Friday, March 1, 2013

Question: How do you decide what to make?

In this post, Sue asks: HOW do you decide what to make?! I have such trouble/fun deciding on colours fragrance additives that half the session could disapppear. How do your readers balance creative and efficiency?

What a great question! I think the answer is that I don't do it well. Sometimes I get into the workshop with post it notes peppered all over my notebook reminding me to make this or that or a list a mile long on my iPhone's reminder program, and other times I go into the back and let the ingredients speak to me! Sometimes I go into the workshop intending to make one thing, and come out with everything but that one thing!

I have a few ways to decide - what products do I desperately need, what ingredients do I have or have I recently acquired, and what do I wish to write about on this blog?

I also have to consider time. I don't think an hour is enough to make a lotion, but it could be okay for making a dry shampoo or packaging a few things. I could spend all day in the workshop once I get in there, and my husband generally has to bring me food as I'll forget to eat! 

If I'm not desperate for something, I let the ingredients decide for me. If I've just received a shipment or something or other, I like to play with those new ingredients, using them in tried and true recipes to see how those products feel with the one changed ingredient. Lately, I've been playing with a bunch of new ingredients from the Formulator Sample Shop (free), Lotioncrafter (paid), and Voyageur Soap & Candle (paid, discounted), so I've been making a ton of conditioners, emulsified things with Ritamulse SCG and Ritamulse BTMS-225, and oily gels, and a lot more. All of these come out of the ingredients I have in the workshop.

I have to think about packaging as well. If I don't have a ton of 16 or 32 ounce bottles, there is no point in making a large batch of something because it'll sit in the Pyrex jug until I get somewhere to store it!

Another consideration is what am I writing about or want to write about on the blog? I've been making a lot of facial cleansers, facial moisturizers, and nail polishes lately so I can share what I've learned with you, my wonderful readers! I like to send my products out with my testers, but they can take a long time reporting back to me. So I have to think about what I want to write about next month.

Finally, I have to think about my space and equipment. I have two double boilers (aka electric fondue pots), so I can make two things at once. But do I want to do that? It can lead to messing up both things as I fail to remember what each one might be, so I generally make one emulsified thing at a time and spend the heat and hold making something like a body wash or bubble bath or dry shampoo or something that looks quite unlike the lotion so I can remember what I'm doing!

To answer your question, Sue. I don't know how to balance anything in my life, especially my workshop time, but there's a small glimpse into my brain. (Be afraid, be very very afraid!)

How do you decide how to spend your limited workshop time? How do you balance creativity and efficiency?


Alex said...

Great question and post! I get soooo easily distracted when I start formulating (especially during the heat and hold time!). I too notice that what packaging I have on hand dictates what I end up making. One thing that also helps me plan is that when I make an order, I make a list of products I intend to make with those ingredients. Before I started doing this, my order would come days or weeks later and I couldn't remember why I ordered a certain thing! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan!

I have a question on ph.

I recently bought a oakton ph meter off amazon.

I calibrated it and use it to test my facial cleanser.
I notice the ph is 6.5 if I test the cleanser directly but if I diluted the cleanser in water, the ph drops. Is that normal or I did the testing wrong?

I tested my foam cleanser to be 8.5, cream cleanser A which turns out to be 8.3, cream cleanser B to be 6.5. When I diluted cream cleanser B in water, ph drops to 5.9.

Am I doing it wrongly?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...


Hi Anonymous! I will be addressing your question in the Chemistry Thursday post on May 7th. The short answer is not to dilute your products. Just test them as is!

Please use your name somewhere in your comment! It fosters a greater sense of community if we know each other a little better and it reduces bullying.

Aljonor said...

I am always making up formulas--on the bus, on the train, on lunch. I carry a little book with me. I let my imagination go way out. But when the day comes to "what to make", I usually start with what I need or a problem that observe during the week. For example: if I notice that my skin is a little extra dry during the week, I make a batch to solve the problem.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Alex! I definitely have to make lists of ingredients I've bought and I put them in the special box that I check before I get started. You'll be seeing a bunch of experiments I did in the workshop over the next few weeks, almost all of them were made with ingredients I forgot I had!

Hi Aljonor! I'm always formulating, too! I write stuff down as I think of things, but I sometimes forget to refer to those notes when I'm in the workshop because I have my iPhone in the stereo, and you know I have to have great music to inspire me. I like solving a problem that has arisen during the week - frizzy hair, dry skin, itchy skin, new make-up colour - as well. But I can get distracted that way!