Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Soap Challenge Club - The Peacock Swirl

If you looked around my house you'd probably pick up on something quite quickly. Peacocks, I like them. Really, I love them. I've pictures hanging in my soap room of them. Plates, cups and platters dot my shelves. The colours of their plumage make up my home's colour scheme. You could call it an obsession.

Fitting that the first challenge of the club would be the peacock swirl. Interestingly, I hadn't tried this technique before this past week. Why? I honestly don't know. In any case, I made my first attempt last night. One of the really nice aspects of this technique is that you can use nasty, accelerating scents without issue. The trick is that you only scent the base layer and you squeeze out your many layers of stripes on top of that. You only swirl the stripes. Since you don't add the scent to the colours used for your stripes, it stays fluid. And if you don't mix your batter past a water thin emulsification, it's be very fluid for a very long time.

My first batch for this technique was made with a simple blend of sweet pea and cherry blossom. I've dubbed it Sweet Blossom; yes, I know, my creativity runneth over. For the purpose of my swirl, I didn't make a fancy comb or anything, I just used my trusty chopstick. It worked so I'll probably stick with this for now. The only real goof in making this soap is that I dropped my divider into the freshly swirled soap so a bit of the swirl got smudged. Oh well. I'm really quite happy with the soap.

Here we are:

The soap, while unmolded, is still a bit soft for manhandling so "cut" pictures will wait for now.

Now, the soap I am entering in the Challenge is as of yet unnamed and very fresh in the mold. I just poured it in fact: I haven't even cleaned up yet. The scent is coconut lemongrass with a twist, the addition of a creamy vanilla and sweet lemon blossoms. This is the soap that almost wasn't. After I'd put down the first few layers of colour I realized that there was a layer of oil floating above the soap. My reaction was literally: "SHIT! It's ricing!" Thankfully I was able to dump it back into my mold and stink blend it back together. Only the scented layer riced so my individual colours were fine. As a side note, my base is coloured a rich royal blue. Once the base was back together everything went perfectly. To say I am happy with the end results is an understatement.

It will take me some seriously meditation and mediation with the various aspects of my nature to choose the name for this soap. It can't just be any name; it has to be THE name. ::) That said, here it is. My perfectly peacock soap.

The quill in the picture is one of my most loved possessions. I am so happy with the colours of the soap matching so perfectly with the quill!

So that's it. I am fully in love with this technique. I'm sure no one is surprised.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

In Augural Batches - I'm Finally Home

Two things make a place home for me, my cats and my soap making supplies. For the bulk of the May, I had neither. Admittedly, I do tend to move a bit of a time but as of last week the cats are here and getting to know the new space. As of today I have all my supplies here and all of it put away, nice and organized. So I'm officially home.

I christened my new space with not one but two batches of soap and a quick batch of bubble bath. The bubble bath was more a whim. I'm out of it and I wanted a bubble bath so naturally I whipped up a bottle. The soaps are completely different beasts from one and the other. One is a castile, a column swirl, scented with amber, neroli, orange peel, chamomile and bergamot. Originally it was meant to simply be neroli and amber but I discovered I was nearly out of my neroli fo so I made a broader blend. The other soap is a shaving soap. This has been a project of mine for a while and I only just made the first batch. Yes. I've been researching the subject to death for months and I've finally made  a batch. The recipe includes black cocoa butter and kokum butters with avocado, olive and coconut oil. I made it with a combination of sodium and potassium hydroxides. Where most people seem to favour more potassium hydroxide than sodium hydroxide, I decided to go with more sodium hydroxide. So far the results are good. Really good actually. The bars are truly firm and can survive being lathered directly onto the skin. Naturally, I need to play around with the recipe and the method for a while yet but I'm gratified that my research seems to have had good results.

I've got to say. It's good to be home.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Delays and a Change of Location

I haven't spoken much of my impending launch. Partially, that's because it's been delayed a bit. There's a backlog in some bureaucratic channels (nothing bad, just paperwork) and even more, I'm moving. The move is sudden. I've only known for the last two weeks. This is also not a bad thing at all. Just sudden. Actually, it's a very good thing. In this new place I'll be getting my own soap room. It won't have a sink but lots of space for curing shelves, my ingredient shelves, and a work bench, and really that's all I have to have. I'll visit the kitchen for the sink XD.

My future landlord is a fan of handmade soap, how awesome is that? I can paint if I want to, though I'll probably use my collection of pictures instead. So launching is delayed until I can get licensing in this new city, get my lair set up. But there is all the time in the world. And honestly, I'm going to have a SOAP LAIR. Not much could kill my mood at this point.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Final Week of The Soap Challenge

This is the final week of the Soap Challenge. I'm kind of sad. In taking up this challenge I was exposed to colouring techniques that I had never tried. Each of these techniques will remain in my creative arsenal for future batches. My favourites were the Tiger Stripe, and this week's technique, the Jaguar Spot Swirl. When I think about it, my life long love of all things animal print may be to blame for these two techniques becoming my new favourites.

