Thursday, November 25, 2010

Adventures in Craft Fairs... the Motel

We recently were vendors at a large, rather high-end craft fair at a small indoor mall... we were late entries and had yet to receive our vendor packet in the mail, which was to include hotel rates (among other information) giving "crafter rates" in the area. The fair promoter had promised to send it to us as quickly as possible, but Thursday arrived and the mailman still had not left a vendor packet in our mailbox... we were heading to the event on Friday

We got on the phone to the promoter to see if she could give us some recommendations on accommodations, which she was nice enough to provide. We called the place she said would give us good rates and made reservations... saying to ourselves, and to each other that it didn't much matter what kind of room it was, we were only going to be there to sleep and shower... OK... maybe we should have been a little more specific... Oh it was clean enough and it had a bed... and a shower.

We arrived around 9:30 p.m., tired and ready to relax for a little while and to get a good night's sleep before our early Saturday morning start at the mall...

The motel (it was NOT a hotel!) was a little old and a little rundown and a little outdated.

DH went on into the office to check in... as he entered the office, the older lady working in the office rose from her La-Z-Boy recliner where she had been watching television, she had no teeth in her mouth, apparently they were in a glass nearby... DH checked in, then asked if we could get a wake-up call the next morning since we had to be at the show by 7 a.m. to begin setting up.

"Sure," gummed the clerk, "what time you want to get up?"

"5:30 a.m." said DH.

Blinking, the clerk responded, "Lord, Honey, we don't even come in till 7!"

Then she handed him an alarm clock!

We have laughed about this episode for a week now and probably will for years! It was just TOO funny!

We made our way to our room... it was large... with a walk-in closet...

And a king-size bed...with RED sheets... made from a brick I think! That pinkish-tan colored sink and toilet in the bathroom from the 50s, or maybe the 40s (the tub, I must say, was white, though obviously a 60s model at least)
Well, the room is BIG anyway... and pretty clean... note the turquoise paint!

I think I had this recliner in the early 70s... and that good ol' 70s wood paneling!

And you typical ocean scene from the dated motel days... this "inn" was in the mountains! There were RED sheets on the king-sized bed!

Remember the pinkish-tan fixtures... from the 50s? 60s? 40s? and the old 9-in "asbestos" tiles in the bathroom... Oh dear!

Well, we did have cable!

Fortunately we didn't spend much time here in our "home away from home!"
I'm thinking maybe next time we'll stay at the Holiday Inn!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Wow, I realized I haven't written a word in almost a month here... it's been a little busy around the soap kitchen this fall!

Our weekday afternoons and evenings have been filled with soapmaking and creating new, improved ideas for our festival booth... weekends have been dedicated to festivals.

After the Latta Plantation the first Saturday in October, we moved on to HILLarity Festival on the Hill in Chester, SC... It was more of a "street festival" than we had anticipated so our sales were not as great as we had hoped, but we met some great folks, made some great contacts, and learned some things. One thing we learned was if we are going to go to a variety of types of festivals we need to take products that will appeal to the various customers.
HILLarity Festival on the Hill, Chester, SC

The following week, October 23, we headed to the Upstate of SC, to Honea Path's Sugarfoot Festival... knowing it was most likely a street type festival, we had added some kid-friendly items and some "impulse" items to our list... I had made lots of food shaped earrings from polymer clay (a BIG hit with little girls and teens!) and my DH had come up with a marshmallow shooter that went over nicely with boys of all ages... we sold out of those! Of course, we are dedicated to soap and we did very well with that too! Honea Path is a great little "small town" place. The festival was fantastic, we will definitely go back next year! Felt like you were in the middle of Mayberry there... they started out the events of the day long festival with a singing of the National Anthem... hats were off all over town and everyone was quiet and respectful... afterwards a local pastor said a prayer, the mayor welcomed everyone and the fun began in earnest... What a great day in a great little town!

My DH spent the day kicked back in his chair, holding a marshmallow war with the fellow vendor across the street... they both shot marshmallows at many of the children as they passed by... I think it was their way of recapturing their own youth even though they both claimed it was a sales pitch to move those marshmallow shooters... Whatever.

An amusing tidbit from the day... a lady called over to my DH... "Hello, Bill!" then she walked closer and realized he wasn't Bill... "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were somebody I know, I was gonna ask you a question." says she... "Well, go ahead and ask me, let's see if I know what Bill knows" says DH... "Where are they selling those tall, tropical drinks?" she asks... DH points to a vendor booth nearby... the lady thanks him and starts to walk away... DH says, "Tell Bill I said Hello." Without missing a beat, the lady replies, "I sure will... that Bill's a nice fella."
Polymer Clay "Food" Earrings

Setting up shop for the day at Honea Path's Sugarfoot Festival
First weekend in November we're off to Western NC for the Foothills Highland Games in Hendersonville... super excited about it! And then in a couple weeks, Christmas Festival in Boone, NC. Busy fall season but we love it!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Latta Plantation Folklife Festival

We got our new display set up at the Latta Plantation Folklife Festival on October 9... smooth setup and ready for customers in record time! It was a beautiful fall day in Huntersville, NC... the morning was cool and the afternoon got a little warm. People began trickling in to the lovely old plantation setting as soon as the gates opened at 10 a.m. and the stream of folks continued till closing at 4...

Our cupcake soaps were a big hit... people admired them, amazed that they were soap! The scent from our all natural soap wafted throughout the grounds, inviting and drawing in folks to have a sniff. Lip balms seemed to be the most popular item, especially with the children. The all-nighter spent wrapping and packaging the soaps was worth it once we were there and set up... our booth looked great! We look forward to continuing the fall craft festival season, hoping to get one or two in this month before our "big event" at the Foothills Highland Games the first weekend in November.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tea Farm Cottage

We thought we had learned our lesson, but apparently not!

