One of the best things about social media is being able to connect with fellow crafters from around the world. I started the hashtag #SoapShare to help connect soapers, and of course to browse through all the beautiful photos. While looking through photos tagged with #SoapShare on Instagram, I stumbled upon Carolyn of Siennalily Soaps. I was blown away by the gorgeous designs created by Carolyn, who lives in Spain. Read my interview with Carolyn below to learn more about this talented soaper! – A.M.
How long have you been soaping for and how did you get started?
I started about 7 months ago. I decided I wanted to try something different and wanted to make something special for my 4 daughters as a little stocking filler that meant something to us all for Christmas. I looked into soap making and got a little anxious when I read about the lye solution, but I didn’t let it stop me. Next thing was finding supplies! I live in Spain, and the only thing I could buy here were my oils and sodium hydroxide, no fragrance and no colours. So, I hit the internet to find everything.
While I was waiting and itching to get started, I found YouTube videos about soap making and watched them in every spare minute I had. All the lovely soap makers around the world helped me immensely, especially Anne-Marie (The Soap Queen). I loved watching all of the videos to gain knowledge before I started. I was intrigued by all of the intricate swirling and pouring techniques and thought to myself, “I will never be able to do that in a million years!” It took about 10 days for my supplies to start arriving. My first soap was pink, green and white and fragranced with an apple scent. It is ugly and smells awful but I was overjoyed with that soap. Everyone got the photo sent to them. With my first soap under my belt I gained confidence and on 11th October 2014, Siennalily Soaps was born.
What sort of advice would you give to those soapers just starting their businesses?
I would advise to take baby steps along the way. Dont try to rush anything. I know that I can be impatient with things, but I am learning to wait. Everything takes time to make, to wrap, to sell, to look after my children and run a house. I am busy, busy all of the time like all business owners, but be patient and it will all come together in the end. Also, ask questions to soap makers who are willing to help. I have found soap makers around the world to be the most friendly community ever! You ask for help, you get it. It is so lovely to be involved and I love all of my soap buddies, they are very supportive. I wish in the beginning I had even asked silly little questions like “where do I buy mica or fragrance oils?” Wvery little snippet of information helps. I got no help at the start and wish I had before I jumped in.
What is your favorite type of product to make?
My absolute favourite product has to be CP (cold process) soap. I love the diverse patterns you can come up with by mixing everything in a bowl, fragrancing and colouring and then seeing the creative outcome the following day. I love it and nothing prepares you for that first cut into your soap loaf to see what is there. Good or bad, I love every minute of the process. I make bath bombs and lotion, but it is not as exciting as soap.
What inspires you to create?
Everything in my life inspires me, and I am always on the lookout for new ideas. From a day out at the beach to lunch in a restaurant, I get inspiration. A month ago we had lunch at a local restaurant, and my 5 year old Cassie ordered clams. When she had finished, I asked for the shells to be bagged. That evening I made my “Washed Ashore” soap and each piece had 2 little clam shells added. These little things mean so much to me and I put a lot of love into my soaps.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
My business is named after my youngest daughter Siennalily. I thought it just had a ring to it. I have 4 daughters, Tia Leoni, Brooke Lara, Cassie Layla and Sienna Lily. Siennalily won!
Your soap is so vibrant and colorful! Where do you find inspiration for your color palettes?
I look around every day and see beautiful colours – in clothing, in my home and garden, and also when out and about. Spain has gorgeous coloured buildings and every house is painted a different colour. They also have beautiful handmade tiles around everywhere, so it really isn’t hard to put a colour palette together with all that is going on around me. I made “Hawaiian Hibiscus Hunny” last weekend because I went into my garden and the hibiscus plants were in bloom. The beautiful flowers got my brain ticking over, so I made a soap to reflect the beauty and the colours with my own twist. It reminded me of a Hawaiian shirt, so that is where that name came from.
Your soaps also feature a variety of techniques – everything from drop swirls to embeds to column pours. What’s your favorite soapy technique?
My favourite has got to be The Tiger Swirl. There are so many variations to that pour. By moving over to one side of the mould, you get a completely different pattern than pouring straight through the middle. Tilting the mould gives another pattern. I also love the drop swirl. Very basic, but the effect can be dramatic. Its all about what you can create with the knowledge you have of past soaps and just going for it regardless.
What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
That is a tough one, as I love all Bramble Berry products, but I will say the fragrance oils. There is so much choice that I don’t think I will ever get through them all, but I will have so much fun trying. My favourites are the Cold Water dupe and Oatmeal, Milk and Honey. My husband loves the soap I made with the cool water, and I use body lotion I made with OMH fragrance. Everything is fantastic that I have used so that was hard.
The gorgeous India cold process soap, scented with Nag Champa Fragrance Oil.
Tell us something unusual or unique about yourself!
I speak Spanish (not fluently) but enough to get by. I went through 2 pregnancies here and that was, let’s say “different.” I had to learn the words for everything and I was in my 40s, so I had to go through the whole bottle and nappies thing again. Twice. I make soap, which I think is unusual to some people who don’t. They are always intrigued by soap making. I can talk for England and if there was a competition for talking I would win, no problem. Needless to say I make friends easily.
I shock people sometimes. I am a hairdresser by trade and when I was younger I went to bed with long hair. Woke during the night and decided to cut my hair off so I got up and fully restyled my hair SHORT! I went back to bed. The next morning my husband got up and just looked at me and shook his head! He went to bed with one woman and got up with someone different, lol!
What are some of your other hobbies and interests?
I like to paint old furniture and turn it into something beautiful. A lot of the furniture we have in our house has been painted up to match colour schemes in our home. I have ongoing projects which drives my husband crazy because I have “STUFF” everywhere. Paint, soap supplies, wrapping materials, just “STUFF.” I can also knit, crochet and went through a faze of glittering glasses, which all that stuff is still around. I can cook and bake too, and make a mean Guinness cake which is delicious!
What is your number one soaping tip?
Always test your fragrance oils in a tiny little bit of soap batter so that you can see if it works before pouring the whole lot in and getting a soapy disaster. I didn’t once and have never done it again. I used a raspberry fragrance oil in a 2 lb recipe and the full lot got stuck in the jug. I couldn’t even get it into a mould. So better to test first.
Have you ever experienced a horrible soapy fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
I don’t usually do melt and pour (MP) soap loaves, as the two I have done have been failures. We do not get along. It doesn’t stick to the next layer for me or my colours all run into the white base and end up horrible. I made a mojito mp soap with clear ice cubes and lime wedges. The whole soap ended up turning green so it didnt even look like a mojito. My friends love my failures because they are still usable, just not nice looking so they get given away. I will stick to CP I think, and use MP for embeds. I learned that you cannot be good at everything so just accept that and move onto the next project.
What do you love most about creating bath and body products?
The thing I love the most is creating something that is usable and natural from my own kitchen. I think it is so interesting to find that something you can cook with can be used to wash with. Its amazing! What is good for you on the inside is equally as good on the outside. It also amazes people when you tell them what has gone into your products. I also love the creating side of making handmade bath and body products. It keeps my brain active by thinking of new ways to do things. I am no inventor, but I like to try different ways. If it doesn’t work it is back to the drawing board but my family and friends have fun trying everything out.