Friday, January 29, 2010

Fresh This Week: Spring Show Schedule

Just a heads up - my Spring Show Schedule is now updated and in place on the web site. There's quite a bit going on earlier in the spring this year.

There are 2 shop appearances at Group Health this spring - one right around the corner, just in time for Valentine's Day, and the other one is the beginning of April - perfect timing for the start of spring, Secretary's Day and Easter. I've done a number of times over the past couple of years, setting up a temporary shop in their tiny retail space. And I've reserved it for 4 times this year (Feb 5, Mar 31-Apr 2, Aug 18-20, and Dec 15-17). So excited to do a hearts and flowers theme for Valentine's Day with all the brand-spanking new spring stuff.

Best of the Northwest is moved up to March, and we're back out at Magnuson Park for this one, but in a different hangar than before. It's still super easy to get to plus free parking.

I'm headed back to the Mt Vernon Street Fair in April, for the Tulip Festival. I've missed it the last couple of years, just scared of the weather, but since we've had such a mild winter, I'm going to give it another shot and hope I'm not rained out or blown away. That weekend is always so iffy. We've even had snow. Fingers crossed that this year is at least partly sunny and mostly dry. That's all I ask.

There's a new spring show at Eastlake High School in Sammamish, and it's in the gym, like we were in November. So if you are in that neighborhood - it's Sat only, March 20, and a great time to stock up on spring scents and stuff.

Then there's the usual Starving Housewives show in March at Echo Falls Country Club. A new (for me) Garden Art show at the Depot Arts Center in Anacortes, April 24 & 25. And finally I'll be back at the U Dist Street Fair in May (15-16).

That's the show scoop. And next week is the big Spring Newsletter and all those exciting announcements, so meet me back here for all the news. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Simple pleasures

Last week I posted the quotes that I chose to signify the philosophy behind my business. Today I wanted to share the ones that didn't make the cut, but that I still keep nearby, and refer to from time to time, just for inspiration. They are all in the same theme, and all still pretty good too.

"One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats." Iris Murdoch, The Sea The Sea, 1978

"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1917

"It isn't the great big pleasure that count most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones." Jean Webster, Daddy Long Legs, 1912

"Taking joy in life is a woman's best cosmetic." Rosalind Russell

"Simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex." Oscar Wilde

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived." Helen Keller

"In the end, what affects your life most deeply are things too simple to talk about." Nell Blaine

"Beauty is an ecstasy, it is as simple as hunger." Somerset Maugham

And if you're not into all the quotes -- I promise I'm done for a while :)

Monday, January 25, 2010


The colors in the morning sky this time of year are spectacular. Dark purples transforming within minutes to exotic oranges and pinks as the sun pokes its head up over the mountains, streaming into the windows.

You've got to get up early to see the sunrise show. But that's my favorite part of day, quiet and peaceful as lights pop on in windows around the neighborhood. Dogs and their walkers start their daily route, the jangle of leashes breaking the silence of the sleeping world.

I can't wait until I can sit outside with my coffee and watch from my patio. The lure of spring is getting louder and louder.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fresh This Week: New Lip Balms

Such a hectic day. There hasn't been much time to get to the computer until this evening. But there is new stuff in the studio this week. It's a little sneak preview of some of the new Spring Seasonal stuff, just for those of you paying attention.

I have 3 new lip balm flavors which I'm announcing in a couple of weeks in the newsletter. I just finished them today, and they are different than the usual stuff, and pretty great. They are all natural-flavorings, so the lip balms are still 100% natural, with a natural sweetener and a ton of great, nourishing oils in them. No color, just clear and a tad bit glossy, but not gooey. It's the perfect mix of oils to wax so it's not too soft and not too hard, a nice balance. Some people have said it's the best lip balm ever. But you can decide for yourself.

Ok, drumroll please. The newest flavors are: Jasmine Tea, Sweet Dreams and Passionfruit. Jasmine Tea is a lovely blend of Jasmine Blossom and Green Tea leaves. It's subtle and natural, a light floral green tea scent and flavor, and perfect for tea lovers.

