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Artisan to Commercial soap maker

When does a soap maker cross the line from ,an Artisan to commercial? There are getting to be several soap makers that are supplying shave shops and some pharmacies.
In my opinion an Artisan makes and sell their own product. Either in their own shop via internet or craft show/flea market settings. Once you are shipping product to a retail outlet, you become a commercial producer. Also when some are adding pre-shave and post-shave products to their line.
I like to support small bussineses. But wouldn't most small bussineses fall under a commercial heading?
 
I'd think that it's more how it's made than how it's sold. If it's something made in a huge factory with an automated process churning out thousands of products a day then it is not Artisan.

Hand made in small batches by a very small company or a family then it's Artisan.

Selling it through secondary outlets doesn't take away the fact that it's a hand made small batch product.

by definition -
ar·ti·san
ˈärdəzən/
noun
  1. a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
    synonyms: craftsman, craftswoman, craftsperson; More
    • (of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.
      "local artisan cheeses"
 
I'd think that it's more how it's made than how it's sold. If it's something made in a huge factory with an automated process churning out thousands of products a day then it is not Artisan.

Hand made in small batches by a very small company or a family then it's Artisan.

Selling it through secondary outlets doesn't take away the fact that it's a hand made small batch product.

by definition -
ar·ti·san
ˈärdəzən/
noun
  1. a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
    synonyms: craftsman, craftswoman, craftsperson; More
    • (of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.
      "local artisan cheeses"

+1 I agree with this.
 
I don't understand the big attraction to artisan soaps just because they are considered artisan. I want a soap works extremely well. If it is an artisan soap, such as Stirling, great. If it is a commercial soap, such as Haslinger, that's great too. Of course, that's just my two cents.

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I'd think that it's more how it's made than how it's sold. If it's something made in a huge factory with an automated process churning out thousands of products a day then it is not Artisan.

Hand made in small batches by a very small company or a family then it's Artisan.

Selling it through secondary outlets doesn't take away the fact that it's a hand made small batch product.

by definition -
ar·ti·san
ˈärdəzən/
noun
  1. a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
    synonyms: craftsman, craftswoman, craftsperson; More
    • (of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.
      "local artisan cheeses"


Agree^. Because I can find Mike's and Captain's Choice products at West Coast Shaving does not alter their formulae, or the quality of their products.
 
I don't understand the big attraction to artisan soaps just because they are considered artisan. I want a soap works extremely well. If it is an artisan soap, such as Stirling, great. If it is a commercial soap, such as Haslinger, that's great too. Of course, that's just my two cents.

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A thought about Artisan vs. Commercial soaps and why I prefer them over the commercial brands. Over the past two years the Artisan soap makers have made great strides while the commercial soap makers have made little to no changes to their products. In some case the changes they have made (like in the case of AOS and Penhailgon's removing tallow) have actually made their products worse instead of better. The gap in performance has widened.

My attraction to the Artisan soap makers is that they are always evolving. It takes a lot more effort to change a commercial formula than it does for an Artisan soap maker to make a change. The risk for the Artisan is just so much lower. The better Artisan soap makers are offering some of the very best soaps on the planet where often times with a more recognized commercial brand you're paying for the name instead of a superior product. Many Artisans are constantly tweaking their formula's and comparing them to other popular well thought of products. I've spoken to many that are very motivated to make the very best soap ever made. I don't see that from any commercial soap makers as they just make the same soap recipe that they've always made and sell it. The Artisans that are satisfied with their formula and not evolving are getting left behind.

There are some good commercial makers like Haslinger's and Valobra but, in my opinion, at this time there are many more Artisan soap makers challenging themselves and putting out much better products. It's all about who is resting on their laurels and who is constantly challenging themselves to get better.
 
Agree that it's how it's made, not how it's sold. Remember, most of the great old British houses started out as apothecaries. They were pharmacists making ointments and tinctures. The toiletries were a secondary business at first. And they were all handmade in house. Artisan you might say. Later most of them were sold off and no longer were ran by the families. Which brings us to the current state of things such as Trumper ' s dodgy shave soaps.

On the other hand, some of the very worst shave soaps I have ever used were from small batch makers who simply did not understand shave soap chemistry. Hardly 'artisan' in its own right. Like others I appreciate the nimble way the small batch makers can change up formulae or packaging to suit needs. It is getting to the point that you will be able to find niche makers of soaps and other toiletries who are essentially making bespoke products for their customers. This is a welcome development in my shave den.
 
I like artisan soaps...not the shaving ones im talking real bars of soaps...its about all i use amazing stuff it foesnt make bubbles like the normal soaps but damn it cleans well doesnt itch or anything...can be pricey but worth it
 
The line of thought that bothers me, is that to be a commercial product it has to come from a huge multi million $ factory. I a small company is putting in what ever funds available. To put out a good safe and consistent products. Then sending that to several different retail outlets. They are then a commercial producer. they may still be conected to their Artisan beginnings .
The point I was trying for was ,where is the point of total production output, that you would say is above normal artisan .
Some of the soap makers seem to be putting out quite a bit, not only shave soaps but creams, pre shaves , after shaves, lotions etc.
They may still be a small bussines .not a hobby anymore.

