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VERY IMPORTANT info about shipping lead times – please read :)

Posted by OakCourt on Apr 17, 2012 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

If you’ve ordered from us recently, you may have noticed on our home page that we have been closed sporadically for short periods of time. We wanted to let you know why, as this will continue to be the case for at least the next few months.

My dad was diagnosed in late January with aggressive prostate cancer, and he had surgery for it in early March. His surgeon, Dr. Mani Menon, is one of the best in the country (if not the world!), and I’m happy to report that the surgery was a complete success – he is now prostate cancer free, thanks to Dr. Menon’s skill and expertise.

However, in the course of the testing done for my dad’s surgery, they discovered that he also has ANOTHER form of cancer – a type of lymphoma, which is a blood cancer. It’s even more aggressive than than the prostate cancer, and he is going to have to have chemo first, then radiation, over the course of the next six months or so. He saw a specialist at the same hospital in Detroit (about 6 hours from us here in IL) that did his prostate surgery – again, one of the best in the country for his particular type of cancer – and we will be going back later this week for them to devise his precise treatment plan, set up all the appointments, etc. If everything goes smoothly, his treatments should start next week, and it looks like we will be commuting to Detroit every few weeks for the near future. The good news is that the oncologist says this particular cancer responds very well to treatment!

We’re going to try to schedule his treatments on Fridays, to minimize the disruption to the business and to our family. However, since he is our shipping person, during the times that he is under the weather from the treatments, I will be taking care of not only my normal duties, but also packing and labeling boxes for shipment. Consequently, orders may take a day or two longer than usual to ship when we are especially busy. I will make sure to update the home page with the current lead times when they run longer than the normal 1-2 business days.

We didn’t want you all to think we were just being flaky or irresponsible, so we thought we would let you know what’s going on and why orders may be slower to process at times than usual. Please take that into account when you plan your orders, and accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. It’s only temporary, and we appreciate your understanding and compassion during this difficult time.

Brenda

 
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Perfumer’s Alcohol

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 12, 2012 in Miscellaneous News, New Products

We were saddened recently to hear that fellow supplier Snowdrift Farm has closed their doors. They will be missed! Best wishes to Bill Wallace and to the entire Snowdrift Farms staff in their future endeavors.

For some time, we have been looking for a source for a perfumer’s alcohol/perfume base along the lines of what Snowdrift had been carrying. Upon hearing of their closure, we ramped up our plans to add that to our product line, as we are hearing that many crafters are looking for a new supplier for it.

I’m pleased to say that we have found a reliable source of an excellent quality base, and we will be adding that to our product line in the very near future. We have shipped samples to several artisans who used Snowdrift’s alcohols in their products, and they are currently testing it to see how it compares to theirs. Based on the opinions of several local customers who have tested it, we are going to order it in the next few weeks and begin selling it. One tried it as a replacement for cyclomethicone in her current purse misters, reporting that it worked well even with fragrances that did not want to blend with the cyclomethicone, and the other used it to make perfume using lavender and sweet orange essential oils, and was happy with her results as well. The blend has glycerine and a very small amount (less than 1%) of propylene glycol to help emulsify the fragrance into the alcohol, so it’s 99% natural.

We’re very excited about this new product, and plan to offer other companion products for use in making perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, etc. (for example, purse-sized misters!). At the moment, we are trying to determine how much to order for our initial allotment – we’re not sure how much demand there actually is for this item. So if you would be interested in purchasing some when we get it, please e-mail us (no obligation!) so we can make sure nobody will be disappointed by having to wait while we order more.

So…. what do you think of the name “Perfume Magic­™”? I find it magical that you can simply add fragrance oil or essential oil to it and have a lovely concentrated perfume… or dilute it with distilled water to make colognes, aftershaves, etc. Or should we just stick with the straightforward Perfumer’s Alcohol?

 
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Exciting news about our Air Freshener material!

Posted by OakCourt on Oct 1, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, New Products

I have some VERY exciting news to share with you all!

