June 10, 2014

Bloggy Vacay!

Hey everyone!

Just a heads up, this will be our last blog post for just a tiny bit
as we transfer over to our new website & blogging platform (yippee!)


Stay tuned - our new blog is gonna be spiffy :)

June 7, 2014

Pardon our Bright Red Blush

When students take private lessons at The Nova Studio, we send them a questionnaire after to make sure the lesson met their expectations & see if they have any feedback. Most students send us very positive, but brief comments. However, when Denise L. came for a Mineral Makeup private lesson & the 4-Day B&B Boot Camp back in October, she sent us more than we expected & we were so touched! People like Denise are why we do this, so we wanted to share her comments with you.

Lori & Denise, masks on & ready to blend!

What was your favorite part of the private makeup lesson with Lori?

There was no favorite part. Learning the differences in the mineral bases was extremely informative and eye opening as to the ingredients that are used every day in so many products that are used on a daily basis. Next, the differences in all of the types of colorants, whether it was a pigment, mica, and then whether they were matte finish, glittery, pearlescent, soft (and the list goes on).

Being able to take similar bases and add different ingredients, to me, was absolutely amazing. For example, when we were making the foundations, by just adding a minuscule amount of green (something that most people would never dream was in a facial product) it changed everything about the color we had formulated. The same thing applies to the eye shadows and blushes we made. One simple change would make a totally new color or feel to the same product. I truly cannot say there was one favorite part the day. Everything we worked on had to be a cohesive mixing of the correct ingredients to obtain the final product that was desired. And, being able to experiment with all of the different supplies that were available was so much fun.

Do you have specific feedback for Lori?

Lori, I think you are not only an amazing teacher, but also a very caring, knowledgeable, and creative soul. I admire you for all of the knowledge you have and for the business you have created, which has obviously been created from your heart and the love you have for what you do. I have been to many boot camps and classes around the country (although not in this field) and I have to say that my day of having a one-on-one with you was my favorite class.


Is there anything you'd like to tell others thinking about coming to The Nova Studio?

I attended a four day bath and body workshop at The Nova Studio that was truly amazing. The subjects we covered in four days were widespread – from herbal steams, lotions, bath salts, lip products, clay masks, packaging and all the way to custom perfumes. (16 products + packaging guidelines). Each day was an intensive study in the subject(s) of that day. Every subject was presented in a professional, yet understandable manner. The instructors were professional and extremely knowledgeable about the subjects they were teaching. Every day built on the previous day, with more information being given to us every day. I cannot say enough positive things about the instructors. Each has a different personality, a different specialty, a different way of presenting their material, but every one of them truly loves what they are doing and believes in a natural and healthy way of living. So thank you Lori, Alice, Joan, Melanie and a special thank you to Cassie and the SA for being so kind and patient with all of us with our hundreds of questions and interruptions throughout their busy days. I believe you two were the glue that held everyone together.

Not only were the classes exceptional, I was so fortunate to be in a wonderful group of people that attended the boot camp. I feel like we all made new friends that we will stay in touch with for many years to come. In this amazing group of both women and our two token men, we learned so much about each person, i.e., their backgrounds, their knowledge on the subjects we were studying at the time, their goals and dreams for their future. Each person shared themselves with everyone. It was truly four days of being surrounded by a temporary family that learned a lot, shared their specialties with everyone, and helped each other with the rough spots where some of us were clueless and last but not least, laughed and talked and had a tremendous amount of fun every day.




The day after the boot camp, Lori was kind enough, with her hectic schedule to allow me to take a day long private lesson in making mineral make-up with her. That day was amazing. I was able to learn the basics of making mineral make-up in a one on one sitting, and was given so much attention, care and information. I felt like I was in the best science class I have ever taken. I came home with mineral foundations, blushes and beautiful eye shadows. I can’t wait to sit down and review the five days that I was lucky enough to be able to spend at the Nova Studio, and start experimenting in making my own products. Thank you all so much for this experience. I am looking forward to returning to Point Richmond and The Nova Studio to take more classes in the future.

Please pardon our bright-red blush! We were thrilled to host Denise & have our fingers crossed that she'll be able to update us soon on how well things are going. Good luck Denise, keep in touch, & we wish you the very best in your journey!

