April 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday

From The Nova Studio Archives, Ruth & Lori

That's studio founder Lori & co-owner Ruth at the HSMG Soap Conference in Palm Springs in 2009 - back when Ruth was "just" a soap teacher!

Here we are 5 years later, and where are they now? Furiously planning their upcoming trip to the HSCG Conference next month where both will be speakers (along with a third Nova teacher, Joan McCoy).

Can you imagine where we'll all be 5 years from now?!

April 14, 2014

The Small Business Bodyguard [Affiliate]

Here at The Nova Studio, we're constantly on the lookout for great resources to bring you that compliment what we do here. One of the things we are always on the lookout for is helpful business advice. We are sometimes lucky enough to find awesome business teachers (like Lela Barker, coming to teach her Beginner & Advanced Boot Camps!) but not everyone can come in person. And not all business teachers can help with all issues - like legal problems! We were really struggling to figure out how to protect our intellectual property & cover our assets, and the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a lawyer was out of the question.

Racking your brain to figure out hairy scary things like contracts, agreements, terms, privacy policies, disclaimers, and all those other things a small business owner needs is overwhelming / horrifying / intimidating /frustrating / insanity-producing. (And, let’s face it–sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.) Hiring an attorney is also a pretty penny. (That you might not have right now.) Annnddddd, of course, this is why most people ignore their business’ legal needs altogether. (Cue: Jaws theme song.)

While you want to do things right, you probably don’t want to spend your time learning how to be a lawyer, either. (Gag. No offense to the lawyers out there!) You just want to get the information you need, to take care of the legal stuff correctly and quickly, so you can get back to doing the work you love!

Enter the Small Business Bodyguard.

This is a tool we use at The Nova Studio and we wanted to share it with you, because sharing is caring, after all.

Who’s it for?  Well…
  •     For anyone starting a business.
  •     Selling something online.
  •     Selling something OFFline.
  •     Running a website.
  •     Pitching services.
  •     Writing eBooks.
  •     Launching products.
  •     Hiring web designers / copywriters / VAs / interns / contractors.
  •     Collaborating with others.
  •     And selling anything to anybody.  (Even if it’s only an innocent little PDF and your mom is the only customer.)
If any of these describe you, then

One of my favorite things about it is that the material isn’t like reading a law textbook - in fact, it’s the opposite, deliberately presented to be user-friendly (and laugh-out-loud hilarious.) I promise, there is no mind-numbingly boring legalese you have to worry about.  Just straight forward information that is sure to help you cover your behind---and actually enjoy it. ;) 

Ruth actually discovered the Small Business Bodyguard & brought it to the attention of Lori & Cassie. Now, all three of us receive the weekly emails & often forward them to one another with their comments, observations, or - more frequently - "wow's" and "OMG Why didn't we know this??" comments. We wanted to share this with you because we think you'll get just as much out of it as we do. We are glad that the Small Business Bodyguard affiliate program provides incentives to take the time to share this with you. PLUS, if you who purchase the program using our affiliate link between Monday April 14 & Sunday April 20, you will be eligible for $3,000 in bonus legal contracts & templates (so...don't delay!!).

Don't just take our word for it, click HERE to check it out & see how amazing this program is.

Just a reminder, like all our other affiliates, when you purchase the Small Business Bodyguard, you'll also be helping to support The Nova Studio, at no additional cost to you. We want to thrive & succeed with you!

April 11, 2014

Learn to Use a Still!

In The Limelight: Live Distillation & Aromatherapy Experience
This is a series aimed at showing off some of our most exciting upcoming classes!
Check out all our past "In the Limelight" posts HERE.

This awesome class is only offered twice a year, and it's a real gem. How else can you find out if you are interested in investing the money into a real full-sized still if you've never been around one? Plus, Alice shows some of the many ways that your distilled hydrosols can be used in your products. This is a great class for anyone interested in harvesting & distilling their own plants, or anyone who's already taken Alice's Handmade Hydrosols class & wants to take their craft to the next level.