In the very near future – most likely within the next few weeks – we will be switching to a different, even BETTER version of our AromaArt® Air Freshener material for our pre-cut shapes and sheets. Our former supplier was no longer capable of producing our desired level of quality, and was going to raise the price even though the quality of the paper had been going steadily downhill each time we purchased it. Sadly, they were not receptive to our requests to improve their quality control, and pretty much told us we would just have to “deal with it”.

That wasn’t a satisfactory answer, so we did an exhaustive search for another supplier willing and able to produce a high quality product at a competitive price. We immediately rejected the ones that would have required raising the prices substantially, and those not willing to guarantee consistency in the surface texture, thickness, and color from one order to the next. We finally found a company that is committed to shipping only the highest quality product, while keeping prices reasonable. The minimum order quantity was larger than we could have possibly dreamed of needing when we started this business, but we are committed to this product – so we took the plunge and ordered a TRUCKLOAD. (And no, I’m not exaggerating! LOL)

Why is this such exciting news? Here are some of the reasons:

1) It’s smoother… no lumps, bumps or wrinkles that are challenging for those of you who like to heat transfer and rubber stamp on your air fresheners. It also means that you can SCREEN PRINT on the air fresheners to do custom logos and lettering! We tested it with a Yudu CardShop machine – and while we don’t recommend that particular machine, the printing process worked like a charm. It took only a few seconds per air freshener to actually do the printing, and the screenprinting ink stood up to several different FO’s we tested on it. Rubber stamps make clean, crisp imprints on the new material that are easy to reproduce consistently. It’s also much easier to color on the smoother surface with markers, colored pencils and crayons.

2) It’s thinner… only about 2/3 as thick as the current material. That makes it lighter weight, meaning less expensive to ship and easier to cut. 8″ x 12″ sheets can now be cut in several popular home diecutting machines that won’t cut the old material because it’s too thick! We tested it in a Big Shot and several other machines retailing for under $200 at a trade show this summer, and it cut beautifully. Being thinner also means that it can be EMBOSSED using machines like Spellbinders’ Wizard and other similar machines that have the capability to emboss using brass stencils or embossing jackets. And even though it’s thinner, it will hold just as much fragrance as the current material! I had a blast testing it at a trade show I attended this summer, and several of the designers who were demonstrating the machines were excited about the cute air fresheners they made with it in a matter of seconds. One left a basic shape white, ran it through with an allover texture plate with funky 60’s retro circles of all sizes, and came up with a very cute two-sided air freshener with raised circles on one side, and sunken impressions of the circles on the other side. Another embossed a cowboy boot with a scroll pattern that made it look like western stitching on the boot, and used an ink pad to highlight the raised portions with tan ink. The result looked like a distressed, well-worn cowboy boot, and it took her just over a minute to emboss and ink it.

3) It’s whiter… meaning those of you who heat transfer and rubber stamp on it will really see the difference in the colors when you apply them. They really pop against the snow-white background! And as long as you select fragrance oils carefully, shapes like snowflakes and snowmen will stay considerably whiter than with the old material.

4) It’s still very affordable… we were not able to completely avoid a small price increase, but it will be more than offset by the huge difference in quality! We have not raised prices on the air freshener products in at least four years, choosing to absorb several price increases from our suppliers and shipping providers. The increase will only be about 10% on most items, which is less than the 4%-5% per year that would be expected from normal inflation.

5) It’s very consistent in quality… every single sheet is exactly the same thickness, color, and surface texture as the next one. The current material varied widely from one pallet to the next, and even from one sheet to the next. So you can be confident that every time you order, the product will look and perform exactly the same.

Are there any downsides to the new paper? I really don’t think so. We asked a number of trusted customers and friends, who do a variety of different things with the shapes, to test their decorating methods using the new material. The general consensus was that it performs just as well, if not better, than the current material – and they were all very excited about the new possibilities for decorating that were not available with our current material, like the screenprinting and embossing.

The ones who paint their shapes did notice that it took longer for the fragrance oil to soak in. The paint tends to stay as a layer on TOP of the paper, rather than soaking into it, so the fragrance has to penetrate that paint layer first. They reported that thinning the paint with water seemed to help, and that they simply had to plan for additional time for the scent to penetrate the paint and be absorbed by the shape. One tester also commented that the paint colors seemed brighter and truer with the new material, which she liked very much.

