After you've begun making soap, thinking about soap, and dreaming about soap, you will of course want to talk about it. You may find that your beloved family can take only so much discussion of a new and wonderful swirling technique or smell so many fragrance oil samples, and that they have declining interest as you compare the finer points of brands of hand blenders.
You must talk to someone! You have so many questions, and you will have so much to share! A small group of soapmakers that gets together once a month is a great outlet. However, many soapers have no soapers close by. And since soapmakers tend to be busy and creative in all aspects of their lives, finding time for even an occasional get-together can be difficult. Here are some ways to connect with other soapers.
The Internet is host to a huge, growing, vibrant community of soapmakers. Getting together for chats and instant-message talks and participating in ongoing mailing list forums have saved many a soapmaker from the frustration of having no one to talk to. The Internet has been described as vast and cold, but it has become the virtual water cooler of soapmakers around the world. A major benefit of participating in an online soapmakers' community is the feeling of belonging. Many soapmakers have found long-lasting, close friendships with other soapers they have never met in person. Exchange of ideas, support when a batch didn't work out right, and help with a recipe all can be found in the “cold” world of cyberspace.
Internet soapmaking mailing and discussion lists are primarily hosted by gateway online services such as Yahoo! and America Online. You can search the “crafts” section of AOL and the “groups” section of Yahoo! New groups start all the time.
If you plan to meet a soaper you've met online in person, follow the safety guidelines for any meeting with an Internet acquaintance. Meet in a public space and don't go alone. Most often, people are who they say they are, but it is good sense to be cautious.
If you are new to the Internet, there are some specific guidelines to follow when joining an online community. These rules, often referred to as “Netiquette,” cover the basics of appropriate online behavior. Each gateway service has “terms of service” (TOS) agreements. Additionally, each mailing list has its own set of rules. Individual soapmaking communities have rules ranging from whether or not you may advertise your goods to the group, when and how you may do so, whether you may refer to other businesses in your posts, and what constitutes on- and off-topic discussions. Please read the terms of service for the host your group uses. The TOS at America Online and Yahoo! are specific, and you need to know your rights and responsibilities.
It is good Internet manners to “lurk” for a time before joining in the ongoing discussion. Read and search the archives of the group before posting a question. Start out with a question or a “hello” to the group, saying who you are and what kind of soap you make.
Buds in Your Neighborhood
Meeting other soapers can be difficult at first. A good way to do it is to go to farmers' markets where handmade soap is sold. There are likely to be other soapers there doing the same thing you are — looking for someone to talk soap with!
You can also find other soapers in the craft store while you shop for supplies. Striking up a conversation at the soap-casting display has been the beginning of many a firm and soapy friendship. The handmade soap section of a health-food store is good, too.
If you are fortunate to live near other soapers, make getting together once in a while a priority. It's fun to pool ideas and even supplies. Going out to dinner with other soapers can get you all talked out. Try it if for no other reason than to give your family a break from hearing about soap.
The Value of Soaping Together
Soapmaking partnerships can be as simple as an afternoon together now and then. They can also lead to jointly run business ventures. Working together and sharing creative expression creates a strong bond that can go anywhere.
Soaping together is a way to share supplies, skills, and space. The burden on one's own house and kitchen can become overwhelming to soaper and family. Getting together at a soap bud's house can centralize projects and make the work more fun. Some soap friends consolidate both their families in one house for a weekend while the soapers take over the other house.
At-home moms find that soaping at home can be a worrisome activity with young children, especially at the toddler stage. Hot temperatures, potentially dangerous caustics, and the need for lengths of time for undivided attention are all reasons to be careful soaping around kids. Getting your kids organized for a play date with the kids of another soaper and reciprocating in kind may give you the help you need. Or perhaps a friend who loves your soap would take charge of a play date in exchange for a wonderful batch of soap made just for her.
You may, of course, find that soaping alone suits you just fine. There is something soothing about creating in solitude. If you live alone, you are free to spread out your soapmaking activities as much as you like. Although you may be sorely tempted to work all night on a new project, to be safe, don't soap when you are tired.