Thursday Featured Seller: Maegan from MountainMusings

 

 

Name: Maegan Bergstrom

Shop URL: mountainmusings.etsy.com

Tell us a little about yourself:

Well, I’m a self-taught hair accessory designer and wannabe author. I get around pretty much exclusively by bicycle, which is a good thing because one of my other huge hobbies is cooking and baking. I’m also a huge geek and love tabletop rpgs and the occasional computer game. If I’m not working on a fabric flower, beading a hair stick, baking a cake, bicycling, volunteering at my church, slaying imaginary monsters, or reading a book I’m most likely asleep or out in the garden. I’ve got a great husband, a sweet cat, and a nice little house. I feel pretty blessed.

What do you make?

I made beaded hair sticks and fabric flower hair clips (called Kanzashi).

 What got you interested in your work?

I’ve always enjoyed crafting, and I have an insane amount of hair. Combining baking and hair is a bad thing so I had to come up with a way to keep it out of things once a ponytail wasn’t cutting it anymore. My first hair stick was a chopstick, and that got boring so I bought some beads and it just went from there.

How did you get started?

After hearing people tell me “I could totally sell that” about a dozen times I discovered etsy and took a small nest egg of Christmas gift money and bought some supplies to make hair sticks. Then I bought more supplies and some of the hair sticks started selling, so I took that money and bought even more beads and sticks and eventually fabric in order to see if I could make some flowers I’d seen online. It snowballed from there pretty rapidly.

What are your inspirations for your designs?

Well, I live in Colorado on the Front Range, so there is a lot in nature to inspire me, but more often than not I see a bead, or a blank hair stick, or a certain fabric pattern and something just clicks. Then I have to see if I can make what is in my head come out in the materials.

How do you balance your business with your life?

My business is not really a full time deal, and I wouldn’t want it that way. Currently, unless I’m working on a custom project or on a deadline, I do everything I need to get done around the house and THEN I work on my business projects. So far, I seem to be able to keep the shop pretty well stocked as well as meals made, house cleaned, yard cared for, and everything else that goes along with life in general. I doubt it would be as easy if I were counting on my business for a significant income. My method would really only work well for the part time crafter and hobby shop owner.

What’s the hardest hurdle you’ve had to deal with in your business?

Taxes. I have a hard time figuring out exactly what I need to withhold. I think I’ve got it down this year, but Turbotax is not very clear on what it’s doing and why, and the tax forms sans any help are hard to follow. I really hope this year doesn’t end with me hyperventilating into a bag again.

What goals do you have for your business?

I’d like to be at a point where I was turning an actual profit of about 500$ a month. It’d be a nice little extra income. I also have a list of projects to do with my small business profits (this year’s was finishing the guest bedroom so it was usable) and it makes me feel good to be able to cross those off. I feel really good about where I’m sitting product wise and stock wise. I also have to make sure I give myself enough breathing room and down time. I don’t want to get to the point where creating is a chore.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve made or make? Why?

Oh man, that’s hard. I generally fall in love with something as I’m making it, then something new comes along and I fall in love with that. If I have to choose, I’d probably say my dice flowers. They were something totally unique and all my own design. I really have fun matching dice with fabric and then coming up with a geeky story blurb about the flower.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for featuring me! It was fun.

A big thanks to Maegan for taking the time to be our featured seller!  We hope you go visit her store and check out some of her amazing work.

 

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Monday Highlight: Keylime Pie Specialty Soap

It’s another Monday Highlight, and today I’m going to point out our delicious Keylime Pie Soap!  This is one of our original soap recipes, and it’s definitely a favorite.

We’ve made this soap with tons of wonderful ingredients for what I like to call Faces With Problems.  We superfat with apricot kernel oil, which is a wonderfully mild and rich oil that’s great for replenishing moisture without leaving a heavy sensation behind.  We’ve also added bentonite clay, which absorbs excess oils and toxins from skin and leaves a wonderful medley of nutrients and minerals behind.  And to top it all off we’ve added everyone’s favorite skin loving ingredient—tea tree oil!

These three main ingredients combine in our  Keylime Pie soap to form a nourishing soap bar that is absolutely amazing for some serious but gentle facial cleansing.

Did we mention we scent it with key lime essential oil and color it with natural parsley leaf so its fun to look at as well?

And don’t hesitate to follow the link below to find our  Keylime Pie soap!

Keylime Pie Soap

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Sunday Soap Ingredient: Avocado Oil

Oops!  This post is a little late, forgot to upload it yesterday.

Today’s Sunday Soap Ingredient is: Avocado Oil!Avocados  We love to use avocado oil in our products, but especially in our coconut milk soaps.

Avocados are a deliciously fatty fruit (or berry, really) native to Central Mexico.  It is related to bay laurel and cinnamon.

Avocado oil is pressed from the fruit of the avocado itself.  It is one of the few oils, like olive, that is derived from the fruit of the plant itself and not from the seed.

