Whew, what a year! Apologies for the lengthy hiatus, as most of my free time outside of work went toward making or selling my products rather than transcribing the action. Here’s a brief recount of 2012 happenings:
Highlights: tons of great craft shows around the Midwest, teaching a class or two to interested DIYers on making simple products like face scrubs, developing a Make Your Own Natural Perfume bar (which debuted at Maker Faire this past summer), creating a line of cocktail-inspired bath bombs, concocting new soaps based on mixed drinks as well as ones that were pop-culture-oriented, and doing custom orders for assorted persons, stores and non-profit fundraisers are a few of the things that spring to mind. Much excellent booth-sharing/partnering with other area businesses went on as well–I appreciate and marvel at the awesome sales(wo)manship, professionalism, and/or all-around good-nature of my crafty peers.
Reflections: Two more things–completing a small-business bootcamp and being interviewed about the business of crafting and DIY by graduate students researchers studying the movement–definitely made me take a more critical look at Aromaholic, why I got into this line of work in the first place, and why I continue to do it. I don’t have a formal background in business, but over the past couple years I’ve gone from the I-like-doing-this-so-it-doesn’t-matter-I’m-only-paying-myself-$3/hr to, well, at least wanting minimum wage for my work (especially those days where I have to explain what a Dirty Girl Scout shot is five hundred times)! Taking the class forced me to examine all sorts of things, like target markets or exit strategies, that I frankly hadn’t given a lot of thought to before. The most valuable thing? Clarifying exactly what makes our products special, which, in my opinion, is not just that they are based on a novel concept–it’s that they are both based on a novel concept and legitimately good (and good smelling) products that are genuinely different than much of what’s out there in the natural and handmade bodycare world.
This is sometimes a challenge to get across to people, I think, because many novel items are cheap, disposable novelties or silly joke things that no one would actually ever use. I was studying aromatherapy, blending, natural bodycare, and cold-process soapmaking for years before I developed the concept behind Aromaholic in 2010, and I take my products quite seriously–maybe more seriously than folks would expect from a cocktaill-themed body care company. I gotta laugh about the number of people who innocently approached my booth during my first year of shows totally unprepared for a discourse on topics ranging from the sourcing of fair-trade shea butter to how hippies ruined patchouli! My favorite of the things I made this year wasn’t actually cocktail-related; it was the Dexter Dark Passenger soaps (though Lemon Drop bath bombs came in a close second because I am in *love* with the scent blend), and not only because they got 3,000 people to look at my Etsy shop. It was fun, and it was different, and whether they wanted them for the show or the scent or the soap, people came back for more. Same goes for teaching workshops, or the perfume bar…anything that showcased my abilities and my passion for natural aromatics and products outside of concocting cocktail-based soaps and lip balms. However, getting back to the business of things, booze soaps and lip balms are still my bread-and-butter. I’m proud of what I’ve done over the past 3 years and certainly don’t have plans to stop making them. Where to go from here?
On to 2013 plans: I am changing our tagline to better reflect all of the things Aromaholic makes and does. Instead of Aromaholic: Intoxicating Bodycare, it will now be Aromaholic: Inspired Scent. There will still be plenty of cocktail and craft-beer inspired goodies, but it will also allow me some room to expand. In the upcoming year, look for limited-edition mixed-drink soaps and cocktail-flavored lip balms to keep things fresh, more in the pop-culture department (or maybe I should say Stuff Liz Likes as my tastes aren’t always up-to-date), new packaging… and definitely more blogging action than last year so you can hear all about it.
Yes, here’s the post you’ve all been waiting for…
This past weekend, I was part of the fantastic Craft Faire, organized by Handmade Detroit, within the metro Detroit Maker Faire. Maker Faire is a weekend-long festival filled with inventions, demonstrations, and all forms of DIY goodness. In the spirit of making and sharing, I did a presentation called DIY Deodorant, and showed everyone how to make an easy, all-natural, and effective deodorant in just a few easy steps. Now, I can’t say I’ve ever rubbed a cream into my armpits in front of a group of people before ( wait til those photos see the harsh, bright light of the internet), but I hope it was entertaining and educational for those in attendance.
And now it can be for you too, gentle reader! I present to you my not-so-top-secret deodorant recipe. I’ve been making and wearing my Deodorcream for the past six years – the reason I haven’t passed it on sooner is that I’ve still been tinkering with the formula (more starch, less clay, different essential oils, etc.) I’m looking forward to getting feedback from the folks that purchased DIY Deodorant kits this weekend (you can purchase them from my Etsy shop starting on 8/2/11: aromaholic.etsy.com). So here it is:
This recipe makes approximately 2 oz. of deodorant.