The Sweet Dreams is a complement to the aromatic spray of the same name that I have made for a million years. It's a blend of lavender and chamomile, sweetened with a bit of vanilla sugar. Flowery and similar to the Lavender lip balm I made a couple of years ago, this one is light and fresh, not overpowering, but delicious.

And the Passionfruit is a luscious tropical fruit flavor, similar to mango. The kissing season is coming up soon, after all, with Valentine's Day just around the corner. What better way to pamper your kisser and get it in the mood than to pucker up with Passionfruit lip balm?

Ingredients: Almond oil, coconut oil, beeswax, avocado oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, vitamin E, natural sweetener, natural flavoring oils
Nt. wt. 1/4 ounce.

Luscious Lip Balms HERE! I've just put them up on the web site so you can purchase them any time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The power of words

When I first began dreaming about my business, and trying to come up with an entire new concept and name and logo and whatnot, I decided I needed a little inspiration. I wanted to convey simplicity and necessary daily luxury, but I wasn't quite sure how to put it all together.

So I headed to the library, and hit up a couple of bookstores, searching for books of poems and quotations, looking up those phrases and related ideas. It has always seemed to me that just the perfect little phrase conveys so much more meaning than endless sentences and paragraphs of lengthy description.

I wanted a meaningful tag line for my new brochures. And I ended up with pages of them. Then it was a matter of editing it all down to the single one that worked the best. I couldn't do it. I ended up with two, and they've been there since the very first day, on every printed flier I've done for the past 14 years.

For those of you who might not have seen one of my simple little brochures, on the very back of the 3-fold brochure are two quotes. The top one I found in a pile of ancient magazines at an antique show, and it absolutely stopped me cold. It's from Woman's Home Companion, December 1935. And it could have been written ten years ago, or yesterday. It's absolutely the theme of the day, in this culture that we live in right this very minute. I can't imagine how different the world was then, and yet the sentiment was so much the same:

"Year by year, the complexities of this spinning world grow more bewildering and so each year we need all the more to seek peace and comfort in the joyful simplicities." Woman's Home Companion, December 1935

Each time I read it, it seems more true than before. So it stays in place.

The second one is a poem from Edna St Vincent Millay (1982-1950), a fascinating woman poet, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, for The Harp-Weaver, and Other Poems. Her best-known poem might be "First Fig" from A Few Figs from Thistles (first published in 1920):

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

As much as we all love that one, the one I chose for my brochure came from the Pulitzer prize winning book, The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1923. It's just two lines from the poem called The Goose Girl:

"And all the loveliest things there be
Come simply, so, it seems to me."

The full poem encompasses so much more and sort of takes the sentiment off track, for my own purposes, but it's here:

"Spring rides no horses down the hill,
But comes on foot, a goose-girl still.
And all the loveliest things there be
Come simply, so, it seems to me.
If ever I said, in grief or pride,
I tired of honest things, I lied:
And should be cursed forevermore
With Love in laces, like a whore,
And neighbours cold, and friends unsteady,
And Spring on horseback, like a lady!"

I'm not sure I have ever shared the story of why these quotes are on the back of my brochures. But it probably seems obvious anyway. I treasure my little simple daily luxuries, and a beautiful bar of heavenly soap in the shower each morning is one of them. I was hoping that sharing my own hand made soap bars would give that special lift to other people who used them too. And after all these years, and all the different evolutions of the scents and products, I still hope my customers feel that way.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Totally Sunny Day, for a change

The things that will destroy us are politics without principle, pleasure without conscience, wealth without work, knowledge without character, business without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice. - Mahatma Ghandi

I know, it's MLK Day and I should be quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. today. There are a gazillion good ones of his too. But I'm purging files this afternoon (so holiday-making, eh?) and found this little quote tucked into a corner. It's worth sharing.

I spent the morning out in the garden. Which is sooo cool. We've had endless days of gray and rain. (In Seattle? Why, yes) But today is warm and sunny enough to be outside basking in just shirt-sleeves. The temperatures have been fairly mild, instead of freezing, but today blows the roof off. Garden hands in January! What a hoot! Little pink nubs of things are poking out everywhere. And bitty leaflets of things coming out of the ground. Now I'm getting desperately anxious for spring to arrive, fully knowing that we've got a couple of months yet.