For someone how was just starting to search the web for shave gear and checked the inventory of the different stores that carry a large variety of products . they would be hard pressed to know which came from an artisan shop are a commercal production facility.
 
A thought about Artisan vs. Commercial soaps and why I prefer them over the commercial brands. Over the past two years the Artisan soap makers have made great strides while the commercial soap makers have made little to no changes to their products. In some case the changes they have made (like in the case of AOS and Penhailgon's removing tallow) have actually made their products worse instead of better. The gap in performance has widened.

My attraction to the Artisan soap makers is that they are always evolving. It takes a lot more effort to change a commercial formula than it does for an Artisan soap maker to make a change. The risk for the Artisan is just so much lower. The better Artisan soap makers are offering some of the very best soaps on the planet where often times with a more recognized commercial brand you're paying for the name instead of a superior product. Many Artisans are constantly tweaking their formula's and comparing them to other popular well thought of products. I've spoken to many that are very motivated to make the very best soap ever made. I don't see that from any commercial soap makers as they just make the same soap recipe that they've always made and sell it. The Artisans that are satisfied with their formula and not evolving are getting left behind.

There are some good commercial makers like Haslinger's and Valobra but, in my opinion, at this time there are many more Artisan soap makers challenging themselves and putting out much better products. It's all about who is resting on their laurels and who is constantly challenging themselves to get better.

David,
You're making an assumption about Artisan soap makers that isn't necessarily true and doesn't necessarily apply to all Artisans. I would not put out a product until I knew it was perfect! If you followed my thread on my board here about my shaving soap project you can see that is the case. To me, someone constantly making changes shows that they have not done enough research and development or that they didn't make enough sample batches to make sure they got consistent results from the beginning and produced the best product possible. Commercial companies have staff that work on products and perfect them. When they are finished, they have come up with the best product they can possibly make then go into production. They have already made little changes here and there and adjusted their formulas and it is very easy for them to make any changes they wish during this or any other phases in development.

I agree that the most important thing that someone who is developing a product is must do is to think outside the box. In my project I used several different ideas about how I wanted to formulate the product and began there. I had one idea which I was toying with but was unsure whether this different approach would work! I was surprised at the test results and after a few more tests decided to go with that unusual concept, unusual formula and those unusual production techniques. After 27 batches I approved the formula because I got consistent results with each batch. Yet, I still had not let on what was the basis for this formula in that post! I decided to let everyone in on it at the very end! I had taken my shaving cream formula and turned it into a shaving soap! No one replied to the post about that reveal even when I went back and pointed that out a few weeks later! But for me it was an important route to take and by thinking outside the box (and the fact that I was successful) made all of my efforts worth it to me!

This I think is one of the major differences between commercial and artisan approaches and products and those of us who follow that, are not getting left behind, we are succeeding because we put the time in, did the proper research and testing in the beginning and put out the best product possible from the start!
 
David,
You're making an assumption about Artisan soap makers that isn't necessarily true and doesn't necessarily apply to all Artisans. I would not put out a product until I knew it was perfect! If you followed my thread on my board here about my shaving soap project you can see that is the case. To me, someone constantly making changes shows that they have not done enough research and development or that they didn't make enough sample batches to make sure they got consistent results from the beginning and produced the best product possible. Commercial companies have staff that work on products and perfect them. When they are finished, they have come up with the best product they can possibly make then go into production. They have already made little changes here and there and adjusted their formulas and it is very easy for them to make any changes they wish during this or any other phases in development.

I agree that the most important thing that someone who is developing a product is must do is to think outside the box. In my project I used several different ideas about how I wanted to formulate the product and began there. I had one idea which I was toying with but was unsure whether this different approach would work! I was surprised at the test results and after a few more tests decided to go with that unusual concept, unusual formula and those unusual production techniques. After 27 batches I approved the formula because I got consistent results with each batch. Yet, I still had not let on what was the basis for this formula in that post! I decided to let everyone in on it at the very end! I had taken my shaving cream formula and turned it into a shaving soap! No one replied to the post about that reveal even when I went back and pointed that out a few weeks later! But for me it was an important route to take and by thinking outside the box (and the fact that I was successful) made all of my efforts worth it to me!

This I think is one of the major differences between commercial and artisan approaches and products and those of us who follow that, are not getting left behind, we are succeeding because we put the time in, did the proper research and testing in the beginning and put out the best product possible from the start!


Yeah, obviously one can't assume all Artisans are doing the exact same thing. I guess my point is that it's much easier for an Artisan soap maker to try new things. I'm not saying that the soap needs to keep changing with every new development as that's not good either. I don't want these soaps to change constantly. I want all of that to happen behind the scenes with a change or new product introduced only when a substantial breakthrough it made and something truly outstanding is the result. What I'm getting at is the really good soap makers are experimenting and making improvements or just putting out better products. You're apparently doing it as well if you've made 27 batches before finding a recipe you were satisfied with. I wouldn't be surprised if you were trying other soap makers products from time to time as well. If at some point a year from now you see that some new to market products are better than yours then I wouldn't be surprised if you started making more test batches.

