Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Soap A Day Project

{pictures below} 
"Never thinking anything is good enough is a mindset breeding ground for self doubt and failure!"

As a small business owner, some days are good and some are bad. I am at a transition point with my business and I am finding it hard to stay focused. I have spent long hours for the past month of nights trying to develop new products that will "blow up", when I should be happy with what I am doing and focusing on marketing the products that my customers and myself already love. I have no idea what I am doing with the marketing so I have been taking on-line classes and reading books, trying to implement what I learn as I go, but it is a long road and I am moving slowly!

I am trained in art drawing, painting, photography, and graphic design, and have been thinking about why I didn't have the confidence to start a business as a graphic designer then, and how it pertains to my business now. I have set out on A Soap A Day art quest to try and answer some questions and to fill a creative void that I sometimes feel with regular daily production. I had some real talent as an artist studying photography, painting, and graphic design, and I wanted desperately to be some sort of visual artist after school but kind of failed at it. Wanting something isn't enough if you don't take action! Looking at my past failures may help me actively recognize pieces of my personality that are holding me back from taking my business to the next level, thus empowering me to change those pieces of my personality.

My husband recently told me the Japanese concept of Kaizen or continuous improvement, which is just taking baby steps on a daily basis to reach a goal, rather than being overwhelmed with big tasks that are daunting and may not actually help you achieve success. I am going to try and use my art and soap as a medium to visualize those baby steps I want to take in my business, and hopefully it will help open my mind to what is holding me back!

Here is the bar for June 5th 2012. The concept is "beginning" as depicted in cell type shapes. If you think about it the process of creating life is a series of baby steps! My business started with a single bar of soap like my life started with a single cell. I am going to keep going on this theme for a while slowly moving my way to an end.
 This one bar of soap took over 60 minutes to make! 3 inch x 3 inch bar.
The small "cell" shapes were made with a thin sliver of pink soap that I shaved round and centered in an empty pen tube and plugged off with clay. They are very tiny and were difficult to work with! The first couple of tries did not work as soap was hardening before I could pour it, or the soap was hot enough to pour but then melted the thin pink soap!

What I have learned from this bar is that I am fickle. I loved it for a second when I made it and the this morning was already looking for ways to make it better and criticizing the design, rather than just being happy with it as is. This is often my thoughts on products, not that there is anything wrong with wanting to improve, but sometimes you just have to be happy with what you have! Never thinking anything is good enough is a mindset breeding ground for self doubt and failure!


  1. Heavy duty post.  Thanks for sharing.  Many of us have the same feelings/issues/fears holding us back - you are not alone, but you do need to overcome these as you grow as a person.  I love the soap.  It came out great.  Remember that art isn't supposed to be "perfect".  It is just beautiful as is.  Would you be nitpicking Van Gogh?  I doubt it, so try not to do that with your works of art.  And I have never seen a soap of yours that wasn't a work of art. :-)

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read this Erica and for the wise words of encouragement! I swear being a small business owner could be classified as a mental illness! :) I hope if anyone out there reads this and has similar feeling that they will contribute as you did! It is all a learning process. I always try to "keep up the spirits" and, at least for now, have a path to attempt to stay on!

  3. Hi Erin!  I feel you, and I hear what you're saying!  I think what you're doing is great.  We need to work through times of transition and instability.  Here's a method that works for me:
    When I'm feeling lost, stressed, or overwhelmed, I like to take a quiet moment.  I try to push out the negative voices and get down to the core of my concerns.  Usually there's a common denominator that brings everything together.  Is it fear of change or failure?  A desire to focus on your personal needs?  An unhappiness with (fill in the blank)?  

    Just breathe deep, close your eyes, and work through the thoughts.  Once you find the pinpoint, then you can create a plan.  Usually I find that many problems are improved when this core desire is uncovered.
    I believe that we have the answers inside us, but we get lost in our heads.  We need to ask our heart what it needs sometimes.

    (I LOVE your soap, btw!  Gorgeous!)

  4.  Great advice Debbie! Thank you!

  5. Erin - this is a delightful soap!  I love the colors and the look you gave it.  Isn't it fun to make a bar just to express your creativity rather than to fill an order or restock the essentials?  That can be difficult to accomplish amid the rush of production, as you mentioned. 