June 3, 2014

Customizing Soapquick

We blogged recently about how much we love using Soapquick, Mission Peak Soap's ready-to-use mixture of soapmaking oils. It's so easy to use, a huge time saver and makes a great bar of soap, too.

But what if you have your heart set on making some soap with shea butter. Or some of that lovely avocado oil that you picked up? Not a problem at all: just add it to the mix!

But hold on there. Before you dive into your perfect formulation, you have to recalculate the amount of sodium hydroxide that you'll need for your new recipe. Every oil needs a different amount of lye to turn it into soap, so each time you fiddle with a recipe, you have to recalculate how much sodium hydroxide you need.

And this is where a good lye calculator really comes in handy. One of our favorites is the one at SoapCalc.net, especially because it includes Soapquick on its list of soapmaking oils. That makes it so easy to customize your recipe.

How easy? This easy:

Step 1: Add Your Oils
Once you fill in the total weight of your oils and the superfat percentage that you want, go to the list of oils and select Soapquick.  Then choose the other oils that you want to include in your recipe and the percentages of each. In my example, I'm making a batch with 90% Soapquick and 10% Shea butter.



Step 2: Calculate the Lye
Click "Calculate Recipe" and then "View/Print Recipe" and you get all the calculations done for you. Mine looked like this.



And now I know just how much sodium hydroxide I need to make soap with my customized Soapquick. I just need to weigh out two "oils" and I'm ready to go!

Using Soapquick with SoapMaker Software
If you use SoapMaker Software to calculate your recipes (like I do), there's an easy way to recalculate Soapquick recipes with that, too. Just add Soapquick to the list of oils in the program as a "Custom Oil" by clicking "New" in the My Supplies window. Then set the SAP value of your Custom Oil to 0.151, the average weighted SAP value for Soapquick.



When you want to design a new recipe, just select Soapquick as one of your oils and Soapmaker will do the lye calculation for you. You gotta love that!

May 30, 2014

We LOVED the HSCG Conference #soapconf14

Raise your hand if you went to #soapconf14! Raise your hand if you have no idea what I'm talking about when I type #soapconf14! ;)

We absolutely loved hosting a booth at the HSCG Conference 2014 in Tucson, AZ. It was amazing to be able to meet so many of our friends & give out some fun goodies ;)

Check out these photos from the event (we wanted to share them all...it was so hard to choose)!


Speakers & Teachers Joan, Lori & Ruth

Our fun & playful table

We had these pretty frames special-made for our table!

And check out our snazzy aprons :)


Lori helped people blend perfumes at the table.

Ruth & Lori got to catch up with Lela
(who will be teaching here again this fall!)

Teachers Jen, Lela, Joan, Ruth & Lori
(only missed Marie...waaa! Who is also teaching here this fall!)

Lori & Ruth are conference veterans!

Lori got to rub shoulders with soaplebrity Kevin Dunn!

How many bags does it take to teach at the HSCG Conference?!

Who else was there? We want to see your pictures, too! Post a link in the comments :)

May 26, 2014

Local Suppliers: Mission Peak Soap

We love going to our local suppliers, and we're so lucky to have some fantastic ones here in the Bay Area! If you're in the area & looking to save on shipping, try the companies in this category first.


David has been teaching classes at The Nova Studio for years. He started with Big Batch Soapmaking (in the 2-Day Soap Making Boot Camp) and then developed Transparent Soap Making & Liquid Soap Making classes (he has since passed the torch on these two classes to Jen Grimes).

But when he's not teaching classes, David runs a super-handy website full of things that we use frequently here at The Nova Studio. Here are just a few of the items we order:

SoapQuick: We recently wrote a blog post about why SoapQuick is an awesome resource! Check it out HERE.

Soap Molds: These molds are super convenient. After your soap is hard, you unwrap it and pop it back in the mold - and use the included cutter to get nice, even bars! Ruth uses these molds during her Alternative Liquid and Milk Soaps Classes.

Soapmaking Scale: We recommend this scale in all our soap classes & sell it at the Studio. But if you can't come by to pick one up, you can purchase it directly from David & have it shipped to you!

