Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why don't you write a book, Carol!

I don't think a month goes by that I don't receive an email inquiry from a fledgling soapmaker suggesting I write a book about soapmaking. While I appreciate this kind nod of confidence in me & encouragement, ...honestly, I don't know what *I* could say in a book, that hasn't already been said, and already said very well, and very thoroughly.  There are so many soapmaking books available!  Kudos to the many authors!  I have many of you sitting on my very loaded soapmaking bookshelf! (Although I have to admit, I stopped buying books when they all really did start to say the same thing, over & over.  Hence my response above to the inquiry of why I don't write a book.)

And for the record, I strongly encourage new soapmakers to please make avail of these publications and really LEARN THEIR CRAFT, especially the chemistry behind it.  Nothing frightens me so much as folks who get the idea to try making soap, get ahold of a recipe, manage to make a successful batch first time out on a weekend as though making a batch of brownies, and BAM!, hang out a shingle to sell soap by Monday!  This, in my very strong opinion, does not a good soapmaker maketh! I can't tell you exactly *how many* batches qualifies you as a successful soapmaker, or how many books you have to read to fully have the concepts under-your-belt.....but the above described scenario is not it, .......yet happens more often than most who do it, will admit.

"THIS was the beginning of what felt to me, like my TRUE education in botanical potion making!  Yes....something awakened in me that day..." ~ Carol Ochs
(What do I refer to?  Read further below.....)

The other question I get a lot is:

"What books did you read to inspire some of your other soap lines?"

After I studied basic soapmaking--which, by the way, was not nearly as easy to get ahold of info for back when I started in the early '90' first soapmaking book was one I actually had to special-order from Europe and then wait six weeks for it to arrive (torture!) is so much more readily-available nowadays--whoo-hoo!!!  But I wanted to pursue more about the history of herbal lore, how to use soap as a vehicle to deliver herbal & other values.  This very naturally led me to seek out natural plant medicine and shamanistic study.  I grew up with a Gran who had the most amazing green thumb--that woman could plant a Popsicle stick and make it bloom leaves!  ;)  She shared much of her green-thumbness with me, and I think this created a natural assumption that there of course is a green answer for every human problem.  I've always believed that Mother Nature provides an answer---*if* we know where to look, how to find and apply her answers. Even if only seeking aromatherapy, not necessarily a "remedy".

Some of the books I own that comprise that study list are:

Sastum: My Apprenticeship With A Maya Healer - Rosita Arvigo
Rainforest Remedies  - Rosita Arvigo
Infusions of Healing - Joie Davidow
Back To Eden - Jethro Kloss
Jungle Medicine - Connie Grauds
Plant Spirit Medicine - Eliot Cowan
The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs - Leslie Taylor
Plant Spirit Shamanism - Ross Heaven, Pablo Amaringo

......and these are just a drop in the bucket, there are SO MANY more!   Most anyone who has been to my home and soap workshop would likely agree, both are decorated in BOOKS!  They are truly my vice.  
In fact, nothing made me suck in my breath in horror so much as when my husband, who I normally get along with spectacularly, made the grievous suggestion one day that "You know, if you got a Kindle, you could get rid of all these books, actually store them all on one handy little device you could take everywhere!"...and he said it as if that were a "good idea". Meanwhile I stood shocked at his use of the words "get rid of" in the same sentence as "books", let alone actually consider such an abomination as DOING it! Just goes to show, you can know someone over 30 years and still not REALLY know them! If he lays a hand on my books there's no telling what might happen.  Jus' saying, ...if you see me walking around with a Kindle and he turns up dead, you do the math. heh-heh  ;)   I never want to say "never" re: a Kindle....but it will never (<--intended use of "never") include "getting rid of" my beloved books!

Another book that was highly instrumental in at least one of my soap lines was a book I tell the story of here: 

One day, prowling an antique bookstore, I found an over 150 year old find-of-a-lifetime; an aged journal with fading notes (entries dated as early as "July 19, 1851")!  
I couldn't believe my good fortune coming upon this genuine piece of Victorian era and the perspective of someone who'd lived then!  Being as I'm a soapmaker, as well as someone who has always felt out of place in the 21rst Century anyway, it was a Holy Grail of sorts to me... for in it was recorded hand-penned toiletry, soap, perfume, poultice and remedy recipes!  
Parting with a hefty sum for the journal, I raced home, clutching it protectively, to study every still-readable word,  decipher and convert the Victorian era language and measurements ("put here to with" and "drachmas") into useable  instruction, and eventually create--or more accurately RE-CREATE the recipes journalized!  THIS was the beginning of what felt to me, like my TRUE education in botanical potion making!  Yes....something awakened in me that day...
That journal created a thirst for old-way knowledge in me, a desire to re-connect with nature and ancestral knowledge in as pure a form as possible, devoid of modern-day chemicals.  It launched an obsession for finding every old recipe book and course of natural study I could to study plant medicine and learn more! 
In my exhaustive and continuing-to-this-day explorations I discovered fascinating history, legend, ritual, and science ...most plant alchemy originally was passed "by story" from family-to-family, tribe-to-tribe, before eventual written documentation in journals and published works in more modern times.   Before that, most practical knowledge existed only in the "showing" and "telling" of making concoctions & remedies through apprenticeships of chosen acolytes by skilled shaman or medicine men/women, to carry on the knowledge.  
In this ancient education I was receiving via written works, what most inspired me, I incorporated into the beginnings of this new line of modern day herbal potions I call, Ancient Alchemy.

 And to this day, I must say, despite my love of and thirst for published book knowledge, some of the very BEST knowledge I've acquired when it comes to my education in soapmaking and an understanding of plant values has come from word-of-mouth practice and instruction, much as shamans pass(ed) on their knowledge to trusted acolytes.......

Acquire and study your basic soapmaking books, master skills and ingredient familiarity through practice...but don't forget to look further than the basics to define *your* craft!  
If I DO decide to release the book I'm thinking can be sure it will not be like anything you've read before, and that is afterall, my criteria. ;)


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