    I think we tend to be our own worst critics.  It's important to have high standards, and to expect our best from ourselves.  But it's a fine line between striving for excellence and striving for perfection.  I think the former spurs us on to do our best, and the latter can drive us nuts and get in the way of creating.

    One of the things I enjoy about soap making is that sometimes, even when it doesn't turn out like I plan, it's still fun, creative, and sometimes even better than I envisioned.  And our boo boos can usually be remelted, rebatched, and used in some way.

    What would you say about this soap if another soaper posted this picture? 

    I look forward to seeing more of your creations from your soap a day project.

  6. Hi Erin - beautiful soap and a wonderful project.  I sincerely hope that you find what you need in the process and recharge your creative batteries.  Good luck.

  7.  Thank you Traci! I have high spirits!

  8.  "One of the things I enjoy about soap making is that sometimes, even when
    it doesn't turn out like I plan, it's still fun, creative, and
    sometimes even better than I envisioned.  And our boo boos can usually
    be remelted, rebatched, and used in some way." - so true Jean!

    And you are right about artists being their worst critics for sure! I know there are some things that I am just bad at though and I am really interested in holistic self improvement! I am a pretty good artists but need help with the business owner part! :)

  9. First of all, awesome soap! It looks so great!

    I think all of us are prone to looking at something we've made or done and being more critical than we need to be. It's human nature.

    You're doing a great job - learning more about the things that you're not an expert in is always a good tactic - and feeling distracted during the day is normal. We have a fun phrase we use at work, "Hey! A penny!" to try to get people back on track when they've wandered. I'm definitely the worst offender of that.

    I love the project - can't wait to see where you go with this.

  10. I can completely relate. I love soap making but I'm currently working a day job that isn't ideal. So I am trying to do both and my dream is suffering.

    Along with my lack of marketing skills my company is going nowhere fast.The only thing keeping me going is working on my new studio. The excitement of designing my own creative space is overwhelming my thoughts. I'm hoping this new space will inspire me and bring me closer to have a self sustaining business.

    But I know I have so many more kinks to work out.

    Erin, I love your soap! Its something that's very inspiring. Keep up the great work!

  11. This is such a pretty soap Erin! You are very talented.
    I think that you doubt because you are a perfectionist. I say that as I am one and think the same way as you do. It can be the best thing and a real annoyance to never be satisfied enough with what we make... But this is how we progress! :) Cheer up!

  12. Thank you for being so real and honest here. I admire you and your talent. If I had the background in graphics (hope to learn more in that area at some point) I'd be working part time doing that as it fascinates me.  We all have difficult days and get tired.  Your is stunning.

  13. Love the tactic to help everyone stay focused around the office! I am making a notebook of ideas so I can write them down and get them out of my head so they won't distract me as much (hubby's idea).

  14.  You're welcome and thank you for the compliment on the soap! ! It feels good to get serious sometimes! I did have a brief thought to expand by business to include graphic services to private label customers but realistically I can't sustain that right now. Design and working with customers is very difficult and mentally strenuous!

  15.  Thank you Stephanie! Your words are very positive! Just what we need around here. :)

  16. What a neat idea!  I just got linked here from your newsletter, and I'm definitely subscribing to your blog.  I'm sure you'll turn out lots of beautiful things!

  17.  Thank you Anjela! Glad that the newsletter got you here - sorry I had to send out two since I apparently thought it was May right up until I hit the send button! Thank you for following me!

  18. You have amazing talents. Your work is one of the first soaps that I came across when I was looking at getting into soap making. As a graphic designer and photographer myself it is the wonderful designs of your soaps and labels that attracted me and inspires me. Perhaps you could step back completely and give yourself a design project which isn't related to soap.

    Sometimes I find that doing the day to day work repetitively means I have to be working on new projects that keep me excited and give me challenges otherwuse I might get bored. Im self employed and also find or think I'm loosing my way sometimes, your husband is so right about taking baby steps, i hope you project a soap a day can give you sOme clarity and clear directions.

  19. Meant to say your work is stunning at the end there. I can relate to your posts as I'm a perfectionist and get so caught up in driving myself that I need to take a break sometimes and just relax and not stress out.


  20. It took you an hour to make that soap? Wow. Good work

    1. Yes about an hour. It was a process! :)



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