In kitchens, garages, basements, and other homely spaces, people all over the country make their own soap. For some, it is a hobby; for others it is a microbusiness venture. For still others, it is a way of life and livelihood, employing a full staff of artisans.
If you talk to people who make soap, you find a number of common threads. The most marked is what is called “the addiction.” It appears that once a person has made soap, there is no turning back. Soapmaking becomes a focus, a goal, even an obsession.
Soapmaking is fun. You get back to the basics of color, chemistry, and cooking and at the end, you wind up in the tub or shower! Soap-making, more than many other great crafts, employs a broad set of skills, recombining them in ways you may never have imagined. You already have a number of the skills you need to make soap; you just need to start thinking like a soapmaker.
Holding in your hands a bar of soap that you created, no matter which method you used, is a great feeling. You will find you can't stop looking at it, sniffing it, and washing with it. Everyone in your house will become very familiar with each new bar. They may scoff at first, but once they've actually used your soap, you're going to get lots of requests for “more soap, please!”
Your learning curve will be on a nearly vertical trajectory as you find yourself back in the kitchen again and again, with another recipe and a bunch of new ingredients. You'll find yourself combing the Internet for ingredients and information and sharing ideas with other soapmakers in the many online soapmakers' communities. Learning has never been so fun and exciting.
As you make more and more batches of soap, you will develop your own preferences, style, and methods, and your family will be the cleanest for miles around. Requests for your soap will extend beyond your family to your friends and coworkers. It's an excellent excuse to make as much soap as you can, learning more with each batch.
Quick projects are a great way to start, and you may find that you don't want to do anything else. You can make beautiful soap quite easily. It is, however, more likely that you'll want to challenge yourself more You'll try one technique, and it will lead to another, and another, and another. The next thing you know, you'll amaze yourself with the complicated projects you've completed.
One major thing to remember when learning to make soap is safety. You will be working with heat sources, hot liquids, and caustic substances. Thousands and thousands of people safely make soap every day because they've taken basic, common-sense precautions. We'll go into much more detail about safety later, but in general, always wear eye protection and gloves when working with heat and caustics and always tell your family and other people in your soapmaking area what you are doing and what not to touch.
Welcome to the wonderful world of soapmaking. You are about to join the thousands of soapmaking friends who call each other “soap buds.” Have fun, be safe, and get creative.