Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy Friday

Apologies for the brief absence, I've been painting. I usually try to get a short vacation in around this time of the year. But we're redecorating a room instead.

So the last week has been cleaning, prepping, painting and more painting. The built-in cabinets with all those shelves are really tough. The "red room" is now olive green and cream. So long "lipstick lounge." It's so much brighter and cleaner. Carpet goes in Monday. There's still a bit more painting - another coat on the walls and window trim touch-up. Whew.

Next week it's back to soap full time, instead of squeezed in around the edges. I've got bunches of shows in March, so I need to get busy.

And can I just mention how darn glad I am that I live in Seattle instead of the East Coast. What's more fun -- early spring or Snow-i-cane? The third crippling snow storm in a month, or my rhubarb and peonies starting to leaf out? Plum and cherry trees in bloom. Daffodils and crocus sprinkled throughout the yard. Tra la la, it's SPRING!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fresh This Week: Helping Hand soaps

Yanno how I had that brainstorm last year to add some little mini soaps to my product line, with half of the profits going to I spent so much time trying to hatch up a good name. And eventually I decided on "Suds for a Brighter Day." I don't even remember how I arrived at that one. I just know that I wanted it to be cheerful and give some sort of hint that it was a "doing good works" kind of thing, without it being overly "charity"-like. If that makes any sense. Anyway, last week while I was just staring out the window in a stupor, a moment of total brain fog and I sort of got lost in what I was doing, a new name just popped up out of the blue and brought me right back to reality. The new name is "Helping Hand" soaps. It's so much more accurate. Perfect really.

The small sized soaps are truly hand soaps (or travel size) soaps. And they are designed to fundraise a little bit for one of my favorite organizations: , thus the helping hand part. The next little bit (in italics) is directly from the website and explains it all in more detail. I've kept the "Suds" listing on the site for now, but added the "Helping Hand Soaps" listing too, so that you can find one or the other easily. It's a perfect gift item. And I've sold bunches of them in the past couple of weeks, so I'm super excited to send them a really big number of loans at the end of the month.

The new soaps are more of the mini-soap bars (a la The Pacific Northwest Collection) that I added last fall. They are roughly half the size of my standard bars, 2x2 inches square, and weigh 2 ounces each. I am selling them in groups of four, packaged in a sweet, natural jute string bag, and the scents will change with each new batch.

The “Helping Hand” part is that half of all the proceeds for these new soaps will go directly to Kiva, the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. Tiny little loans of $25 go towards goals of several hundred or a thousand dollars, whatever is needed for a small business owner in a developing nation to get the help they need to start their business, or to take the next step towards sustainability. It doesn’t take much to help somebody who is struggling to make their little business a livelihood for themselves and their families. I’m so grateful that for the last 13 years I’ve been able to make a living with my own micro business, and I want to share just a little bit of what I have to help others do the same. It’s my way of having Soapworks Studio give back, and having you all - my most fabulous customers- share in that process, while getting the most adorable little mini guest or travel soaps in return.

One more thing – the fragrances of these will be in a constant rotation. This first edition has a fruity floral combo. I’m constantly doing experiments with new scents for seasonal soaps, or testing out samples, so I seem to have an endless amount of scents to try. These will be my new playground for now. You’ll get to try different, fun, new stuff. And as the year continues, there will be new groupings of 4 soap scents to choose from, matched so that they go well together.

Alright then? It's the same great little sack of tiny soaps with a new name. When the summer newsletter comes out in May there will be new scents to choose from. And the Helping Hand name will be official on the website and in the brochure that I send out. Have a great weekend - don't get too crazy with Spring Fever in all that sunshine!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cheery Cherrys & Presidents

Who could possibly chop down a beautiful cherry tree? I don't believe that story about George Washington. Especially after visiting Mount Vernon last fall. It's beautiful, and it's obvious that he had a strong connection to growing things, with all his farm land, orchards, kitchen gardens, experimental gardens, even a greenhouse!

