Thursday, August 25, 2011

A little more soap? And more than you ever needed to know about me.

loaf top

It felt so good the past few days to make soap.

batches from this evening

I have missed it so very much, and probably would have made even more if I hadn't run out of coconut oil.

Baking Day!

no-name, bread-smelling soap

still no name...

And of course I finished up my spree with an old standby.

coffee, lemongrass & mint soap

Nothing beats a coffee kitchen soap. This one also has essential oils of peppermint and lemongrass. The lemongrass was a sub for my usual Valencia orange, and I like it so much, I think it will be the new blend!

coffee, lemongrass & mint

Now the heavy stuff.







There are so many things that went wrong last year, and my business went down when I did (so to speak). It makes me so sad, because I was actually doing really well; selling more and more, getting more repeat customers, you name it. But all the stress I was feeling (buying a house, trying to find work, moving, money just generally trying to do too much at once) combined with a healthy dose of depression/anxiety (which I foolishly thought I had "beaten" a few years before) was too much for me and I cracked. Big time.

I don't talk much about this stuff here. My blog is my one, true happy place where I can share the good things and come back and look at them whenever I am feeling down. But making soap again was such a big deal, I just had to blather on a bit.

When I really started to crash last year, the thing I was most embroiled in, my business, became the biggest association with all the bad feelings going on. Logically, I knew making soap wasn't causing all of my problems, but emotionally they were linked, and I couldn't turn that part of my brain off for a long time. At first, I could barely plan a batch without starting to panic. As it got worse, I couldn't even walk into my soap kitchen downstairs, let alone think about making anything in there.

I failed. I lost my sales, my customers, my small but growing bit of income -- but most of all, my confidence, not only in my products, but in myself.

I fell back into an old and despised pattern of second-guessing everything I made or did. I was afraid to send stuff off to people -- afraid it wasn't good enough, or that someone would call me out as the poseur I felt I must surely be.

And you know what? I was finally able to come out of all that enough to accept that none of that made any sense at all. It took a good fifteen months to start feeling a little more normal, but I'm getting there. And if I try to get back into selling my products, it will be very gradually and very carefully. I can't stand the thought of losing it all over again. I already have a plan in place for certain changes I'll be making. And I think I can do it, as long as I can keep my head above water in the rest of my life.



And if you made it down this far, I've saved the prettiest batch of soap for last. I'd hate to leave you with something as crappy as the state of my brain, so here goes: Topped with juniper berries and sprinkled with cranberry seeds throughout, this soap has a fragrance like a sweet concord grape wine.

more soap!

whole loaf

sliced - sides

sliced - top

bar - side

And thanks for letting me talk. :)

29 comments:

Jenn C. / siercia said...

Thank you for talking.  The more open people are with their struggles, the easier it gets for everyone to be honest with one another, and so often, that is what gets us through, you know?  Many days, the only thing that keeps me together is that I can keep my need to not freak out my family slightly stronger than my need to stay in bed all day and not move, and the fact that we depend on my paycheck which means I have to show up each day, no matter where my head is.  And some days it takes just about everything I've got to get out there and get it done (if I were my own boss, I suspect things would get bad pretty fast.)

You soap is beautiful, and I have faith that when you dial things back up, you will be able to rebuild your business.  I certainly looks forward to buying some!

Meech! said...

You will do well if you can just keep that grizzled old man D out of focus. He'll never be gone completely, but like a bad neighbor he can be lived alongside, as you know. (^_^)// Your soap is storybook-beautiful, but you are ten times as lovely as your soap! *hug*

Peacecat30 said...

Your soaps are so so so pretty! Love them all

Michelestapley said...

Right on Amber!!! BEAUTIFUL! 

Arienne said...

