A day in the life of a soap maker.
This is what I imagine:
Turning the key in a glass door and walking into a double volume gallery space, with a small open plan cake stall and shop to one side; the large glass windows overlooking the pier and the sea and across towards Benderloch. I imagine crossing the floor and opening the door to my own space: a room with a window; an empty counter space and a shiny sink; both a standing desk for making and a desk for sitting at and writing. A Philippe Starck Ghost chair and a David Hockney print; a print of my logo and a hanging rosary vine. Most of the equipment has been packed away, but I can see the gentle colours of soap in curing racks and smell the lingering scent of peppermint essential oil, cool and refreshing, welcoming on the air. I put the radio and coffee on and check today's to-do list. With the door open, I can hear the other tenants of this community space in their own works shops, already busy with their days work, and somebody is opening the shop and welcoming the early visitors. First, I’ll pack orders ready for the post, then deal with emails and correspondence. Then I’ll close the door and I’ll make soap. All afternoon. When I’m done, I’ll tidy up and set things out for tomorrow: make an inventory, make a list, give thanks, and go home.
The reality is a bit different.
I’m writing this with a child on my lap and her twin filling balloons with water in the sink. Yes, in the house, but the ten minutes of peace is worth it. I’m surrounded by breakfast dishes because I need to get this written. After all, it’s my ‘job’ and if I can just sit and do it, it shouldn’t take that long. It’s now quarter to twelve though, and in two minutes I’ll have to start making lunch. And put the washing on. And dress my kids. I’m trying to type while I negotiate the use of my phone to ‘practice writing like this (picture little hands pressing all kinds of buttons), and debating with myself whether the potential outcome of giving my phone to a four-year-old will also be worth ten minutes of peace.
A day in the life of this soap maker usually involves spending more time organising a few child-free hours and a clean place to make soap than actually making it. I send emails while the kettle boils, pack orders with ‘helpers’ in between meals and chores and cuddles, and weigh, measure, wrap and plan after bedtime. But I take heart when I consider that there must be other people out there who are also struggling to make time and space for their side hustle, second job, business, or self, and that, mostly, they must manage. And I know that, eventually, my children will have to go back to school.
Working this way has made me more decisive and less self-conscious; I worry less about perfection and more about meeting deadlines. Ironically, the less time I spend panicking about what I’m projecting to the world, the more I find that what I am creating is truer to myself.
But I do dream about being able to make soap all day and not worry so much about sticky finger marks on everything. I’d love to hear how you imagine your day will go when you swap your kitchen table for a dedicated space.