Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Plush Folly & Me

I can vividly remember the first time that I heard of Plush Folly. My Mum had been at the shop opening party and she came back full of enthusiasm and excitement making me wonder why I hadn't tagged along with her. Little did I know that only a couple of months down the line I would begin a two week work experience with Plush Folly that would eventually lead to me still working with the ever growing and evolving Plush Folly team today.

My first memory of Plush Folly

Work Experience... 

I started working for Plush Folly around 5 years ago. At the age of 15 the prospect of working with Sally and her knowledge in cosmetics, skincare and beauty products was extremely exciting for me. Even at that age I was always keen to try new products and I loved make up, so the thought of being surrounded by those products and possibly getting the chance to make the products myself, was overwhelming.

My first jobs at Plush Folly included window and shelf display, shrink wrapping glycerine soaps and working the till. I got the hang of things pretty quickly and began watching and learning the way that Sally worked and how some products were created.  The shop was a lovely size and had an inviting atmosphere for customers to browse happily. In the two weeks I worked there for my work experience, I was excited to turn up each day and begin the days work. Near the end of the second week Sally asked me if I would consider taking the saturday job slot of the previous worker, who was moving onto university.  I accepted, of course!

PF parties ran from inside the shop 

Lipgloss and Bath Fizz...

I began helping out at the Plush Folly parties as soon as my work experience finished. The parties ran for an hour and a half and allowed the party goers to make two products. By helping out at the parties I started to learn how to make some products. Lipgloss and bath fizz were the most popular products that were chosen and I began to think I could make those products with my eyes closed!

Saturday Job...

The mica colours now; a lot more
Eventually I began working every Saturday. I started to get to know some regular customers and I gained confidence as I began getting used to the company. Sally and I got on really well and she always made me feel able to ask any questions about the products and raw ingredients, in order to feed my curiosity. It's strange the things you remember, for me one thing I can vividly remember is having to sort out the shelves that displayed the mica! Nearly every week (or so it felt) I rearranged and neatened up the mica colours which got everywhere...I always feared I would end up with glittery eyebrows!

I worked in the shop for a little over a year before the decision was made to move on from the shop and Sally decided to focus on the training side of the business, which is now what makes Plush Folly so recognisable.

After packing up the shop Plush Folly split into two premises. The office side of the business, where I worked, ran from Sally's house and the training side was moved to the Hampton Football Club board room. I waved goodbye to my window dressing and stock making days and moved into the new office.  Although there was no physical shop for products to be made and displayed, the online shop was still up and running for people to buy raw ingredients and kits, so I was always kept busy.


The smaller office!
Plush Folly ran from the smaller office for a couple of years and in that time I decided to go to university, which sadly meant leaving Plush Folly. I can remember the day that I left the office and I cried on my walk home from work. Not only was it sad to leave Sally and the other members of staff, it felt like I had grown up through Plush Folly and I had learnt so much there, from making the actual products to knowing how to look after the company and its customers but it suddenly felt like it was over.

Luckily for me, I got back in touch with Sally when I came back to Hampton at Christmas break and she was extremely happy for me to slot back into the business whenever I returned from Uni. Slipping back into the system was easy and although small changes had been made it always felt simple and natural to me.

Talk of a New Premises...

The new PF workspace!
Masses of essential and fragrance oils
At the end of last year when I returned from Uni, Sally was having thoughts of moving into a different space and it wasn't long until she found the perfect place. A space big enough for an office and a training room, that could be used at the same time, was found just around the corner from the original Plush Folly shop. By the time I returned for Christmas break in 2011, the whole Plush Folly team had set to work moving into the new Plush Folly premises. 

At Plush Folly I now have more space to work around than ever before. Not only that but I am being given more and more responsibilities that include more than packing up kits and orders. I still make products from time to time. There is one regular customer who has always ordered a rose scrub which I have made for her every time she has ordered since I started my work experience.

Plush folly ♥ ♥ ♥...

Plush Folly, to me, has always been a growing and evolving fantastic business that gives people a variety of opportunities to set up their own business and also offers a range of other products for people to try and enjoy. I feel so lucky to have stumbled upon Plush Folly and been accepted into the business and to still be working there five years on. 

Creating pretty window
displays reminds me
of when I began at PF
At lot has changed in the business and there have been thousands and thousands of orders placed in my time at Plush Folly and many students that have come on courses are now certified and selling. Sometimes I get a reminder of the times in the Plush Folly shop, just the other day I dressed the window. One thing I am glad of, is that I don't have to use the scary shrink wrap machine anymore!!

Plush Folly and I are growing at the same rate. When I look back on when I started I was very young and unsure of whether I could do a good job, and although I have always had confidence in Plush Folly I feel as though the company, at that time, was just starting out and learning about itself. And now, I have grown up, learnt a lot about 'life things' by living away from home and I feel that Plush Folly has grown and become more assured of itself too. I am always so excited to hear about a new Plush Folly venture and hope that I will be involved with everything that the company does for a very long time. 

