Saturday, 18 June 2011


Yes!!!!  this is it, we have been waiting for this trip for an age......

It was my 50th Birthday in April and it was my Dads 80th in May so we decided, and have been planning for ages, to have a huge, joint party at our Quinta in Portugal - wow, that sounds so grand...........

You have to remember we bought the farm 9 years ago and it was a total ruin, now it should accommodate a few people and we have 6 acres of terraces for camping!

This is how it looked when we bought it

Yes, a huge amount of work (we have done it all ourselves) later and we now have a beautiful house that is not finished but habitable, off the grid, we make all our own electricity, hot water and we have a bore hole for our water too, it is our ultimate dream - one day we will live here - and hopefully it will be soon....

In the mean time...........  We are planning a huge party, most of our joint families will be there, friends from the UK, Singapore, USA and Portugal will be joining us, most camping on our land, sharing everything, but it will be fun!!

So, we will be back on the 14th July, no orders will be processed between now and then - sorry, but my usual holiday helper, my son Ryan, will be there with us all!  please carry on with the comments and orders, I can still access emails there ( I have a Portuguese dongle! ) but nothing will be packed or sent out until the 14th.

I wish you all well, we are gone but (please) not forgotten..... I will be back before you know it and I have a really fab, new soap to launch, not telling what yet though.  Oh I forgot, I will be taking my fiddle and hopefully playing this for my Dad........

Lonesome River Blues


Sunday, 12 June 2011

My New Soap Display

Lots of people have made lovely comments about my new soap display stand shown in the last blog posting so I thought I would show you how It was done.

Firstly - get yourself a good, friendly carpenter!  
Mine is called John Salter and as well as being a friend and fellow pilot he also does some work for my partner Rik who is a builder.  I sat down with John and we designed the stand together just with an idea, pencil and paper and not much else.  He then went away and built it for me.  We decided to make the stand out of pine not MDF which would have made the thing far to heavy.

Creating the look
I knew I wanted the shelves to fit quite a few soap ranges and I really wanted it to have the look of a market stall.  Many people who visit my stalls at the various farmers markets in the area often comment on how nice my wooden trugs look.  I made these myself out of pine, painted them in a variety of different colours, distressed the look with a sander and finished them with a couple of coats of varnish.  They have withstood the test of time very well and do look good.  I use laminated cards for each soap with the illustration, explanation and ingredients on my trugs, however I knew there would not be space for this on the shelves so I planned a painted blackboard strip that could be market up with blackboard pens and, again, would help to give the impression of a market stall.

The trugs and my lovely Rik at Taunton Flower show last year

Christmas in Exmouth
 Then John turned up with the unit and I could not have been happier.  I think it looks really great just in pine!

Finishing the look
I mixed cream emulsion paint with acrylic colours to get the finished colour I wanted.  Each shelf was painted twice, firstly with a light colour, then, once dry, overpainted with a much darker version.  Between the two layers I rubbed the corners and edges with a candle to wax up the areas that I wanted to look distressed and worn.

After the paint was completely dry, I got out my little hand held sander and worked on the edges and corners until the paint layer on top came off and exposed the lighter colour underneath and, in some places, the wood.

Close up of the final distressed look
 The whole thing was then finished with a couple of coats of mat varnish to seal it.

The finishing touches were made by using photoshop and a variety of good quality images of my soaps, I managed to create a montage of my top products with my name underneath.  I got this printed out on a large photo printer courtesy of Claire Sloane and Edd King at Exmouth Studio  (thank you soooo much guys!). The photograph was then stuck onto the top of the stand and the base board cut out with a jigsaw to make a soap silhouette across the top.

The whole thing was then stocked up, chalk names added and a product information sheet printed.

All in all, I am very happy with it.  It is only a prototype and there is room for improvement, it is also quite large, fine for a big retailer like Dart Farm but not ideal for a smaller shop. I would like to work with John to tweak the design, maybe look at making something half the width or with only two shelves.  A lot of work and not cheap to produce but I think it makes the difference.

If you want to have control over how a retailer displays your soaps you need to provide them with something that shows off your products to their best advantage and in a way that you want.  I think eye (and nose) level is best it will catch the customers both visually and with lovely wafting soap smells - sure to stop them in their tracks!  The alternative is to have your soaps shoved in a basket in a dark corner - well at least it could be.  A final tip, always go and have a look again a few days after the soaps get in there (if you can, of course) check that simple things are right, like the correct soaps in the correct places etc.

Id love to hear what you think, how do you solve the problem of displaying your creations?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I can now let you into my little/big secret.....



If you couldn't tell, I am rather excited.  I took my soaps to show Michael Dart 4 weeks ago and he agreed to stock them but until they were actually in place I didn't want to say anything - just in case it jinxed it.

Darts Farm (for those of you who don't know the place) is a large farm shop which has branched out over the last 40 years to become one of the biggest and best farm and local food retailers in the South West.  The Dart Brothers are passionate about local food and products, still working the land and producing seasonal vegetables and produce for the shop and their 'pick-your-own'.

As I only live 5 minutes away Naturally Made Soaps is the obvious choice as a local soap stockist.  As you know my products are natural, contain no palm oil, no parabens and no Sulfates.  Wherever possible I use local products in my soaps, for example all my soaps are made using Norsworthy Dairy Goats Milk

Darts Farm have won numerous awards such as the prestigious Best Local Food Retailer in the BBC Radio Four's Food and Farming Awards for 2010.  They are definitely known as a favorite haunt for all foodies, however the Darts are very keen to expand their local craft products as well and that is where I came in.

The new Naturally Made Soaps stand
I hope this is just the start of a fruitful and fun partnership and I am very happy to be working with an amazing shop that has great ethical credentials and is actively looking to promote all local businesses.

If you are local, do go and have a look at my display, any comments or suggestions will always be gratefully received.