Monticello, Jefferson's home, was even more beautiful. For me anyway. I loved those gardens even more, and the stately view of the valley from his huge hilltop was breathtaking. Getting a chance to spend a few days taking in the history of our presidents gave me a new perspective into our Founding Fathers, and a greater appreciation for the vision of a few great men who built our country. Ethics, values, courage and determination are words that get tossed around in current political debates without much meaning, because they've become code words for other things. Power and money have infiltrated everything. But we have had great leaders in our country, and it's a good day to appreciate them. All of them, not just the two.

Quite the festive weekend we're having, eh? With the Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day under our belt, today we are honoring presidents, and then tomorrow is Mardi Gras. Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The scam

It started out innocently at first with a simple email:


I am (name removed), I need to know if your products are available in stock for immediate order,so can you reconfirm your website,so i can review again with the products interested in,and do let me know if there will be any special pricing i need to know about.

Lastly regarding payment I will be sending you my credit card for the full payment charges for my order,do you accept Visa or Master?

I hope to hear from you as soon as possible so we can proceed with the Order.


Hmmm, new customer. Who prefers not to read the website first but would rather just email to get all the information. Okay. I can deal with that. So I give a brief explanation of the process, the products, the 4-bar discount, the acceptance of credit cards, and a few links back to the site so they could read it all in more detail. All good.

Then I get the next email:

"Below here is the list of my order:

soap bars
Qty: 300

Please get back to me with the total cost estimate for this order so that i can make my payment via my credit card,so DONT worry about the shipping,I will have the shipping arrangement for the pick up of these items from your place through my shipping agent.


All this with a contact name, business name, address, phone and fax numbers, from a trading company in Thailand. Wow. This was not what I expected at all. I was just thinking it was a local lady who wanted to order a few bars. Not a huge wholesale request from overseas. So I'm confused now - so many questions. Who is this? Where did they see my product? What kinds of soap are they even buying?

All of these questions and more I send back in my reply. Who is the shipping agent? Are they picking up the boxes from my studio? How are you sending me the payment information? Plus I explained that it would take 2-3 weeks to get the order together, and I would need half of the money up front as a deposit.

Then I start the googling and following up. There is nobody listed with that name, that trading company. No traffic from Thailand, or anything else unusual on the website. And I get a response which makes it all more clear. The language in this next message is very bad English and the punctuation strange. But it states that the shipping agent has shipped for them before, but unfortunately is not able to accept credit cards right now because they are "upgrading their credit card facilities." Whatever that means. Nothing.

But the gist is that they want me to take the entire credit card transaction for my whole order, plus $965 in shipping charges, plus a $100 credit card transaction fee, plus another $50 for a western union fee to transfer money back to the shipping folks. And please do it immediately upon confirmation. They will get me the credit card right now. Am I online? Their payment is ready immediately. Today. Again, right now. Money coming your way. Lots of it.

No response to any of my questions about who they are, what is the nature of the business, and more importantly, no response about what they are actually ordering from me, beyond the ambiguous total of 300 bars of soap. Clearly not legitimately interested in the product, or my business. Just want to get that money thing done. Today. Right now.

So I started to write a response about how I would not accept funds for somebody else's business services, that if I could do the Western Union thing, so could they. But I just didn't want to play any more. So I went silent. And they've left me alone for a day. I'm guessing we're done.

I have no idea how the scam operates. Obviously it's a stolen credit card number. But I'm not clear how it goes from there. Like do they somehow back out my credit information through the transaction process? Or is it just simple money laundering and they get their half, and I get half for doing it for them? Am I responsible somehow for those fraud charges? I don't care, really. I'm not interested in getting involved in any way. And I'm so tired of having to watch my back all the time. People are so darn busy and creative in their criminal endeavors, aren't they?