And the ones who do heat transfers reported no difference when applying the transfers with a heat press. Those using a home iron commented that they had to change their technique – instead of moving the iron all over the transfer constantly, they needed to hold the iron perfectly still so the transfer didn’t slide on the smoother surface. They had to experiment with their individual irons on the first one to find the “perfect” amount of time for the transfer to adhere completely, and had to lift the iron and reposition the steam holes so those areas were heated for the second portion of the transfer time. One stated that she used a “dry iron” (no steam holes, available online for about $30), and that it worked fine once she established the time needed to adhere properly. She also commented that if she was going to make more than a couple, she would definitely invest in an inexpensive heat press.

I’ve mentioned the upcoming change to a few customers I’ve spoken with recently when they called to place an order, and many of them have asked how we were going to handle the switchover. We have plenty of shapes cut from the new material already in-house, and we are working now to inspect and count all of the remaining inventory of shapes in the old material. Once we’ve done that, we will set up two separate pages for the pre-cut shapes. One will be for the old material, and those will be sold at a discounted price while supplies last. There are only a few that are almost sold out. The new ones will be on a separate page, with new item codes, and the new pricing will be shown on those pages. We are almost out of 8″ x 12″ sheets of the old material, and if any remain when we switch the shapes over, they will be shown on the same page with the sheets from the new material. For the short term, until we are completely out of the old material, you will be able to choose between the two. And we will do our best to make sure the cart inventory quantities are correct, but keep in mind that we are human. (g)

When you place an order, if you’d like a sample of the new material, just mention that when you checkout. There’s a spot to click to add notes or comments to your order, and if you give us a couple of choices of shapes, we’ll try to make sure to put one of those in your order. If you are not ordering soon, you can request a sample by sending us a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a list of a few shapes you are interested in (limit one per address).

I hope you’ll be as excited about the new material as we are! I’m looking forward to hearing from those of you who are among the first to try it, because I know you’ll come up with some great new things to do with it.

 
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Now shipping all packages Carbon Neutral to help the environment!

Posted by OakCourt on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

As of today, we are pleased to announce that all outbound US packages will be shipped using UPS Carbon Neutral services. This means that UPS will purchase CO2 offsets to minimize the effect on the environment of the emissions generated by delivering packages. The offsets will support the work of projects such as reforestation and wastewater biogas-to-energy generation.

This UPS program is a good fit for our efforts to do business in more environmentally responsible ways. If you have any questions about their program, you can learn more about it at UPS’ website at www.ups.com (search “carbon neutral”).

 
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Blizzard threatening to affect business this week

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 31, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

As you may know, we’re located in the suburbs of Chicago…. and the entire Chicago area is now under a blizzard warning. Snow is to begin mid-day on Tuesday and continue through Wednesday afternoon. Accumulations of 18 to 24 inches are predicted, and at some points, snow is predicted to fall at the rate of three to four inches PER HOUR. Forecasters are warning that travel will be difficult or even impossible much of the rest of the week, so it’s very possible that UPS will be unable to pick up packages daily as they normally do. If the predictions are accurate, this storm will go down in the history books as one of the worst EVER in the Chicago area… it’s only going to take 16″ to make the top 5, and the record is 23″, set back in 1967.

We’re also facing the very real possibility of widespread power outages, since wind gusts are supposed to be up to 50 MPH, so please don’t panic if we are not able to be reached by phone or e-mail.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and rest assured that we will do everything possible to get back to business as usual as soon as possible. Orders placed this week will be shipped as soon as it’s humanly possible to do so. Please keep good thoughts for everyone in the Chicago area, and also for those in central Illinois and Indiana – they won’t get much snow, but they’re supposed to have a nasty ice storm instead.

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Fire Hydrant air freshener shapes are here!

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 25, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, New Products

They arrived late yesterday afternoon…. we don’t even have the boxes open yet, but I’ve put the inventory into the shopping cart. A number of you have been waiting for them – and they can be purchased now.

🙂

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Exciting new column on soapmaking!

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 24, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

I am so pleased to announce that I’ve been chosen by Examiner.com, a well-known online news source, as their new national Handmade Soap columnist. I will be writing articles on various topics pertaining to soapmaking, at least twice a week and sometimes more frequently.