Amber, I have fought with the big D for years so I am so very impressed that you are able to return to soapmaking and that you are doing all the incredible things you do at your home. We just moved, too, and I feel many of the same pressures of house and family. I start teaching again in 3 weeks and haven't even cracked the textbook to see what I have to work with. Your soaps are beautiful. I'm particularly interested in your kitchen coffee soap--so beautiful! I notice that you have kept up with the banjo, too. I'm just as impressed with that. My banjo sits forlornly in the corner of our new house, surrounded by boxes and looking lonely. I hope to get back to it this fall. Anyway, I am rambling. I just want to thank you for such a thoughtful post. You are doing great.

Julie S said...

I'm glad you're making soap again, it's fun to see! I don't know much about depression but I definitely feel it's okay to talk about negatives things on a blog sometimes too.

robin said...

The imposter syndrome is an old friend of mine, too.   It took a long time for me to learn how to think about things differently.  I had to keep reminding myself that there were good reasons that I had developed the old way of thinking, but I was no longer in those circumstances and it was time to make some changes.  

One of the things I like about dyeing is the math.   There's no emotion in math.  If I can just walk out to the studio and start mixing the dye - doing the math, then I can start to shut out the crap...and at least at the end of the day, I've accomplished something, which always makes me feel good.

Tiggy said...

Hoorah for you. Don't cha know I loves ya baby! That soap with the cranberry seeds and juniper berries needs some teeth marks! Great post Amber. I hope one day we can all buy your goodies as they were some of the best soaps I've used. And your balm was heavenly too. You NEEDS to do this! xx

thesoapseduction said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I have bought soap from you personally and loved it! And no one is more critical of soap than a soap maker (ask me how I know)...I'm glad you're coming out of this funk because I am just enamored of your soap posts. The photos alone take me to a quiet, peaceful place where all in the world is good...And I could just eat that peppermint lemongrass soap! Reminds me of gingerbread for some reason. Or maybe I'm just hungry?! So, in closing, keep making the SOAP:)

Anne-Marie said...

Your soap is amazing - never feel like an imposter. In fact, I taught someone at Otion (our retail store) the other day about soapmaking and she specifically made me pull up your page to ask me about some of your techniques because your soap is **that** lovely and beautiful. I'm glad that you're coming out of your depression. If you had a business income before, you'll have one again - just build it back slowly, one bar at a time =) XXOO

Kristina said...

My, is your soap ever beautiful! So glad you are feeling better. I'm sorry you've been having such a hard time. I know depression and I know about feeling like an impostor...like others see me so differently (and better) than I am. But it's just ourselves that makes us feel that way and fighting it is so worth it!! Wishing you all the best for your business! 

Vismajor said...

I'm so happy to see your soap; happy on multiple levels. I'm bad with words, so I give you this and trust you know how much more I mean: Pants(1)

Cheryl said...

You are an inspiration and I'm so glad to hear you're feeling improved. I'm also familiar with these issues especially when the rest of life is out of control. Your readers and buyers haven't left you. Love the new soap pictures (and secretly hoping you sell more amazing star anise soap. I've been hording it for the last year!)

Jess said...

Amber-your soaps are amazing!! I seriously want to eat them. The business will be there when it feels right for you.   

Lisa E Adams said...

Great looking soaps. Thanks for sharing. Hope you do whats right for you and get to enjoy it. They really are pretty. :)

Miri said...

So beautiful!  I would be willing to bet you haven't lost as many customers as you might fear.  I am delighted for you that soapmaking can bring you some joy again and that you share your lovely pictures here with us.  {{hugs}}

Jenorasoaps said...

Your soaps look BEAUTIFUL!!  Sorry to hear about you being down.  I also went through something similar last year and am pretty well out of it now and thankful each day for feeling good.  xoxo jen

Amy Warden said...

Glad you've gotten past the hard part (sorry and b you had to go thru it) and you're back into the "soapmaking is therapeutic" part.  I hope you never let yourself believe that your work is anything less than completely amazing & inspiring again.  YOU are truly amazing, Amber!

Amy Warden said...

"and b" does NOT belong after "sorry"  Still getting used to my laptop...