Since there is no mail delivery today, shipping of orders will resume tomorrow. And I presume, the rain will too. But today is shiny and happy and bright, and I hope most of you had the day off to enjoy it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fresh This Week: Erm . . .

Ok, so I've committed myself to posting a blog every Friday, announcing what's freshly made or new this week. It seemed like a great way to be more regular with the blog, more productive with my communication and a way to describe what's going on behind the scenes here at the studio/factory. All really good things.

One of the most important things I want to do with this regular "Fresh" feature is to link to the cool new stuff on the web site and hopefully increase traffic and sales. Of course. This is a business after all.

But this month it's really hard to do that. The "what's new" is still curing for a couple of weeks. I'm up to my eyeballs in making batches of soap to catch my inventory up to speed for the whole spring seasonal announcements in a few weeks. I'm making batches of the regular scents, batches of the spring scents, soap, soap, soap.

And I don't want to spoil the anticipation and excitement of what the spring stuff is too soon, so I'm keeping my lip zipped about that this week. In fact, I'm not even 100% sure what they are. I do a few experiment batches alongside the ones I think I'm going to do. Just in case something turns out super good, or super bad. It gives me wiggle room.

The other thing I've spent a ridiculous amount of time on this week, is sourcing new packaging. Sitting on my butt at the computer searching the internet for cute new bags and bows and boxes. Retail is all about packaging, so they say. And I strive to have new and unique looks to the gift stuff. I'm reworking the Pacific Northwest collection for this year, and the Suds for a Brighter Day sets that I had last year, where a portion of the sales went to Kiva. The balance is concept vs cost. I can't make it too expensive that it won't sell and I'm stuck with a big investment of pretty doo-dads that sit on the shelves. I placed a couple of small orders yesterday to try out some ideas. So that's not that fresh either . . . hmmm.

And finally, I've spent a few days shuffling around the show applications, pencilling in and scratching out things on the calendar. Trying to come up with new and better photos for jurying for the shows. Today the whole pile of them get mailed off. This particular task? So not fresh or exciting to announce. I won't know which shows I get into (or not) for weeks. So the show calendar on the web site is totally bare for 2010. I've got a few that I know for sure, a few that I'm pretty sure about, mostly later in the year. But nothing groovy and new to announce this week.

Other tasks going on this week: planning out an email promotions schedule for the year, supply orders, errands to pick up supplies and equipment, costing out shopping bags, catching up on filing and cleaning my desk, infusing the healing salve oil for production next week, drafting the spring mailing newsletter, buying stamps and getting envelopes ready for the mailing, sending out orders, trying to keep the cats from going insane with all this endless rain day after day.

So that's it. Nothing fresh, new, exciting or linkable for this week. But in the spirit of keeping up the commitment, I've duly noted what is happening here in the studio this week.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I was going through the exercise of cleaning out my blog drafts today. Lots of times I start something, even if it's just a sentence or two, and sort of file it away for a day or two in the future, when it's had time to perk and develop. Or I need a little extra help to get started writing. And after several years of ignoring them, I decided to clear out space.

As I was going through the list, I found this one from January 2006. It's fully written and rather potent. I guess I finished and then chickened out from actually posting it because it was a tad too personal at the time. It probably still is. But it still rings true for me as I sift through my goals of what I'd like to accomplish in 2010.

What is a perfectionist? I use that term for myself sometimes, but I’m not sure that’s what it really is. On occasion, it seems more like an excuse. I’ve started writing a few blog entries over the last couple of days, but never finished them. I wasn’t happy with the topic, the tone, or the way it turned out, so I didn’t publish them. I just chalked it up to being a “perfectionist” and that they needed more work. But I think it’s really fear. Fear that somebody else reading it would find it unacceptable or not worthwhile.

This is a ridiculous assumption, and crippling. Even if I was writing articles or best-selling novels, if I let fear stop me from writing what I was thinking, I would never get anywhere. I know that I let this niggling fear stop me in many projects I would otherwise like to try, and I knew I would struggle with it in this endeavor. I just didn’t know it would show up so quickly and be so pronounced. But here it is. I’ve called it other names too – laziness, procrastination, lack of focus. Today I’m going to call it out as fear and see if I can’t get to the heart of it.