On a happier note, the last week has been incredibly busy with orders and requests. The shop went well last week. I'm trucking along through February at a brisk pace, and all is well. Valentine's Day this weekend, and Mardi Gras a couple of days later. Who Dat!?!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day

All you have to do is read the words "Groundhog Day" and it brings up the old Bill Murray movie. And with it, the notion of living the same day over and over again repeatedly, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

It's the code name for living a totally boring life, swallowed up by a daily routine that plays itself like a broken record. As much as I'd like to imagine a life where each day is a new adventure, I'm sort of stuck in a rut. Like most everybody else. There are jobs and schedules and routines that are unavoidable. It's hard to find ways to mix it up, to break up the monotony. Like drive a different way to the same old places. Eat breakfast for dinner. Listen to a totally new radio station for an hour.

Maybe I'll do some of that today. Because today feels like all those days in December when I worked harder than I wanted to. The mailing went out and already there are orders in the inbox this morning. And I've got a big wholesale order that needs to go out today too. And I'm trying to pack up everything, old and new, for a show this week. I'll be at Group Health in my little shop space on Thursday and Friday.

I usually don't have so much going on this time of year, but I needed to get started earlier, and I had a lot of catching up to do in January. That quiet time in the winter? Didn't happen. Which isn't altogether bad. But I don't want to live in Groundhog Day either. I like the up and down tempo, busy and slow times of the year.

Punxsutawney Phil said 6 more weeks of winter this morning. Maybe by the time the official spring rolls around, I'll get a little break and head off to somewhere interesting for a short vacation. In the meantime, I'll settle for little mini variations in my day. Chicken and waffles for dinner? A trip to the beach for a quick walk?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Spring Newsletter 2010

I've just mailed out the Spring 2010 Newsletter to the mailing list, and emailed out the same info to the email list, so I'm posting it here too, just to cover all the bases. Like before, rather than spend a huge amount of time adding links to each and every product mentioned, I'm just adding one link to the Seasonal Products Page, where you can see all of the new items at one glance.

Here is the Seasonal section of the websitewhere you can find it all. And below is the full text of the newsletter:

Dear Friends,

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, I don't even have to tell you that Spring is on it's way. With the unseasonably warm, dry weather we've had this month, bulbs and leaflets are beginning to pop out all over. Crocuses! A pink cherry tree in bloom! Gardeners are itching to get their hands in the dirt and get going - the anticipation is irresistable. When the whole outdoors begins new life, you can't help but feel hopeful and happy and ready for new beginnings.


To celebrate the season of love, flowers, and new beginnings, I've cooked up a few new soap fragrances. For me, Spring scents are inherently flowery, even a a bit girlie, unlike most of my other scents throughout the year. After months of dead leaves and barren trees, the whiff of blossoms in the breeze is a breath of fresh air. Pretty flowers, flouncy skirts, tip-toeing through the tulips - that's Spring!

White Lilac - A runaway hit when I introduced it last year, this one is a repeat for spring. Absolutely true to its name, it's a gorgeous lilac fragrance, just a blush fresher and lighter than a darker purple bloom. Sophisticated, elegant, lushly floral in a creamy white bar.

Jasmine Mint - A few years ago I featured this stunner, and I've recently been craving this particular blend, so it's back for an encore performance. It's a marriage made in heaven, with sweetly floral jasmine blossoms paired with fresh mint leaves. It's light, cool, and perfectly lovely. Pretty pink petal-colored, it's love at first whiff.

Orange Blossom & Lily - If you've ever walked into the lobby of some fancy spa or hotel and stepped into a fragrance cloud of pure tropical floral heaven, you'll understand that there is nothing dreamier and intoxicating. The scent of this soap is elegant, luscious, and blissful in the way that only an opulent bouquet of flowers can be. Classic orange blossom, or neroli, blends with tuberose and lilies, with hints of jasmine and gardenia. It instantly transports you to paradise. The color of a juicy peach, it's enchanting and captivating.