Avocado oil is widely used in cosmetic and body applications due to its high protein and vitamin content.  The oil naturally contains high levels of Vitamin A, B1, B2, D and E as well as Beta-carotene and Potassium.
It is valued in soapmaking due to its ability to penetrate skin deeply and easily.  The unsaponifables in avocado oil (amino acids, sterols, pantothenic acid, lecithin) as well as the mono-unsaturated fatty acid profile contribute to its soothing abilities.  The high vitamin content helps to nourish skin.  Avocado oil has also been found to increase and support collagen production in the skin as well.

In all, this makes avocado oil an excellent ingredient for soapmakers as it is gentle, nourishing, and penetrates the skin deeply.

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Monday Highlight: Hazelnut Macchiato Coconut Milk Soap

Today I’d like to just highlight one of my new coconut milk soaps that I put up on the website last week!  This soap is absolutely heavenly in the shower, especially in the mornings since it smells exactly like a fancy coffee drink from a coffee house—warm milk, freshly roasted coffee and just a hint of sugar and hazelnut.  Like all of my coconut milk soaps, its made with a special blend of oils including avocado, olive, castor and coconut.  I added very finely ground roasted coffee beans for added exfoliation and scent.

This is definitely one of my favorites so far.  If you’re a coffee fan I think you’d like it too!

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Sunday Soap Ingredient #2: Castor Seed Oil

Welcome back to another Sunday Soap Ingredient post!  Today I’ll be talking about castor seed oil, a really great oil that adds much to handmade soap.  This oil really should be in every soapmaker’s ingredient box since it is such a great additive.

Castor Bean Seeds - Ricinus communis

Castor seed oil comes from, you guessed it, the castor plant.  The castor plant is in the family Euphorbiaceae, which also includes the well known holiday poinsettia.  The plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean, Eastern Africa and India, but is found widely around the world.  The seeds are rich in a toxic protein known as ricin, which denatures during the castor oil manufacturing process when the oil is heated.  This means the castor seed oil made from the castor seeds is safe and nontoxic.

So why is castor seed oil so great?  Not only is castor seed oil rich in fatty acids that are great for your skin, but it acts as a humectant in body care products like soap, lotion and lip balm—drawing moisture to skin and keeping it there.  It provides a ton of glide and softness to products, even when added in small amounts.  A little castor seed oil will go a long way.

The oil is thick and rich, which makes it especially versatile for the liquid phase of products that need some thickening (like sugar scrubs!).  It is also unique in its ability to be used as an emulsifier.

Castor seed oil is a special favorite in soapmaking due to its extraordinary ability to increase lather and bubbles.  I recommend around 5% castor oil in soap recipes for this purpose.  As I mentioned before, only a little is required to achieve the results you want!  It’s definitely one of my favorite oils, and if you’re thinking of making soap at all I would consider this a must.

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Go Handcrafted for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is coming up quickly on June 17th this year!  That means a special way to appreciate the guy in your life who raised you and show a little token of how you feel.  Father’s Day gifts don’t have to be extravagant, but they shouldn’t be boring either!  Try something new this year with a gift that is handcrafted and specially made.  I put together a list of five interesting and handcrafted gifts that any father is sure to love.

#1: One Gallon Brew Kit – Father’s Day Special ($60)

Image of Father's Day Deluxe Gift Pack (20% off)

Father’s Day Special Brew Kit, CraftaBrew

The company who makes and sells these kits is called Craft A Brew, and they’re located out of Orlando, Florida.  They’re a relatively new, small business who got their start selling their beer brewing kits at the local farmer’s market in Orlando.  Their kits are designed and made by them (including the recipes), and I find their whole concept of supplying an affordable and easy to learn stepping stool into home brewing really great.

This brew kit makes for an excellent ‘hands-on’ gift for the Dad who’s interested in brewing his own beer but hasn’t quite made the leap into gathering all the equipment and ingredients he needs.  The Craft A Brew Kit includes everything you need to start brewing, plus your choice of recipe kit for making that delicious first batch of beer.  They have  a variety of flavors that cater to every preference—from an American Pale Ale to an Oak Aged IPA.

This kit would be great for a dad that enjoys hands on projects with minimal fuss, though at $60 for the entire kit it’s a little pricy for a Father’s Day gift.  (I personally bought this for my father for his birthday, which also happens to be in June).

#2: Woodland & Moss Terrarium Kit from TheTerrariumShop ($35)

Woodland & Moss Terrarium kit / Live 3 plant terrarium Kit

Woodland & Moss Terrarium Kit, TheTerrariumShop

Small plant terrariums are a cool, unique gift that require little effort and almost no upkeep and space.  They look great on the desk at the office or at home, or just sitting on a bookshelf near a window.

This terrarium kit from TheTerrariumShop is no exception.  The three different plants that come included with this kit make this terrarium unique and provide a soothing and peaceful view.  Unlike other kits which may come with everything you need except the plants, this kit contains the glass container, the substrate, moss, rocks and the plants themselves.  It also comes with easy instructions for planting and caring for the terrarium.  This means minimal fuss for the busy dad who doesn’t have time to hunt around for a suitable plant.