Have you ordered form David? What are your "Must-Haves?" Or maybe you have some favorite local suppliers? Let us know about them!

May 22, 2014

Liquid Soap Q&A

Russell Roderick, a former student of ours, recently had a question about his liquid soap:

My last two batches of liquid soap have come out with a film on top and are not clear like they should be.  The coconut oil and potassium hydroxide that I used are a little old.  The coconut oil looks and smells good and when it was melted with the other oils it was nice and clear.  The paste looked good but when I added the paste to the distilled water to dilute it that's when I noticed it not being clear and film starting  to form, also I made a 20% Citric acid solution and added one tablespoon, when it came in contact with the soap it filmed and curdled.  I done some research and even though my paste looked good I'm thinking it was not cooked long enough.  (I remember David saying not to hurry that step).  Any thoughts that could help would be appreciated.


David Critchfield, our resident liquid soap guru, had an answer:

You may not have cooked the paste long enough if an oily film appears on the finished soap. However, the white film and curdling after adding the citric acid should go away as you continue to heat and stir the diluted soap.

Citric acid does cause curdling as the PH of the soap is dramatically reduced at the point of contact and the soap temporarily comes out of solution. I trust you've got this all heated-up pretty good while diluting the paste, in which case it should heal itself. 

May 18, 2014

Best of The Nova Studio Blog

We thought a little roundup might be fun. Here are the top 9 posts on our blog as decided by our readers. You might find them useful, too!

#9: Things We Love: Biodegradable Shrinkwrap


#8: Recommended Supplier: Mountain Rose Herbs

#7: Ingredient Spotlight: Avocado Oil


#6: How to Line a Soap Mold with Freezer Paper

#5: Why I Love Hot Process Soap


#4: How to Store Your Handmade Soap


#3: Understanding Lye/Water Calculations in Soap Recipes


#2: 3 Palm Free Soap Recipes

And the #1 most popular post on The Nova Studio blog is [insert drumroll]:

Lori's Top 10 Essential Oils in CP Soap.



So there you have it! What's the most popular post on your blog?

May 14, 2014

Twitter Tips for Business

Cassie recently sat in on a Sprout Social webinar for twitter. They hold them pretty frequently & you can join in - just follow #SproutSocial on Twitter. Here's what Cassie got out of it!

If you use social media to connect with your customers (we sure do!), you'll save lots of time and energy if you get a handle on what kinds of interactions really hit home. That's what this webinar was all about.

One of the biggest things I learned is that it's vital to keep track of what we tweet and then look at how the different types of content perform. At The Nova Studio, we have a spreadsheet we use to keep track of what we tweet. So all I had to do was add additional columns to track performance. Now I go once-weekly through to see what did best & adjust what to share in the future. We analyze based on clicks, retweets, mentions & favorites.

In the past, we were sharing pages on our website, products, and information from our teachers. Based on what I learned at the webinar, we will also start sharing:
- relevant articles by 3rd parties
- product launch sneak-peeks/teasers
- customer incentives
- seasonal/holiday relevant info/links/tips
- current events commentary relative to the brand
- tips
Again, since we already keep a spreadsheet of things to share, it wasn't be too difficult to add spaces in for these additional types of content. Here's what our spreadsheet looks like after our new additions:


In the first column is the item I plan on sharing. In the second column I write the date and either T or FB, to distinguish whether I shared it on Facebook or Twitter. Finally, I have four columns for keeping track of effectiveness (clicks, retweets, mentions & favorites). Even Facebook has these, they're just called something different (clicks, shares, comments & likes). Then, at the end of the month I can go back & decide how to adjust my sharing for the next month. 

We also decided to add extra hashtags to our repertoire. There is now a cute sign taped up in the Studio that has the hashtag #novastudio. It invites people to share pictures during the class in exchange for a logo sticker, perfect for sprucing up your laptop, cell phone or car bumper!


We're always trying to improve the way we communicate with others, and this was a great opportunity to revise our strategy and be more effective. I hope it helps you, too!

May 10, 2014

Peek into Life in the Studio!