Have you ever dreamt of making your own essential oils and hydrosols? Have you ever wanted to understand how to use the natural gifts of your garden and your environment to create unique high quality cosmetic products? If so, this is the class for you!

In this unique full-day workshop, discover the wonderful world of hydro-distillation. You'll learn the ABCs of the distillation process, such as how and when to pick the plants, how to sterilize equipment and containers, and how to set up the still and the cooling system.

You will assist in making a large batch (up to 3 gallons) of Hydrosol (aka Distillate Waters or Floral Waters) in an original Spanish traditional copper still. Alice’s 7-gallon copper still uses a steam distillation and produces up to 3 gallons of hydrosol and up to 1 ounce of essential oil (depending on the plant chosen). 

You'll also experience a water distillation in a glass laboratory still which produces a smaller amount of more concentrated hydrosol and also some essential oil. In addition to these 2 unique distillations, students will also get to experience making several other fun & healing aromatherapy products. 

They include:

Aromatherapy Inhalers are an excellent and very compact way to use essential oils while not having to “wear” the oils on the body. These inhalers are made with 100% essential oils and can be formulated for colds and the respiratory system, mood swings, PMS, concentration or as anti-stress methods. To use, simply introduce the inhaler in the nostrils and take a deep breath to inhale the beautiful combination that you created. 

Pulse Point Aromatherapy Roll-Ons are small portable glass bottles filled with a carrier oil and essential oils. They are used for different purposes, depending on which essential oils are included. For instance, you could make one for headaches to be rubbed on your temples or at the nape of your neck. It's a nice way to get a little shot of essential oils to improve your mood or some minor symptoms. You'll learn the best way to use them and the specific pressure points that each product serves. In class, you'll choose/design a recipe that's most appropriate for your needs.

An Herbal Stress Pillow is a small (4x6) "pillow" made with whole organic herbs. This traditional object was used for centuries to sooth children and to help you sleep with the soothing scent of herbs. The convenient size chosen for the workshop will allow you to carry them wherever you want and use them for different purposes such as sleep, traveling, as a car scent or at work. You can use it by inhaling deeply the pillow or simply as a decoration in a place of choice. 

Students will take home an informative handout on hydro-distillation and the uses of hydrosols and EO’s, along with the fruits of their labor: an 8 oz amber glass bottle of freshly made herbal & floral blended Hydrosol (plus an empty travel size 2-oz spritzer bottle), one Aromatherapy Inhaler, one Aromatherapy Roll-On, and one 4x6 Herbal Stress Pillow.

This workshop will take place at a private residence (directions will be provided prior to class). The distillation must take place outdoors, so be sure to wear warm & comfortable clothes/shoes, bring sunscreen & a sun hat if desired. 

May 18, 2013 OR October 26, 2014, 10am-4pm
See our website for much more information, 

including teacher bio, cancellation policies, & great links.

April 7, 2014

E's Garden Naturals in Whole Foods!

Remember the beautiful bar of soap from E's Garden Naturals we posted about two years ago? Owner Erica Johnson (a former student at the Studio) let us know recently that she had some exciting news: she now has her soaps and other products for sale in her local Whole Foods in Cupertino! And then when we heard that she was invited to do an in-store demo, we couldn't wait to see how it went. 

Erica & her table at the in-store demo

The promotional poster featuring Erica

Erica's products on the shelf!

Some lucky babies are going to love this Bum Balm!

Erica's table set-up

Hey - we know that company! ;)

We feel famous by association!

To congratulate Erica on her big milestone, pop on over to her Facebook page or stop by her website to get a yummy bar of her soap. Great job Erica - we're super excited for you!

April 3, 2014

Coloring Soap Naturally: So Many Options!

We recently got this great question from a student who purchased Ruth's Coloring Soap Naturally eBook .

A color test with natural colorants


I bought your wonderful eClass Handout late last night and devoured it into the wee hours. Viewing all of your beautiful soaps leaves me with the questions: What is your work process when working with natural colorants? How do you go about infusing different oils for a batch if soap includes swirl techniques requiring more than one color? Thanks, Janie 

Naturally colored soap ready to pour.