I don't see the commercial companies doing this. I do get your concept of staff on hand to create and improve products but I can only assume that this isn't a priority as I'm not seeing a ton of improvements to the well known commercial brands. In some cases the formulas were changed for the worse to eliminate specific ingredients. In comparing their products to what's out there now from the better Artisan's I'm just not impressed. The formula they perfected ten years ago just isn't as good as what the top soap makers are making now. They are just not evolving is the point I intended to make.
 
Yeah, obviously one can't assume all Artisans are doing the exact same thing. I guess my point is that it's much easier for an Artisan soap maker to try new things. I'm not saying that the soap needs to keep changing with every new development as that's not good either. I don't want these soaps to change constantly. I want all of that to happen behind the scenes with a change or new product introduced only when a substantial breakthrough it made and something truly outstanding is the result. What I'm getting at is the really good soap makers are experimenting and making improvements or just putting out better products. You're apparently doing it as well if you've made 27 batches before finding a recipe you were satisfied with. I wouldn't be surprised if you were trying other soap makers products from time to time as well. If at some point a year from now you see that some new to market products are better than yours then I wouldn't be surprised if you started making more test batches.

I don't see the commercial companies doing this. I do get your concept of staff on hand to create and improve products but I can only assume that this isn't a priority as I'm not seeing a ton of improvements to the well known commercial brands. In some cases the formulas were changed for the worse to eliminate specific ingredients. In comparing their products to what's out there now from the better Artisan's I'm just not impressed. The formula they perfected ten years ago just isn't as good as what the top soap makers are making now. They are just not evolving is the point I intended to make.

I don't test or compare anyone's products. I do tons of research, ask questions of well known cosmetic chemists when needed then begin the process. The formula I chose was actually #3 but I tried some other options then refined the formula and worked out the production techniques which is why it took #27 batches to get it exactly as I wished. It does exactly what I want it to do in the way I want it too and I see no changes in the future! It is a unique product so there would be no products out there that would provide me with anything my product doesn't already have.

I have been in a commercial soapmaking plant and saw how things were done there and I understand how they work and I have done a ton of research on soapmaking over the last few centuries so I have a vast amount of knowledge available to me. If the commercial soapmaking businesses are satisfied with their product and it is selling then they feel there is no need to make changes. Maybe you are just buying from the wrong companies or maybe you are just looking for something different. So if that is the case, then just keep with your favorite artisans and hopefully they will keep you happy!
 
What I've seen over the past 15-20 years from the established manufacturers, is that formula changes have usually been for cost savings, outsourcing, supplier changes, ingredient shortages, or elimination of undesired ingredients (like parabens). Rarely for improving their product. Many changes have been understandable, even warranted, but in nearly every case has resulted in lesser, sometimes unacceptable, performance. I get the impression from artisans and small manufacturers that they are trying to put out products people want to buy. Some estalished producers seem like they just wan't to sell soaps good enough to avoid driving loyal customers away.
 
I'm having a difficult time understanding the need of some people to "pigeonhole" different businesses into certain categories according to the "rules" they set up. Each business out there is a separate entity, has decided their approach, determined their market and produced goods to fill that market. All companies whether they be Artisans or Commercial oriented are set up differently, work according their own goals, produce products which they promote in their own fashion and present themselves online and in retail establishments in the way they see fit to go after the market they desire.

I make handcrafted soap which I consider to be "Artisan" yet my shaving products used a "Commercial" cosmetic chemistry approach to fulfill a niche in the commercial "British Style" shaving creams market and are formulated as such. This technically would put me into both categories wouldn't it? So I don't fit into the stereotypes that are being created by some people because I just want to be who I am, sell what I wish and market in whatever way I see fit. I just don't want to be lumped into a certain category because someone feels the need to define who I am. In reality, it's my business and I am who I am and I want to do the best possible job with what I'm doing and to sell my products and satisfy the needs of my customers. Isn't that the most important thing?
 
I'm having a difficult time understanding the need of some people to "pigeonhole" different businesses into certain categories according to the "rules" they set up. Each business out there is a separate entity, has decided their approach, determined their market and produced goods to fill that market. All companies whether they be Artisans or Commercial oriented are set up differently, work according their own goals, produce products which they promote in their own fashion and present themselves online and in retail establishments in the way they see fit to go after the market they desire.

I make handcrafted soap which I consider to be "Artisan" yet my shaving products used a "Commercial" cosmetic chemistry approach to fulfill a niche in the commercial "British Style" shaving creams market and are formulated as such. This technically would put me into both categories wouldn't it? So I don't fit into the stereotypes that are being created by some people because I just want to be who I am, sell what I wish and market in whatever way I see fit. I just don't want to be lumped into a certain category because someone feels the need to define who I am. In reality, it's my business and I am who I am and I want to do the best possible job with what I'm doing and to sell my products and satisfy the needs of my customers. Isn't that the most important thing?
I think it is human nature to categorize things, including businesses. There are general assumptions about artisans and commercial makers. Most likely none fit either category completely. I appreciate the discussion though, as it allows me to see how folks view the differences between the two generalities.

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