I’ve got lists and lists of things I wanted to do – craft projects, classes, new business ideas – all of them either stopped in the research phase, or the idea phase, because I felt I didn’t have the skills to make it work. And I wanted to do it right, if I was going to do it at all. My rational mind fights back with “how can you possibly be an expert before you’ve even started it.” I know very well that you need to just jump in with both feet and make a few mistakes and keep trying in order to teach yourself how to do something well. Even brilliant geniuses or experts in their field, even people who were “born to do” something, still started somewhere, made mistakes, looked foolish before they became really good at their own particular gift. And the best of them still fall down once in awhile or screw up. Everyone does. So this reluctance to start something because you may look foolish? Is the most foolish thing of all. Yes, this is my brain fighting with my ego and my self-confidence. We are going to duke it out today.

And today I am filing this little blurb about why an otherwise intelligent, accomplished and confident woman sabotages and limits herself with irrational excuses, instead of just living her life full out. Embarrassing to admit it? Maybe. But I’m doing it anyway. (And I’m leaving the little non-sentences in too, for kicks.)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Fresh This Week: Clearance Sale

One of my big new ideas is to be a little more consistent with this blog. And to let you know more about what I'm making here in the studio on a weekly basis. To sort of let you into the process of how the products get made.

So I'm going to try to institute "Fresh This Week" journals each Friday, as a way of announcing what is new, and what I'm working on.

This week has been a frenzy of making more of my regular soap scents to build up my inventory. The last little Christmas rush put me out of stock of many of the most popular flavors of soap. And as I've said before, it takes several weeks for the little buggers to cure, so it's time-consuming and a lot of batches to get caught up again with the full menu of scents that I carry. Since that is so totally boring, it's not worth a big crowing about blog post.

The other thing that has to happen here in the first few days of January is the big inventory. For tax purposes, I am supposed to count every single item and supply in my entire stock and studio, put it down on paper and call it a "year-end inventory." What sucks about this particular task is that it needs to be tied to a monetary cost. Each product - a bar of soap or a jar of bath salts - has to be broken out to it's actual costs, from raw materials to the packaging and container bits. So I count how many jars of bath salts I have on hand, and cost out the salts, the fragrance, the jars plus lid, and the label, and come up with my actual cost of what that product costs to make. That's the "actual cost." And this needs to be listed next to every item. Plus every ingredient I have on hand too. Lots of searching for invoices from earlier in the year.

Ingredient costs vary a lot throughout the year, and from year to year. It's not that easy to just transfer the costs from one year to the next. Olive oil has gone way up, and back down. Sometimes a particular container radically changes price too - like the tins, due to cost increases to produce it. Anyway, it's a time-consuming effort and boring and blah, blah, blah. The only silver lining is that it keeps me on track with knowing if I'm out of whack with my prices, and what I need to cut back on. Plus it makes me look at what I have on hand that just needs to be cleared out of the studio to make room for new stuff. Odds and ends of items that need to go. Clearance sale!

That's the long, rambling, prelude to my announcement that I've got the Clearance Sale page back up with a few items that I'm putting up at a huge discount. There isn't a lot of stock of any of these items, so if you're interested, don't delay.

Here's your link to the sale page to BUY NOW! When it's gone, it's gone.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


"It is a delicious moment, certainly, that of being well-nestled in bed and feeling that you shall drop gently to sleep."

Leigh Hunt

For me, January is sort of a month of hibernation. Catching up on sleep. Working quietly behind the scenes. It's a month of creating goals, making plans, setting up a calendar, putting all the building blocks into place for the year ahead.

All the little notes I've made throughout the year for new scents, new products, new ideas for packaging, marketing, selling or whatnot are thoughtfully considered - and either tossed, filed away for another year, or put into action. It's fun to re-imagine the whole business and start fresh. Often it just ends up being more of the same, for practical reasons, but I like the exercise of imagining things completely differently. What if I didn't do this, or this, or that anymore, but did it this other way instead? Usually something interesting pops up. And the end result always makes my life easier or better.

It's the freedom of reinvention that keeps me sane. and happy.