1 T. shea butter
1 tsp. vegetable glycerin
1 tsp. light oil (soybean, sweet almond, grapeseed, etc.)
½ – 1 tsp. Essential or fragrance oil
¼ cup baking soda
1 tsp. Arrowroot or cornstarch
1 tsp. Kaolin clay
2 tsp. Tapioca starch
1 tsp. Witch hazel extract or vodka
- Mix the shea butter, vegetable glycerin, and oil in a glass mixing bowl until creamy and free of lumps.
- Add the essential or fragrance oil to the bowl and stir until blended.
- In a separate mixing bowl, blend the powder ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
- Gradually add the powder blend to the shea/oil mixture, continuing to stir until it has been completely incorporated (if you get tired of stirring, it’s ok to just use your hands!)
- Add witch hazel/alcohol and stir some more.
- Apply a bean-sized amount to each armpit. If the deodorant starts to dry out over time, just add a little more alcohol or witch hazel.
Essential oil suggestions: lavender, tea tree, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, geranium, palmarosa, cedarwood and/or patchouli are a few choices for your blend. I do not recommend using citrus or spice oils (lemon, clove, lemongrass, etc.) as these may cause skin irritation. Do not use essential oils undiluted.
Where to buy? Most, if not all, of these ingredients can be found at a natural foods store. Mountain Rose Herbs (www.mountainroseherbs.com) carries shea butter, base and essential oils, vegetable glycerin, a variety of clays, and arrowroot powder.
A few more notes: The starches/clay are pretty much interchangeable – if you’re having a hard time locating tapioca starch, regular old cornstarch works too. If you want to bare bones about it, just using baking soda works – however, your cream will more dense and less fluffy and delightful. Also, this is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant, so though it does have its limitations in that respect, it works far better than any other store-bought natural deodorant I’ve tried. If you wanted to give it some antiperspirant powers, you can add a teaspoon of alum powder, which is an ingredient used in making pickles. However, though it is not the same form of aluminum used in commercial antiperspirants, it is indeed an aluminum salt, and as aluminum is the ingredient many people are concerned about (and perhaps why you’re reading this blog post), it really isn’t necessary.
I’d love to get feedback on this, so if you give it a shot, please share with the class! Or drop me a line at email@example.com.
I just got back from an awesome crafty business owner’s conference that got me all excited about blogging again. To put it mildly, I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to social networking. Or, in less-mild terms, it took me until last month to get a Facebook, and last week I got confused trying to find my own wall. But I’m not going to let that get me down (just don’t ask me to fertilize your crops.)
I realize it’s probably not healthy to spend all my time holed up in my basement making bodycare stuff and cackling to myself. (This, coupled with the Battlestar Galactica reference from my prior entry, is surely painting a delightful picture?) Since I do a lot of experimenting that doesn’t have anything to do with Aromaholic, I figured I’d start sharing the results. Some products I make for a specific reason or person, others are kinda weird (like the homemade deodorant), and still others can’t be made into a sell-able product without me having to use questionable ingredients like unsavory preservatives (i.e. lotion).
Today, some combination of the 3-hr drive, excessive coffee consumption, and poor night’s sleep left me with a sore neck and throbbing headache. One of the things I learned in my year at massage therapy school is that the two were probably connected – but stretching, massaging, and pressing trigger points along my SCM and occiput was not cutting it today. So, to the basement laboratory we go and see what aromatherapy has to offer achy me.
Lavender oil would have been the standard choice, but although I agree with everyone it is indispensable, I like to give other oils some air time too. One of my favorites is Roman chamomile, which smells fruity and delicious in addition to being anti-inflammatory and calming (it is 1 am, after all). I’m guessing the reason this oil isn’t more popular is that it’s pretty expensive – not like jasmine or rose, but definitely more costly than, well, lavender. A lot of aromatherapy literature notes that people with ragweed allergies may have reactions to chamomile oil, though other sources say the chamomiles, especially German, are anti-allergy, so who knows. I’ve never had an issue, so I added:
3 drops Roman chamomile +
3 drops bergamot (uplifting- just don’t use it before sun exposure)
to 1 T. of grapeseed oil,
since it is fast-absorbing and less greasy, allowing me to type again shortly after I massage it into my neck, temples, and even a little on the scalp
I’m happy to report it helped, though it’s not exactly a motivational, get-up-and-write-a-spectacular-and-focused-blog kind of blend….
Next up: adventures in bath salts.