To read my column, you can do so by going directly to it at this link – Handmade Soap Examiner. Please feel free to leave comments for me, or you can e-mail me to suggest topics you’d like to see addressed in future columns by e-mailing me at HandcraftedSoapExaminer (at) Gmail.com (take out the spaces and substitute @ for (at)). If you enjoy the column, please subscribe to it by using the link at the top of the page – you’ll receive an e-mail each time a new article is published. Or, for those of you who prefer reading news via RSS feeds, you will see a link to sign up for my column’s feed.

I intend to write on a good mix of topics, some of which will be geared towards hobbyists and potential new soapmakers. Others will be geared towards the business side of soapmaking. Melt and pour, cold process, hot process, and rebatching will be discussed, with the most emphasis on cold process and melt and pour because those are the areas in which I have the most experience and knowledge.

Examiner.com also permits their writers to review products and events, and I can post instructions for projects. If you have tried (or heard about) a neat tool or gadget handy for soapmaking, please contact the supplier or manufacturer and suggest they get in touch with me to arrange for me to review it. Even though I am a supplier, none of us can carry everything in our product lines, so I intend to showcase a wide variety of products from a variety of trustworthy sources.

If you enjoy the column, please share it with your soapmaking friends! You’re welcome to share the link anywhere you find it appropriate (but please don’t spam!)… Twitter, Facebook, forums you’re on, etc. The more people that read the column, the more space they’ll give us for discussion, and I get a bonus based on the number of readers – which I will promptly spend on more craft supplies to experiment with. I love to play with (oops… I mean “test”) neat stuff too! LOL

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Update to newsletter changes

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 24, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

Well, it hasn’t been an easy changeover, as we’d hoped it would be. (sigh) I tried to upload our existing list, which was last sent a newsletter in October, and AWeber rejected it. They said that too many of the e-mail addresses were no longer valid, and the list was “stale”.

As per their suggestion, I split the list into chunks of 50 or so addresses at a time, sorting the list based on the last purchase date and checking domain names to make sure they were still working. Each time I upload a chunk, I have to wait for them to approve it before I can upload another batch. I got back as far as customers from late 2008, then they decided that chunk had too many invalid e-mail addresses and stated that I should let the rest of the list go. I’m still working on sorting and testing addresses for some of you who haven’t actually purchased from us, but signed up for the newsletter.

So, if you have signed up in the past for our newsletter and have not yet received an e-mail asking you to confirm that you want to be added to the new list…. it’s because they won’t let me add you to the new list. Their only suggestion was for me to e-mail each of you directly and send you a link to sign up manually for the new list. I apologize for the inconvenience, but the reason they are so picky is that ISP’s like Yahoo and Hotmail put a black mark on AWeber’s reputation if they try to e-mail newsletters to too many “dead” e-mail addresses. They have a 99.3% delivery success record because they are so ruthless about pruning lists (even ones they haven’t mailed to yet like ours!). LOL

I am going to be sending those individual emails out, but since so many people tell me they didn’t receive the newsletters when we e-mailed them out directly, I’m guessing few people will actually get them. If you’re reading this and want to be on our mailing list – please use the box on the home page (about halfway down on the left, under the product category list) to sign up. All it takes is entering your e-mail address, and clicking the link in the confirmation e-mail that’s sent out automatically when you submit it.

Thanks for your patience – we have lots of exciting news that’s going to go out in the newsletter around the 1st of February! I can’t wait to share it with you!

 
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Newsletter Changes – VERY important!

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 7, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, Tips and Helpful Hints, Uncategorized

By far, the most common thing heard from customers I spoke with in 2010 (either by phone or e-mail) was that they don’t seem to be getting our e-mail newsletters.  I’m not totally surprised … my former “second job” relied on mass e-mailing thousands of people, and from tests we did, we quickly realized that some newsletter systems had MUCH better delivery rates than others.  Unfortunately, “in-house” systems like the one Oak Court Creations has been using (handled by our shopping cart system) seem to have the most delivery issues.  It’s a HUGE problem when sending e-mails to certain domain addresses – particularly AOL, Yahoo, Comcast and Hotmail – because they have filters in place that are hard to get through, unless the e-mails come from what they call “trusted senders” (i.e., paid e-mail list services).

