthday is tomorrow! You almost forgot! But with 16" of fresh snow on the ground, getting the car out of the driveway is hopeless, much less getting to one of the main roads in town. 

Never fear! Artisan Soaps Gift Cards are here!

Choose from increments of $10, $25, $50, or $100. Gift cards are delivered by email and contain instructions to redeem them at checkout. Now you can gift your friends on special days with Artisan Soaps that have been handcrafted from natural ingredients, essential oils and delicious fragrances.


Artisan Soaps Participates in Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday November 27 2013, 0 Comments

No doubt you've heard: the biggest shopping days of the year are just a few days away. As a new small business owner, these days take on new significance for me, like never before. This year, Artisan Soaps is excited to participate with:

  • An Open House and the kick-off of our new Saturday hours on Small Business Saturday.
  • Free Delivery on Cyber Monday.
  • A donation of proceeds to Catholic Social Service on #GivingTuesday.

Small Business Saturday LogoSmall Business Saturday is a relatively recent, and phenomenally successful movement! Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday---the Saturday after Thanksgiving---was recognized by the US Senate in 2011 as a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country.

Small Business Saturday couldn't be a more fitting day for the Artisan Soaps Open House and the kick-off of our new Saturday hours! I hope you'll come by and visit us for handcrafted soaps and more on this day that we all Shop Small and support small businesses around the country! As a reminder, Artisan Soaps is located at 2914 Broadway in Great Bend KS, and our hours are noon to 5 pm every Saturday afternoon.

Smack on the heels of Small Business Saturday is Cyber Monday. The term "Cyber Monday" was actually created by marketing companies, debuting on November 28, 2005 in a press release entitled "'Cyber Monday Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year." As one friend explained, it's the day when everyone returns to work after the Thanksgiving Holiday and begins shopping online for Christmas presents. To celebrate the day, Artisan Soaps will offer free shipping for any online orders placed on Monday, December 2nd, 2013.
Last, but not least, there is #GivingTuesday: 

#GivingTuesday (#GT) is a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. This year, the second annual GivingTuesday is on December 3, 2013. In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, the giving community comes together for #GivingTuesday. To celebrate #GivingTuesday, Artisan Soaps will donate the profit from any sales made on this day to Catholic Social Service---a local agency that provides help for those in need in Southwest Kansas. 

So there you have it: come by and visit us on Small Business Saturday (Nov 30th) for handcrafted soap and more; we'll provide the goodies and a festive atmosphere while you shop! Enjoy free shipping on all orders placed online on CyberMonday (Dec 2nd). And give while you shop, with any purchase you make on #GivingTuesday (Dec 3) going to help those in need in Southwest Kansas. Thank you for helping to make this an exciting first year for Artisan Soaps!