It’s been a few weeks since I last posted; between packing up wedding shower orders, making more soap, applying to various markets and shows, and tinkering with the bath salt and lip balm formulas a bit more, it’s been busy! (Also, I developed a slight obsession with Battlestar Galactica and have been watching that when I should be writing my blog.) Here’s a brief update:
Inspired by the (thought of) the coming spring, I experimented with a few new flavors in small batches. Mimosa soap, made with orange flower oil and (real) champagne was one. After the disaster that was my first attempt at wine-based soap, I was skeptical of how this batch would turn out, so I just made a small one; but after letting the alcohol boil out of the champagne, it turned out fine. I also suspect that something in red wine reacts with lye to create a godawful scent because that also didn’t happen this time with the champagne.
Anyways, I’ve continued with the fermented beverage kick after Mimosa came out ok. I was reading this book my dad had on the history of beer and got the idea to make a Belgian brew soap – their White Ale is made with herbs and citrus, particularly coriander, orange peel, and chamomile, so I made a beer soap and scented it with those oils. Here are some pictures of me making it:
So lately, as the reader has likely gleaned from my prior posts, I’ve made a LOT of soap. I recently quit my job so I could go all out with Aromaholic; in addition to making bunches of old standbys like Mojito and Captain & Coke, I’ve been tinkering around with some fresh recipes and ideas (neon-green-and black absinthe bars, maybe?) as well as making custom soaps for two large wedding orders (yes, Aromaholic is open to making Earl Grey tea soaps and pretty scripted labels). I’ll definitely be prepared for the next round of craft shows in the spring, but in the meantime, I’m running out of cure space. What’s a soapster to do?
It occurred to me that perhaps it was time to formally branch out into other bath and body products. If memory serves, lip balm was one of the first things I made way back when; generally I make one or two big batches a year, and give them out as gifts to friends and family. I developed a recipe I’m quite happy with, but making chapstick-tube balms that aren’t caving in, overfilled, or underfilled – in other words, good enough to sell – is a little more challenging. So, instead of attempting to perfect that fine art, I gave up on those containers and bought a big lot of lip balm pots instead, which thankfully are a cinch to fill.
My other, and greener, idea came about thanks to my resourceful boyfriend. He works at a bar that distills all its own spirits; naturally they go through a lot of these identical 750 ml bottles every day, all of which end up in the recycling bin. Figuring, rightly so, that I might be able to find a use for them, he started bringing them home. Lo and behold, the perfect receptacle for bath salts, also coming soon to the Etsy shop.
I feel like I’m on a roll here, but I just don’t know if the public is ready for my other longstanding creation, a shea butter and baking soda deodorant paste. If you can get over the weirdness factor of applying a cream to your pitties, it totally works. Well, baby steps. I’m thinking I’ll just post the recipe and instructions here sometime so people can adjust it to their own tastes – I use a lot of essential oils to scent mine since I don’t really wear perfume, but those that do might want something that smells less potent.
I have to admit that there’s often some trial and error involved in making soaps inspired by alcoholic beverages. Like, for example, deciding on a whim to add something actually containing alcohol to the soap mixture.
Let me backtrack for a minute. Inquiring minds often wonder how we scent our soaps, and are surprised to learn that there is no actual liquor used in the process. Rather, we use essential oils – which are natural extracts conveniently derived from the same plants used to create various liqueurs – to make our aromatic blends. The example I usually use is Gin and Tonic, since it has such a distinctive scent from the juniper berries used to make gin and the lemon-lime flavor of tonic water. I make our blend with juniperberry, lemon and lime oils, but also add other herb and spice oils like clary sage and coriander – I’m a big fan of gin, especially more complex ones like Hendricks, and these help mellow out the piney-citrus aroma.
However, occasionally the mad scientist inside me takes over and encourages an idea like wine soap. Soap equals oil/fat + alkali (lye). The lye must be dissolved in a liquid prior to blending with the oil base, so hey, why not use wine? The websites I checked for guidance (see, even the mad scientist insists on research) made it sound just a bit more complicated than using water.
My first, and what I assume most fatal, mistake was not boiling the alcohol out of the wine. Not only did this result in a rather unpleasant-smelling mixture, it caused the soap to “seize” and clump up right before it was supposed to be poured in the molds. Having never seen this occur in six years of making soap, I’m blaming the booze (which isn’t a first, personally speaking). So, as much as I love a workspace that reeks of stale merlot (again, not a first), it might be a while before I feel bold enough to attempt wine soap again.
The spirit of experimentation still remains, though. On our agenda this week is soap scented in a cinnamon schnapps-like fashion. Since my last experience with the stuff was New Years Eve 2001, I’m struggling to devise a name that doesn’t involve a brand name and isn’t totally tasteless – i.e. “Butt Licker” was one of the less offensive cinnamon shooters on the list I found.