This would make a great gift for the dad who lacks any sort of office decoration, or for the busy dad who likes plants but doesn’t necessarily have time to take care of them.

#3: Blue and Black Ceramic Mug ($20)

Blue Black Mug  Ceramic Coffee Mug

Blue and Black Mug, darshanpottery

Maybe mugs are just my secret weakness, but there’s really nothing more enjoyable as a coffee or tea drinker than owning some super cool mugs for enjoying a tasty warm beverage out of in the morning.

These blue and black hand thrown mugs from darshanpottery are no exception.  They’re absolutely beautiful with a rich blue glaze and look absolutely perfect, which makes them a steal at $20 each.

If your dad has a collection of mugs already, or enjoys the look of hand thrown ceramics, one of these would be a perfect gift.

#4: Napa Valley Red Wine Barrel Pieces for Grilling ($20)

Napa Valley Red Wine Barrel pieces for BBQ and Grilling - Shipping Included -100% recycled

Napa Valley Red Wine Barrel Pieces, winecountycraftsman

Okay, these are pretty cool.

Michael Weiss from winecountycraftsman buys old wine barrels and chops them up, then sells the wood pieces for grilling or smoking.  The wood has been soaked in wine for years—which infuses its delicate flavor into the meat as it cooks.  Mmm!

If you have a dad that loves to grill this might be a great Father’s Day gift for him.  And 9 pounds of wine soaked wood and free shipping for $20 you can’t go wrong!

#5: Custom Leather Billfold ($18)

leather billfold wallet with card slots custom handprinted octopus

Custom Leather Billfold, inblue

Mary Lynn Schroeder over at inblue makes really cool custom leather items, including journals and wallets.  You can get pretty much anything you want to say stamped on them, which is great for a personalized Father’s Day gift.

All her billfolds are handcut, sown and stamped.  They come in a variety of leather colors and the main image can be changed (in case you really don’t want to get your dad a billfold with an octopus on it!).

I got one for my fiance for Christmas and so I can say personally that they’re gorgeous and made with a ton of care.  Plus they have that wonderful leather smell that is incredibly irresistible.

And that concludes the list of five handcrafted item ideas for Father’s Day!  Remember there’s still a week left!

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Sunday Soap Ingredient #1: Coconut Milk

A Cracked Coconut

A Cracked Coconut, GilmourCreative/Flickr

Good afternoon and thanks for stopping by!  I’d like to try and add some interesting facts about the ingredients I enjoy using in the soaps I make to this blog, so I’ve designated Sundays as “Soap Ingredient Day”, where I’ll attempt to write up about the variety of ingredients I use, why I use them, their history, and maybe a simple recipe or two if I have time!  I recently had my wisdom teeth removed, so there’s been plenty of time to sit around and type out some blog posts since I can’t do much of anything else right now.

Today I will be writing about coconut milk—one of my absolute favorite ingredients for making soap.  Coconut milk is chock full of nutrients, is easy to find, and imparts a wonderfully unique and unrivaled creaminess to soaps.  It’s thick, rich, and incredibly high in nourishing and natural vegetable fats.  Even goats milk, in my opinion, has got nothing on coconut milk in terms of lather and moisturizing capabilities, for reasons I’ll explain later.  Plus it’s vegan, which is always a bonus for all the animal conscious people out there.

 

So where does coconut milk come from?  Unlike coconut water, which is the liquid that comes directly from the inside of the coconut, coconut milk is processed from the coconut meat itself.  The coconut meat is typically squeezed or pressed, or processed with hot water, which extracts out the fats and aromatic compounds we know as coconut milk.

Lemon and Litsea Cubeba Coconut Milk Soap

My deliciously scented lemon litsea coconut milk soap, infused with lemon peel for mild exfoliation.

The fat concentration in coconut milk varies depending on how its processed, but can rival the fat content of whole milk if prepared properly.  Lauric acid is the main medium-chain saturated fatty acid present in coconut milk, which is the same nourishing fatty acid that is found in breast milk, goat milk, and cow’s milk. Lauric acid comprises about ~50% of the fatty acids found in coconut milk, whereas in goat milk it is present at about ~3%.  In handmade soap the lauric acid is converted into sodium laurate, the sodium salt of lauric acid.  Sodium laurate acts as a gentle natural cleanser with anti-microbial properties which promotes skin and hair health.  The harsh and irritating detergent known as sodium lauryl sulfate is also commonly derived from the lauric acid found in coconut’s milk and is found in most commercially available soaps.  It is not to be confused with sodium laurate—they are two separate compounds though they both come from the lauric acid present in coconuts.

Also present in coconut milk are a variety of vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acids besides lauric acid.  They combine to relieve dry skin and provide extra moisture without stripping natural oils from the body like detergents are known to do.  All in all, this makes coconut milk a popular choice for a variety of skincare products.

 

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