TeresaR said...

Yeah what everyone else said!  I'm glad you could get that off your chest and worked your way this far out of your depression.  You are the *real* thing, Amber, not a poseur; in fact, when my critique grp thought I was doing neat things, I invoked your name along with a couple other ladies we both know, as the people to blame...er, credit...for my trying so hard to do things better. 

Anyway, wish I'd seen this post first before teasing you on FB about wanting soaps (which I do, but I don't want to pressure you!). Speaking of which, I still have a bar of your Sweet Orange soap in the half-bath, and it is marvelous! Hugs!

Staceyvee said...

I was so happy to see that you're making soap again. You're always an inspiration whether you're sharing pictures of your bountiful garden, lovely handwork, beautiful sons or even the tough stuff.

Lsivrn said...

Amber, your soaps are beautiful, and so are you....both inside and out.  You amaze and inspire me.  You have been very kind and helped me through a very difficult summer.  Your understanding of the pain my husband experienced helped me to have a better perspective on his journey.  Hopefully you did not feel too burdened by our conversations, and hopefully, we are not the bad neighbors referred to by Meech.  :)   Regardless, you are such a talented and creative woman that I hope I will grow up to be like someday when I retire.  Thank you for the gift of your friendship. 

Lulu said...

Darling girl. You darling darling darling girl. Well, darling WOMAN,really, but you know, it doesn't have the same comfy ring to it.

anyway, darling girl, I could do HALF the things that you do, I would consider myself not only quite accomplished, but also a pretty damn stellar human being. You are an inspiration and a wonder and a joy to behold. 

Kimberly said...

I love you. I am rooting for you. I cannot tell you how much I understand the grappling effect of anxiety/depression. It consumes. It pulls. It tugs. It spirals. It wallows, and it can linger. I am so happy to know that you have crawled back up into the sunshine. It can be so incredibly hard and YOU DID IT. You ARE doing it. And I adore your products, still savoring the scrub and hand balm actually. Please read this post again: http://bambinosteps.com/2011/03/swap-numero-uno/ because I meant every word. You are worthy of success!

stargrrl said...

I, for one, am still a loyal customer, and when (I won't say if, because I know in my heart that you will sell again) your business come back, I will be one of the first in line to buy. I love you like a loving thing that loves Amby. I love you like whoa, and Damn and PANTS!

Jo said...

I may not be a hard core craftser like you, but I think we are more similar than you know.  Funny you should say poseur.  I often feel that one day, someone will open the curtain and find me (the man behind the magic curtain).  Old and broken down. 

I think this last batch of soap is so so lovely.  Wish I had made it myself.  :)  I love your soap, in pictures and in person, but don't overwhelm yourself.  If soaping brings you great joy, keep it that way. 

Keep on keeping on.  Some days are certainly harder than others.  We still need that coffee on the porch.  It's been too long, Amber.

xoxo Jo

Melisse0421 said...

Thanks for sharing your struggle. I can empathize with how you are feeling since my life was turned upside down earlier this year. When I visit your blog it inspires me with it's beauty. Your authenticity speaks to me. I hope you choose to forge ahead with your soap making business. I think your creations need to be shared with the world.

Katie said...

Hi Amber,
I happened upon your blog by chance (or pinterest), and I have been browsing around, but this post really resonated with me. A similar thing has happened to me, and I am trying to get out of it right now. I also just started getting into making soap, and I'm glad to see that while soap was related to your downs, it also brought you back up - and you are making truly beautiful soap again!
I wish you all the best!!!!
Katie

Amber said...

 Hi Katie. Thanks so much for your comment. I'm sorry you are feeling this way too, but I am very glad we all know we're not alone in our struggles. (Totally cliche, I know...) ;)

I have waited far too long again to make soap, even though I started back in with the best of intentions after this post. Much soap making mojo to both of us! It is an amazing thing to be able to create: part chemistry and part art.