Hi Janie, I’m so glad that you enjoyed my Notes! How I incorporate natural colorants depends a lot on which colorant and the look that I’m going for. The most convenient way is to add the colorant at trace, and that’s my favorite way. But sometimes that doesn’t give the best color. So it’s often a balancing act between getting the design or getting the color. 

If you are really wanting to do something with an oil infusion but need to color your soap in multiple colors (like for swirling or layering), then you will need to make smaller batches of each color instead of one big batch that you divide and color separately. I would set up for all the batches (have oils measured and mixed, and lye and scent ready) then mix up each batch to a light trace and continue with your pouring and/or swirling. 

I hope that helps and happy soaping! 

This batch is colored naturally
(from a past 2-Day Soap Boot Camp)

See a past blog post on Ruth's Coloring Soap Naturally eClass Handout right here!

March 30, 2014

Review: 2-Day Soap Making Boot Camp

Recently, Studio Manager & Co-Owner Cassie was able to set aside a couple days to spend at The Nova Studio as a student instead of an owner. Here's her experience!

I've been talking up the 2-Day Soap Making Boot Camp to potential students for years, and telling others about it (and hearing about their experiences afterward) always made me a little jealous. I'd read all the handouts and even tried a couple of the techniques on my own. But I'd had very little success and couldn't wait to get in the classroom & watch the magic happen in front of my eyes.

Day 1 -  Soap Design

When I first signed up with my Mom, the Advanced Cold Process Soap Design class with Co-Owner Ruth was the class that I was most looking forward to. When I make soap with my Mom (yeah, I'm a momma's girl!) we can knock out some sexy layered soap, but anything other than that is pretty much out of our league (except for that one time where I somehow executed a perfect ITP [In The Pot] swirl, and can't seem to replicate it).

Ruth's class did not disappoint. She took layering to a whole different level with her information on diagonal & vertical layering. Her funnel swirl batches looked totally stunning. And I was super thrilled to be able to hands-on attempt my own ITP swirls & embed soaps. Everything in class turned out so cool, I can't wait to get home and try it full-size.

But that's not the coolest part. The coolest knock-your-socks-off part is all the awesome gems that Ruth dropped in between batches. She gave away the best tips on things like cutting all the waiting time out of mixing lye & oils together (which was 50% of what Mom & I used to do on soapmaking days...wait...and wait...and wait some more...). If we had gotten absolutely nothing else out of the boot camp, Ruth's information on room temperature lye & other shortcuts would have made it worth the time & money.

Day 2 - Hot Process and Big Batch

The class that surprised me the most was Jen's Hot Process Soap 101 class. I knew she loved hot process soap, but didn't really get it until I saw it coming together with her. Not only is it a faster & more economical method of making soap, but watching the entire reaction happen in front of your eyes in a matter of hours is straight up magical.

 Mom, as a history buff, knows of a place where we can do a history reenactment for fun. Hot process is the perfect method for it. We can't wait. (Um, how nerdy am I?).

And finally - David's Big Batch Class. If all he was doing was explaining how to scale up, that would be one thing. But he's actually explaining how to scale up particular to your needs. He doesn't give you his measurements & then say "I hope you can lift 45 pounds!" He gives you the perfect method of figuring out exactly what kind of batch you need to make for you. It's awesome. Plus, with his extensive experience in the business of making and selling soap, he has tons of tips to make your soapmaking business as effective as possible.

So I guess what I'm saying is, I knew this boot camp was awesome. And I already had access to the information in paper form. But it blew my mind & exceeded my expectations anyway! And that's pretty cool.

Blog post contributed by Cassie Durant, Co-Owner & Manager of The Nova Studio 

March 26, 2014

Why SoapQuick?

If you've ever been to David's MissionPeakSoap.com website, you may have seen an interesting supply up for sale: his SoapQuick, premixed soapmaking oils that are ready to portion out & make into awesome soap.

If you're part of the soapmaking world (whether you just learned or have been making soap for years) you may be wondering what the point of premixed oils would be. After all, isn't making up the recipe half the fun?