So sometime later in January, we’ll be switching our newsletter delivery over to AWeber Communications, one of the leading e-mailing services.

THE BAD NEWS – When we import our old mailing list into AWeber’s system, everyone whose e-mail address is imported will be automatically sent an e-mail invitation that will require them to click a link to confirm that they actually do want to be on our mailing list.  AWeber requires this to prevents anyone from signing you up without your knowledge.  Anyone who doesn’t click the link in the confirmation e-mail won’t be added to the new mailing list.

THE GOOD NEWS – If you haven’t been receiving our newsletters in the past, when you confirm that you want to stay on the list (see above), you should actually start GETTING THEM!  (g) I’ve sent some test mailings to selected e-mail addresses, and they seem to be going through just fine, even to AOL and Yahoo addresses!

When we get everyone moved to the new list, there will also be a brand-new newsletter signup box on the front page of the website. If you want to receive our newsletters, but don’t receive the invitation e-mail for the new list, just re-subscribe by using that box.  We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but this is the only way to take care of most of the problems with non-delivery of the newsletters.

Our goal for 2011 is to be sending newsletters at least once a month, perhaps twice if things like new products warrant it.  We’ll also be offering subscriber-only coupons and specials occasionally – you won’t want to miss out on those, so if you get the invitation, be sure to click the link to confirm your subscription. Thanks in advance for your understanding!

PLEASE CLICK ON THE ACORN above if you would like to leave a comment.

 
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Happy New Year! Exciting new products here and more coming!

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 3, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, New Products, Uncategorized

Hi everyone!  Happy New Year!

2011 is already shaping up to be a VERY exciting one for us here at Oak Court Creations.  We have some new items already in the cart for your shopping pleasure , a few more that will be coming in shortly (in the next week or two), and more planned for the 1st Quarter that have already been budgeted for and ordered.

    What’s already here:

1) Restocking of all of the varieties of SFIC Melt-and-Pour Soap Base, and the addition of two more varieties – regular clear and regular white.  This has proven to be a great product line for us, and the word is getting around that we now have ALL of the varieties SFIC offers – there are SEVENTEEN!  One of our goals for 2011 is to bring in at least one or two custom kinds of base – they’ll make anything we want, but we have to buy 1000 lbs., so it’s definitely not something we can order on a whim.  LOL  If you have any ideas as to what kinds of custom soap base you’d be interested in, please e-mail them to us at suggestions(at)oakcourtcreations.com (take out the (at) and replace it with the @ sign).

2) Even MORE new Air Freshener Shapes!  Click on the pictures to go to the shopping cart, where you can zoom in on the images and purchase them.  The first five are available immediately – the fire hydrant will be here in mid-January (see below).












3) In response to requests, we updated the variety pack of air freshener shapes to reflect the new shapes – we now have *** 72 *** of them!  Wow… it seems like just yesterday that we introduced the first six shapes. You can now get one of each of the 72 shapes for one low price, so you can see, feel and touch them to help you decide which ones you want more of.

    What’s coming soon:

1) One more new air freshener shape – the fire hydrant.  It was supposed to be here with the other five shown above, but a minor problem with the die delayed the cutting process, and they should be here mid-January.  These adorable little hydrants will be perfect for both dog-related customers AND firemen!   I can easily see using these for fundraising activities, and the simple shape allows for lots of room to personalize them if desired.

2) Neem Oil – after a number of requests, we’ve found a reliable and reasonably priced source for Neem.  This oil is wonderful when used in soaps and lotions, and many swear by it for relief of skin conditions (although advertising the soap or lotion as being for that purpose isn’t allowed by the FDA).  The only drawback is that it’s rather…. well….. “fragrant” (some would come right out and say it’s stinky!).   But the scent CAN be overcome by using a strong fragrance oil or essential oil blend – we know, as we’ve done it! 🙂

 

CLICK ON THE ACORN at the top of this post if you’d like to leave us a comment – we love to hear from you!

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