Sweet Dreams - This soap is a companion to our long-standing linen spray of the same name, it's an aromatherapy blend of lavender and chamomile essential oils. Both of these natural oils are calming and relaxing, soothing and healing - who doesn't love that? A very light, soft purple color, it's sweetly herbal and clean, with just a wisp of violet. (100% natural soap.)

Other Additions and Subtractions - Since we're still (supposed to be) in the middle of sniffle season and grey skies, I'm keeping the Eucalyptus Lemon soap in stock. I'm also bringing back the Cinnamon Pear from the Autumn seasonal list, due to the gazillions of requests for it. The Red Currant & Tangerine and Sacred Smoke are being discontinued.


We haven't had a price increase around here since 2005, when the soap bars went from $3.95 to $4.00. This year they will increase to $4.25 each, and I'll keep the 4-bar discount, which will now be 4 for $16.00.

For a 4.5 oz bar, it's still a better price and value than most of the other handcrafted soap out there, locally or nationally. And we like to think it's still better quality too.


Our Dead Sea bath salts are so lovely, so nurturing, and such a great value that they rank high on the list of most popular products. These rustic, chunky salts come directly from the Dead Sea. Soaked in for centuries, these pure, fresh salts have a mineral content that is 7 times greater than other types of sea salts. They work wonders on purifying and detoxifying, improving circulation, moisturizing skin, soaking away stress, and relaxing muscles, aches and pains. And did I mention, the unbelievably soft, silky smooth skin? Oh my. For little foot baths or long evening soaks, these are the best bath salts I've ever tried. Giant 16 oz bottles of beautiful spa-quality soaking salts ($ 8.00 each).

I'm keeping the standard scents of French Lavender, Vanilla Bean & Honey, and Almond Ginger that have been on the menu all year. And I am adding two new Spring scents of Grapefruit Lemon and Mandarin Orange, both incredibly juicy, bright, and sunny citrus blends that are luscious for soaking in and cheering up the dreary winter blahs.


In addition to the soap, I'm also bringing back the Jasmine Mint spray. It's such a sweet, fresh, happy fragrance to lighten up your surroundings for Spring. (4 oz bottle, $ 6.00 each)

And, of course, the Lilac Garden spray is one of our standard scents, but especially lovely in the spring too - mmmm, dreamy.

Or pair our Sweet Dreams spray, Sweet Dreams soap and the new Sweet Dreams lip balm too in a beautiful gift set.


These are all natural flavoring blends, for 100% natural lip balm. Sweet Dreams (lavender, chamomile and vanilla), Jasmine Tea, and juicy Passionfruit. Wickedly delicious. Don't forget - there's a kissing holiday coming up and you'll want to pamper your pucker! (1/2 oz tin, $2.00)


I started this idea last spring - a new product line of mini-soap bars packaged in sets. The bars are roughly half the size of my standard bars, 2x2 inches square, and weigh 2 ounces each. I've changed the packaging this year, and selling them in groups of four, packaged in sweet little polka-dot organza bags. The four scents available are the four new spring scents: White Lilac, Jasmine Mint, Orange Blossom and Sweet Dreams.

The "brighter day" part is that half of all proceeds for these soaps goes directly to, a person-to-person micro-lending group, empowering individuals to lend directly to entrepreneurs in the developing world. Tiny loans of $25 go towards goals of several hundred or a thousand dollars, whatever is needed for a small business owner in a developing nation to get the help needed to start their business, or take it to the next step towards sustainability. It doesn't take much to help somebody who is struggling to make their little business a livelihood for themselves and their families. I'm so grateful that for the last 14 years I've been able to make a living with my own micro business that I want to share just a little bit of what I have to help others do the same.


There's plenty of time to order a gift for your favorite sweeties. Bath goodies are the perfect thing for those of us with healthy New Year's resolutions. And I've got sweet pink polka-dot organza bags, charming heart-patterned ribbons, and vintage postcards to dress up just a single bar or a whole basket full of treats. Check out the web site to see some of my ideas, or give me a call to rustle up your own.