Well, sure - but we've found that there are loads of reasons why you might want to go the SoapQuick route, even if it's not for every batch.

1. Testing colors or additives: You could use your expensive avocado oil recipe to see what happens when you put lavender buds in soap. But what oils you use makes no difference in the outcome of the soap when considering colors and additives, so why waste your good stuff? In fact, you may even want to test your scents in SoapQuick - but be warned that some recipes trace quicker than others, so the trace you get in your SoapQuick batch may not be the same one you get in your favorite recipe.

2. Practicing: If you're new to the craft & aren't sure that you want to invest, SoapQuick is the perfect route. No need to buy a 50 lb box of coconut oil and a jug olive oil and a tub of palm oil (you get the picture) - it's all already pre-mixed into the SoapQuick! In fact, even the ROE is already included in David's buckets. And you can buy it in two different sizes - 7.6 lb (1 gallon) or 38 lb (5 gallon) in an easy to use bucket. That's two great sizes, depending on how much you want to get involved at first!

3. Teaching: Ruth uses SoapQuick in her Advanced Cold Process Soap Design with Loaf Molds class. That class is all about technique, not about the recipes at all. It saves her lots of time to just be able to pour out the amount she needs instead of weigh each oil individually!

4. Speed: If you're starting to get more orders than you can keep up with, SoapQuick is a great way to reduce your manufacturing time. No more weighing out individual oils - it's already done for you! Just pour out the amount you need for your batch & move on. The recipe is great the way it is, or you can customize with additional butters & oils and recalculate the lye (check out SoapCalc.net which has SoapQuick as one of the oil options).

These are just 4 of the many reasons why you might want to use SoapQuick in your soapmaking. Do you have any additional reasons we haven't mentioned? Let us know in the comments!

March 22, 2014

Dry Skin? Body Butters to the Rescue!

We're right between the darkest part of winter & the brightest part of spring. Our skin is still dry & we thought our friends & family needed this! So, here's what we did...

First we laid out our product & containers.

We're trying a new piece of equipment - a bain-marie.

It's like a double boiler, but the water is encased in the pot.

It gently melts butters without worry!

Don't forget to clean your containers & caps with alcohol.

Scents & antioxidants - check & check!

Poured & cooling.

Extra can always be saved in glass to be remelted another day.

All done!

Ready to give to friends.

What's YOUR favorite cure for that dry winter skin?

March 18, 2014

Vitamin E & ROE - Expiration?

We recently had a student email us & ask us about the expiration dates for antioxidants like of ROE (rosemary oleoresin extract) & Vitamin E. She had been storing the tiny 1-oz bottles for over a year & wanted to know if they were still good. Here's our answer:

"If stored properly and tightly closed, they may still be fine to use. I would smell them; if they don't smell strongly or like they are rancid, they might be ok. 
We would recommend that you purchase brand-new bottles. If the product is bad, it could ruin your whole batch. It's not worth the cost to mess up whole batches of lotion or soap. Bad Vitamin E can make an entire batch of lotion rancid. We also recommend you store both in the fridge & purchase small bottles that you can use up within 6 months."

Tell us - do you have any experience using ROE & Vitamin E after the 1-year mark?

March 14, 2014

Save a Grant {You know...the currency?}

Can't make the upcoming Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild Conference? You can catch two of the speakers & their topics right here at The Nova Studio during the 4-Day Bath & Body Boot Camp; plus get information on 12 other products and from 2 additional teachers - all in 4 days! It's almost like a miniature conference, for as many as 15 lucky students.

This boot camp is now guaranteed to go, since it has already met the minimum, PLUS we are now offering an unprecedented $50 off! Sign up for the April 10-13, 2014 4-Day Boot Camp at the reduced price of $545 by mailing in your check with the registration sheet HERE or calling in with your credit card information.

Check out these images from a past Perfumes class during the 4-Day Bath & Body Boot Camp. This is one epic & classic "Nova Studio Experience" you won't want to miss!

Have you already been to our 4-Day Bath & Body Boot Camp? Tell us your favorite part in the comments!