Recently, we've been using Instagram to document what it's like to be here at the Studio 7 days a week. Here are a few of our recent images:

Monday: Packaging down products for sale

Tuesday: Sending soaps to Boot Camp students

Wednesday: Sending 100 lbs of soap to Clean the World!

Thursday: Storing soap from a past Boot Camp

Friday: Prepping for weekend classes

Saturday: Students make products during Alice's class.

Sunday: Alice with her Boot Camp students!

Go to our Instagram account to see other behind-the-scenes photos and to start following us right now!

May 7, 2014

Makeshift Wire Soap Cutter

When I am teaching soapmaking, I love to show students that the process doesn't have to be expensive. You don't need a lot of fancy equipment. For example, a shoebox lined with freezer paper makes a great mold. And you can use a common kitchen knife to cut up your soap into bars.

But one of my favorite bargain tools is the wire cutter that I rigged up myself. I like cutting with wire instead of a blade because you don't get any dragging of the soap as you cut through it. And it makes it super easy to cut very thin bars if you want. I use it with a miter box to make sure that my cuts are straight.




The idea came to me from those wire cheese cutters that you see sometimes.  Cutting through fresh soap feels a lot like cutting through a piece of cheddar. But I figured I needed something a bit bigger that could hold a wire. Luckily, I happened to have a hacksaw in my garage.

Normally, a hacksaw has a thin blade attached to a frame like this.


Well, I took the blade off of mine and attached metal guitar string to the little posts. (Curious? It's a high E string. Thin enough to cut cleanly, but strong enough to not break too often.)



I stretched the wire from post to post, twisting the end to form a loop that would keep it in place. Then I just use the wing nut to tighten the wire to cut the soap. When storing it, I turn the wing nut back to loosen the tension a bit.



And that's the makeshift wire cutter that I use to make clean, precise cuts on my soap bars.


What have you rigged up for your soapmaking?

May 3, 2014

Nova Friends Around Town

Cassie recently had the chance to stop by the "Jack of All Trades" fair in Jack London Square & was thrilled to see 3 friends of The Nova Studio with booths! She just had to snap some photos & we wanted to share them with you.

The first person I encountered while I was strolling through the fair was Feleciai's beautiful Skincare by Feleciai booth. It was crazy to meet her in person, because we had chatted via email several times! Her booth is beautiful & she was hard at work packaging soap samples for people that visited. 



Isn't her soap packaging beautiful? Her presentation was so stunning, too, and I just love the photo above because it shows off her finished bars as well as her packaging & presentation! Want to get a sniff of those bars of soap? (I know you do!) Check out all the Farmer's Markets Feleciai attends HERE.

Next, I came across a booth shared by soap teacher Jen & Studio helper Jeffen.






Jeffen recently started up his own line of serums, salts & scrubs and his setup was beautiful! Check out his awesome labels & sampling station, too:




That second picture is my favorite of those I took of his products! Everyone loved coming by to try his scrubs & anyone who purchased products had their picture taken with an affirmation sign - I am...... You can see Jeffen in person & get your own photo taken at one of his upcoming events. Check them out HERE.

Jen's booth was also super cute. She uses some awesome display items like this cool library card organizer!



I love her soap sniffing samples - they're shaped like hearts & they smell so yummy. To find out when she'll be at a fair next, check out her Twitter feed.

April 29, 2014

Teaser Images: New Website!

We are all super excited about our brand-new website which we'll be unveiling soon! Without a firm release date, it's hard to talk about it quite yet. Oh, how we wish we could show you around right now.

But while we wait to be able to publish the new site live, here are some fun images from our updated design!



Our new round logo is a modernized version of the square logo we all know & love. It makes us happy every time we see it! 



A handy "related products" feature will automatically pop up at the bottom of our pages. Browsing some soap? Find 4 soap-related classes, boot camps, or products at the bottom of the page!

And check out our new navigation tabs! They will contain all the pages you want to see in easy-to-navigate drop down menus (that will be on EVERY page...so you'll never be lost)!




Finally, there will be fantastic functionality like a site-wide search bar, an integrated blogging platform, and pretty, bright colors and photos across the board. We have been working our hineys off trying to make sure the site is easy to navigate and understand. We hope our attention to detail shines through when the site goes live. Stay tuned!