Let’s chat with Beth Byrne to get the scoop on the gathering!
Beth: Seventeen years ago, a group of soapmakers from Central New York decided to get together to share information on making soap. They met each year in the home of one of the participants. I was asked to take over a number of years ago, and have since added a partner, Michelle Sager, to carry out this growing and evolving event. Since we were attracting attendees from all over the state, we changed the name to New York Bubbles & Blazes. That soon became a misrepresentation of our group since we get attendees from all over the northeast and even eastern Canada, so we now call ourselves, Northeast Bubbles & Blazes. We no longer fit in homes, but meet in public spaces.
What is the mission of the gathering?
Our mission is to annually bring together those who make soap, body products and candles for learning, networking and a great time, both for hobbyists and business owners.
What makes the Bubbles & Blazes gathering different from other conferences?
I like to think we are unique in that we have a good mix of veterans and newbies from year-to-year, as well as a good mix of hobbyists and business people. We are a close-knit group, in spite of the fact that we keep growing. In addition, for years, we had pulled from the talents of attendees for our demos, which is different from most other conferences. We are more informal than many, yet we are driven to provide real value for those who attend. For fun, we sponsor an Ugly Soap Contest, where we enjoy seeing each other’s mishaps. The winner gets a great prize, so it is worth having ugly soap on exhibition! The winner also receives a bracelet which gets passed to next year’s winner. We also sponsor a Yankee Swap, which is great fun, and a Product Swap, which allows us to sample each other’s creations.
How are topics chosen for the gathering?
Topics have traditionally been chosen by requests from attendees, paired with those attendees who were able and willing to demonstrate their expertise. We are departing from that model for the first time this year.
What are the highlights for the 2017 gathering? Whom can we look forward to seeing?
We are thrilled to share that Holly Port of Lotion Bar Cafe is coming from Colorado to teach us to make bath fizzies and bubble bars. Holly is a well-known and loved teacher, maker and author of, Make it Fizz. This is a departure from our norm, but one that our people are excited for. Holly will host two workshops, so each participant will make their own fizzies and bubble bars to take home.
What else goes on at the gathering besides speakers? (Swaps, Garage Sales?)
We offer garage sales, swaps, raffles, door prizes, on-site vendors, product buys, contests, swag bags and more. Michelle works hard to contact companies to ask them to donate to our event; which in turn, allows potential customers to try new products and companies, good for everyone.
What do you hope that soap makers walk away with?
Our attendees walk away with new skills, valuable goods they received in their swag bags and as door prizes; they meet new people and form new friendships and networking opportunities. In addition, they sell and buy garage sale goodies, which allows them to examine what they are purchasing in person. They save money by avoiding shipping costs, Finally, they walk away exhausted, but excited about soapmaking and other arts!
Want to join in the fun? Get more info here!
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Happy Soaping! -Amanda Aaron