Say it with soap
Personalising soap using an engraving machine
A company in Jabbeke, Belgium is using soap as a means of communication. Françoise Descheemaeker from "Say it with Soap" uses the Roland EGX-350 engraving machine to personalise all kinds of soaps.
Every day, Françoise transforms bars of soap into personalised gifts. She begins by deciding upon the correct font and then she engraves an embossing stamp from plexiglass. She then uses the stamp to emboss the soap while it is still hot and malleable.
Experimenting with fonts
"In the past, we asked the soap manufacturer or third parties to make the impression stamps, but it was expensive and very limited in terms of creativity. Trying things out was tricky. Now we can experiment ourselves and create examples for a customer," says Françoise. "The font is very important to the message you are trying to send. One font works better on a bar of soap than another. And we have learned a great deal in this area. The shape of the soap is also very important. In the beginning, our soap-maker only printed on square blocks. But now we can offer different shapes as well."
"Soap carrying a message - that's what we make. We call it message soap", explains Françoise enthusiastically. Those soaps with different messages sell best in tourist areas. Françoise and her husband, Pierre Marécaux, have a shop selling soap at the Belgian coast. Messages such as "I love you" and "You're the sweetest" sell easily as gifts for friends and family back home, or as souvenirs.
Françoise is always looking for new texts. This is why there are now soaps with the text, "Let's rock" and, "You only live once" on them. For special occasions, such as a wedding or the birth of a child, the company can produce a small batch of personal soaps. Even batch sizes of just 20 bars are possible.
Say it with Soap also responds to current events. Prints such as, "Je suis Charlie" can be found in Françoise Descheemaeker's wonderfully smelling workshop.
"I have now fully mastered the software from Roland. The Roland EngraveStudio engraving program delivered with the machine is very user-friendly and contains many different fonts. This allows us to see what works best on a bar of soap and then to produce small batches quickly."
Say it with soap does not make the soap itself. A Belgian soap manufacturer does this. The bars are based on soap noodles - winding pieces of semi-finished product coming from countries such as Malaysia. These are semi-finished products made from palm oil that have no colour or smell. The soap noodles are ground in a machine and then colour and fragrance are added. The manufacturer uses additives containing minimal allergens so anyone can use the soap.
The spaghetti strips that come out of the machine go through a die and are then cut into blocks. The soap is then embossed by hand. If the image is to look good, the soap must be embossed while it is still hot and highly malleable.
Soap has been an important part of Françoise's life for a long time. "We started a soap shop in Lille, France many years ago. We expanded with more stores, even going as far as Strasbourg. However, the crisis affected us as much as anyone else. Rents were sky-high and turnover low. The situation deteriorated rapidly because there were fewer tourists, and those that came had less money to spend. Someone then gave us a tip about there being a demand for printed soaps. So we started with letters on cubes. And that's how 'message soap' originated, and it sells really well."
"We believe we are the only firm offering this in the Benelux. Printed soaps are for sale, but in large quantities. There is no one who can deliver small batches of just 20 personalised printed soaps." At the moment, we are generating sales through stores and by word-of-mouth. Internet sales are not yet playing a major role. "We think the best way to meet the needs of our customers is through personal contact."