Written by Bryony Curtis

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Blending for Total Beginners

I LOVE my job.

Our perfume competition is going swingingly - we've had the panelists' choices through for their favoured top, middle and base notes and also their preferred smells from a set of "wild cards" we sent them. I've logged all their responses, loved putting their packs together and am very interested but I'm ashamed to say that though I've been at Plush Folly for some months now, I'm a total novice when it comes to making perfume. The Perfume Home Study Course is one of my favourites to put together and know which smells I like best but at the beginning of last week I knew nothing at all about how a balanced perfume was put together.

I do now!

On Thursday, Sal, Mandy and I spent the morning blending and sniffing the panelists' chosen essential and fragrance oils until we came up with some fabulous scents to send back to them for their approval (or otherwise).

I learned so much. I'd not really considered how to actually mix oils so you can assess how they smell together or keep tabs on what you've mixed - cotton wool pads and paper plates to write your blend on are so simple but work so well. I learned about top, middle and base notes and how it can be difficult to predict how some oils will smell together until you've actually blended them. Some that I thought would smell amazing because of what I was dropping onto my cotton wool pad with a pipette were either nondescript or overwhelmed by one smell. Sometimes Sal would say, "Now just add 2 drops of....." and my blend would blossom right under my nose. Amazing.

It was clear that, in the same way we all have different favourite foods, we all have our personal favourite smells - Mandy likes anything in the 'green and fresh' category; Sal adores bergamot; me? I'm so new to it all that I'm wowed by many but think I favour the citrus category.

Without giving too much away, one of the "wild cards" was Chocolate fragrance oil and it's amazing how that blended with other smells. It's so distinctive on its own - we know as soon as someone's taken the lid off to pour some in the office - but it seems to absorb and develop other fragrance and essential oils in a really unexpected way. It was such fun to play with.

Grapefruit essential oil was one of the favoured top notes that we used - it's supposed to lift the spirits so perhaps it's that I can thank for being in such a great mood for the rest of the day or perhaps it's simply that I have such a fantastic job!

Thanks, Sal!


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Perfume Design Panel - competition DAY ONE

To coincide with the launch of Sally's perfume book we (the team here at PFHQ) decided to design a new perfume and invite others to join us on the design team.

We ran a competition on Facebook where we invited FBers the chance to win a place on the design team, one winner to be chosen each week for a period of three weeks.

Today our third and final winner was selected at random and we have our complete team!

Each of the design panel will be sent a selection of top, middle and base note essential and fragrance oils ranging across the fruity, floral, green, woody and oriental categories with a few wild cards thrown in! Each panellist will place the aromas (in each category) in order of preference and report back to PFHQ with their selection.

Once PFHQ have received everyone's feedback, the favorite oils will be selected and the blending will begin.

More to follow when the feedback is in.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

June Intensive Cosmetic College - Day Five

The last day of our June Intensive Week and still plenty to cram in!

The morning started with a practical session and the students made beautiful lip glosses followed by a treatment balm. The lip glosses contained a selection of oils, butters and wax designed to nourish and soften the lips and each were laced with mica to give beautiful shades of gold to pink to a very glossy burgundy - beautiful!

Each student designed their own treatment salve and we had a range of hair wax, rash treatment, nail and cuticle balm, eczema treatment salve, cracked finger ointment and elbow grease!

From practical to theory and having remembered to give homework the night before, Sally went over labelling, weights and measures, allergens, specialist software and everything else that you need to consider when putting together and producing labels for your cosmetic products.

Traditionally on the last day of the intensive week Plush Folly treat the students to lunch and today we went upstairs in the hospitality suite for a sumptuous buffet prepared by Mandy. Since the weather was wet and grim, we sat indoors rather than on the balcony.

After lunch we traipsed back to the training room to discuss suppliers, costing your products, insurance and selling over the web, retail outlets and at craft fairs. Whilst the session was underway, we multi tasked and fragranced /bottled the liquid soap that had spent the night softening in the big pot.

The final practical exercise was making a moisturising cream using all the knowledge gained during the week. The students chose which oils, waxes, waters, extracts, essential oils and other fancy optional additions they wanted to use and set to making up their wonderful pots of thick, luxurious moisturising cream.

Having cleared up and made the room as oil free as possible, the students were awarded their CPD accredited certificates of achievement for having covered so much during the week. That just left us with one task in hand - to unwrap and dish out the soap made yesterday!

To squeals of delight, gasps of surprise (that Blue FCF truly had turned magenta!) and laughter at the amount of botanicals some of us had managed to use in our soap (! - quite a few exfoliating bars made!!) it was time to pack up our mountain of goodies and say goodbye.

It's always sad to say goodbye at the end of such a bonding, busy, interesting and exciting week, but a pleasure too. I know that those students have learnt such a lot, their enthusiasm for every task was immense and the skills they displayed in creating wonderful products - well each and every one was worthy of a shop shelf.