We decided this past spring to NOT participate in any more craft fairs in super small venues... no more church fairs, school fairs, or businesses simply promoting themselves by hosting small fairs... well, we did it again! Tea Farm Cottage, a lovely arts, crafts, and antique shop in Summerville, SC, has hosted a "First Saturday Arts and Crafts Fair" for about 3 or 4 months this summer and fall in the front yard of their charming establishment. After speaking at length via email to the cottage owner, Deborah, we decided to participate in the October fair... she had assured us of plenty of shoppers, lookers, and a variety of other festival participants who were returning every month successfully.

Apparently one of the main crowd drawing vendors, a Jamaican jerk chicken cooker, experienced car trouble the morning of the event and canceled at the last minute... at least that's the story we heard... he drew in the crowds with the aroma and flavor of his Caribbean flavors and they shopped... at least they had in August, and again in September... but his cancellation in October appeared to put a damper on everyone's buying spirits.

We enjoyed our day at Tea Farm Cottage, met some really nice people, traded business cards and email addresses, we even met and picked the brain (as he picked ours) of another soaper, but we didn't make a great deal in sales... but I have to say, neither did anybody else there. The other soaper planned to complain and hoped to be refunded, at least in part, of the festival rental fee... we didn't even try, just chalked it up to experience once again.

We had several sniffers stop by our tent, drawn in by the scent of our soap and by the novelty of our cupcake shaped soaps... we got many many comments about how real they looked, how great they smelled, how interesting, how novel... We got a lot of smellers, but not too many buyers.

We did sell some soap to the pottery vendor, Janet, who fell in love with our products... she makes beautiful pottery and clay sculptures and is a really cool lady, as is her husband. I, in turn, fell in love with her work and after she had purchased the soap from us, I remarked that I was just about to see if she would trade a few bars of soap for a lovely blue, round soap dish she had designed and made (I make round soap and wanted that dish badly)... she tried a sample of our lotion... then came back and said, "I tell you what, I'll give you that soap dish you want for a bottle of that great lotion." Of course I readily agreed.

We came away richer even though we didn't make a lot of money, we DO, however, have a beautiful clay soap dish and a few new friends.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Few Festival Dates Set!

We've chosen a few (and a few have chosen and approved us!) festivals for the fall season and are gearing up to sell soap ... so far...

  • Latta Plantation in Huntersville, NC on Saturday, October 8... the 29th Annual Folklife Festival and Craft Show. I know I've bugged Nicole to death with my questions, but she's been an absolute angel and a wealth of information to me!

  • Tenth Annual Foothills Highland Games in Hendersonville, NC on November 6... very excited about this event since I'm wanting to develop a Scottish line of soaps and get involved in as many Highland Games as I can. Just received confirmation from Sue today that we have been accepted as vendors at this event! Yayness!
Looking forward to selling soap at these venues and more to come!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Scottish Shortbread Soap

The first in what hopefully will be an entire line of Scottish/Celtic soap products... we made Scottish Shortbread Soap this weekend!

Started with my basic soap recipe... palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil and headed to to run some numbers... decided to add real butter (milk fat) to the recipe as it is a major ingredient in actual shortbread... ran the percentages through the calculator and found that milk fat adds to the conditioning quality of the finished soap so this would work!

Gathered my ingredients and started to work, making only a 20 ounce batch to start... weighed my lye, mixed it in with my water and stirred... set aside to cool down to about 100 degrees while weighing out my oils and warming them to about 100 degrees.

When everything was the right temperatures, mixed them together and stirred with my stick blender till I reached a light trace... then added vanilla absolute and a touch of cinnamon essential oil for a bit of warmth to the final scent.

Blended some more till I got a medium trace, then poured it into a round PVC pipe mold... After several hours the vanilla and cinnamon have blended nicely into a warm fresh baked smell! I think this one is gonna be a winner!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Testing new products

In the last couple weeks I've made a few new products and in case anybody wonders how they are tested, here's how... First of all, I make sure all my ingredients and my mixtures and combinations are safe, Ph balanced and as harmless as I know how to make them... I am experienced enough in soap and lotion making to know how to do that.

Secondly... my family and friends are willing subjects for testing new things I choose to mix up... it's as simple as that!

I recently made an herbal bath tea, gave a canister of it, with its little organza "tea bag" to my daughter, who unhesitatingly made use of it within just a couple hours... she came out of the bathroom after her delightfully scented, skin nurturing soak in the tub, with the Oooohs and Ahhhs I wanted to hear. She loved the stuff, enjoyed the experience.

I gave my granddaughter and my young niece (both toddlers, ages 2 and 4) some fizzy bath bombs during a recent family vacation... when my granddaughter watched the fizzing action in her bath water with her sweet little mouth in a perfect "O" of delight and a sharp, excited intake of her breath, I knew I had succeeded! And my niece, sweet little thing that she is, asked "Can we have another one?" We fizzed up the tub pretty well that day, much to my delight... and theirs.

My concoction of Thieves' Oil was met by family members with "I can't wait to try it in the vaporizer," "Oh my goodness, I have a cold, I'll give it a try now," "Will it help my sinuses?" "Mmmm it smells wonderful" and "It is so soothing." When my granddaughter fell, causing a bit of a goose egg and a bruise to her forehead, a drop of Thieves' Oil soothed her feelings, helped the swelling go down, and the bruising heal faster. It's good stuff!

The all natural shampoo I made was a little less well-received, but not by much. My daughter used it and loved the smell, the lather, the way it made her hair feel... she did say it was a little thin and watery... I learned something! Next batch will be diluted less... simple as that. I was and am grateful for the honest feedback.

On to new adventures in soaping!