We wish everyone luck and enjoyment and look forward to hearing how they get on.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

June Intensive Cosmetic College - Day Four

Day Four already! Where has the time gone? Today we had a day of soap - traditional bars of soap and liquid soap.

The initial fears of dealing with soidum hydroxide were soon dispelled although goggle and gloves were donned in order to provide protection against splashes. As the morning progressed, the benefits of the different oils and butters used in soap became apparent and the chosen oils were weighed into the saucepan to melt.

Although Sally forgot to give the blending homework the night before (tut tut!) we all managed to find the time to make delicous blends of essential oils to use in their soap. As discussed in the colour session on Tuesday, we used the Blue FCF colouring to turn our soap a wonderful shade of well - first it was blue, then we watched it turn grey, then a murky burgundy colour and finally amazing and glorious pink!

Once the soap was finished and tucked up under the blankets until tomorrow, we turned our attention to liquid soap. Rather than start the liquid soap from scratch and make up a lye solution with potassium hydroxide, we did the 'white board' method and used a soap paste that was made last month. As this takes such a long time to dilute, we brought it to simmering point and then left it overnight. We look forward to adding stuff to it tomorrow and then bottling it.

We also had fun testing the pH of certain items and coloured our litmus papers anything from bright red (acid) through green (perfect!) to the darkest blue (alkali) which helped us to understand what happens during the saponification process.

In the afternoon's theory session, we discussed making soap using different methods such as the no heat method, the hot process method, slow cooker method and even the rebatching meth
od. So many choices! We didn't stop there - we ran recipes through the Plush Folly SAP calculator, superfatted the recipe using both the SAP calc method and the 'control freak' method.

Finally just when we thought we'd covered everything for the day, we remembered our lovely cleanser sitting in the fridge waiting to be put into pots. It was so much thicker than yesterday now that it had had the chance to cool. We split our cleansers in half and left one half a smooth creamy cleanser to be used with the muslin cloth and to the other half we added bamboo powder to make an exfoliating cleanser.

Sally remembered the homework tonight and we have an example of a label which we need to spot mistakes and note what is missing. There is a little challenge for us to see who can list the most !
I can't believe how quickly this week has gone or how much ground we have covered. We came knowing very little and by day four we know such a lot!

Tomorrow we cover balms/salves, lip gloss and moisturising creams, labels, Trading Standards, suppliers, pricing our products and other bits and pieces. I can't wait!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

June Intensive Cosmetic College - Day Three

I can't believe we are half way through already!

The day started earlier than usual for Sally and Debbie, our student from Spain. When booking, Debbie asked if we could include making bath salts in the course curriculum and as it is wall-to-wall packed content already, the only way was to start 45 minutes early! Not for the faint-hearted but enthusiasm won the day and bath salts were taught.

We always stress that there are no mistakes - simply learning experiences - which was lucky as it was assumed that the bottle of liquid colour had a dripper insert in the neck of the bottle. Oh how wrong we were and CI17200 pink went gushing into the mixture...luckily, the right side of a black coffee or two, Sally grabbed the jug and quickly spooned out the excess colour before it had a chance to be absorbed. And the best products can often come from mistakes - the final heather sprinkled bath salts were magnificent!

From bath salts to candles and a wonderful morning spent creating natural wax container candles, night lights, tarts and floating candles culminating in a mood enhancing candle in a tin.

The afternoon focussed on an enormous range of cosmetic ingredients. We looked at unrefined, refined, processed and natural. We debated the best antioxidants, unpicked preservatives, spread silicones and squalanes on arms, compared emulsifiers, enjoyed extracts and generally had fun with an enormous range of ingredients.

The day finished by making a polishing cleanser (bamboo powder being the chosen exfoliant) although as we overran, the cleanser is in the fridge waiting to be decanted tomorrow.

Tomorrow we make soap!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

June Intensive Cosmetic College - Day Two

What a busy day for the students! We started the day with a session on colours and had fun striping our arms with various shades of micas, oxides, ultramarines and lakes. The colours and skin feel were compared and Nickie did a great job of testing whether the colours were water or oil soluble.

All went well until Sally pulled a horrible trick of mixing blue ultramarine with water and citric acid...poooooooey!

OK, so now everyone understood the suitability of the colours in different cosmetic products, we set about using some of those colours and mixing up a variety of bath fizz.

From fizz to scrubs and the students made a stunning selection of salts and
sugar scrubs adorned with seeds, seaweed and other exfoliating ingredients.

The afternoon was a rather more sober affair and we covered - at length - how to create the most flexible safety assessments covering a range of cosmetic products. We compiled a virtual PIF, analysed MSDS, discussed the contents of a GMP and generally felt confident and almost happy that the whole subject of product certification wasn't nearly as bad as originally thought!

The day ended on a high as we unpopped the bath fizz from the moulds....and don't they look fantastic!

More tomorrow!