The single most difficult thing, for me, about this technique was getting the soap to a medium trace. As you have probably figured out, I tend to avoid more than the bare
st trace for the most part. This largely suites my preferred swirling methods. However this would not at all serve the Jaguar Spot. So I stick blended and stick blended my black little heart out and got my soap to the appropriate stage of trace. I chose obedient scent combination as to avoid any acceleration. The last thing you ever want when you've got your soap at a medium trace is for it to start moving on you. Soap on a stick can happen in a heart beat.

For the first soap, which I made on Sunday, I chose to blend sandalwood, dark vanilla, amber and assorted woods to create Wild About You. The moment I read up on this swirl, I wanted to do a soap in Jaguar colours. So the base of this soap is a deep yellow and the spots are black and brown. When I cut this soap Monday morning I was thrilled with the results. Naturally this meant I HAD to make another attempt.

This second soap was in my minds eye before I even weighed my oils. Lime green and pink spots in a white base, what could be more fun? For this soap I chose to blend a mix of melons and kiwis. It's sweet and succulent. I've dubbed the soap Melon Mayhem. I did two lines of spots in each layer of this soap. They remind me of eyes, eerie, and very entertaining. There's some TD crackling the the centre of the parts. But not bad at all. What say you folks, should I make another batch using the Jaguar Spot Swirl?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Better Late Than Never - Week 3 of the Soap Challenge.

I've been MIA for the last two weeks. My day job, and an impromptu vacation to Whistler kept me away from the blog. So I won't talk long, but I want to present the two soaps I made using the oil mica soap top swirl.

As it happens I've used this swirl on more than one occasions. So to switch things up for myself I decided to use this swirl as the sole means for decorating my batches. Instead of doing these batches in my log mold I decided to use my slab mold. Which means for these soaps I used my castile recipe. I'm a bit of an odd duck. I like the shape of my soaps to identify them from one recipe to another. So all my log mold batches are made with my "trinity" or three oil recipe and all the batches made in my slab mold are castile. The soaps are very, very different shapes.

In any case. I made these two batches and let my Facebook friends pic which soap I add to the link up at Amy Warden's blog. These are the soaps.

The winner of the vote, Mére:

This is a special soap I made with lavender, jasmine sambac and rose floral waxes. Special, because it's for the mother's in my life. The micas are from TKB Trading and Voyageur.

The runner up, Io:

This soap is a coconut and lemongrass blend. The colours were inspired by the moon Io. The micas are from TKB Trading, and you guessed it, Voyageur. :)

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Week Two of the Soap Challenge

This is the second week of the Soap Challenge brought to the soaping world by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks. Once again, the challenge brings a swirling method that I've never attempted. Okay, that's not technically ENTIRELY true.

The challenge this week is the Elemental Swirl first documented by the Otion Soap Blog. It's a combination of two in the pot swirls separated by a mica vein. The separate in the pot swirls are to be contrasting colours.

I've made plenty of in the pot swirls, but never two in one batch and I rarely attempt mica veins. So this challenge was a combination of the familiar and the foreign. Which is excellent, actually.

In the challenge we were all advised to pick a slow moving fragrance. Time, you see, is a factor in this swirl. Well, I've never been one for playing it safe in mixing fragrances and today's batch was no different. Although I did not through all condition to the wind.

My sister requested a batch for a friend of her's who has a love affair with the coast. I didn't have any salt air notes in my stash but I think I came up with something intriguing. The blend is a combination of dried leaves, freshly cut grass, spring rains and a touch of vetiver and wildflowers. It reminds me of misting rains at Golden Ears, the mountain that lays at the eastern edge of Maple Ridge.

In any case, the fragrance blend contains a whole lot of scent components that are not exactly cooperative. Did that dissuade me from making this blend for this swirl! Never!

My colour choices are not as contrasting as they could be but that was intentional. My bottom layer is a combination of three purples, two shades of blue and teal. The mica fain is a metallic red. I topped the soap with a light sprinkle of red and gold glitter.

At the time of the pour, the purples were fainter, and redder than I wanted. The blues were paler too. After the soap had been sitting in the mold for a while I realized that I'd made an amateurish mistake with my colourants. I used half as much as I normally would unintentionally. Bad math. Sigh.

In any case, the soap cut is both ugly and pretty. I had TD explosions instead of just TD rivers and the in the bottom layer it sort of looks like pig fat. Not exactly attractive. Swirl-wise, the soap is nice, the top layer is water-like and pretty. The bottom is gross. If I had had enough time this week to take another shot at this soap I would have. Time was simply not on my side this week.

So here it is:

What I will likely end up doing with this soap is cutting the top layer off and turning it into chunks for another soap. For now it's just... This.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

What? Another Soap Video?

Another day, another soap video.

The weather has been very summery these last couple of days. We'll have a cold snap again before long and certainly more rain but for now it's been really quite nice. In any case I took advantage of a day off and made a new soap video. Better lighting this time, that is for certain.

In the video I called the soap my take on a droplet swirl but in truth the swirl doesn't have much in common with a droplet swirl other than you pour coloured batter into your mold that is already mostly filled with the main colour. The similarities end there. So I suppose I'm just going to call this the gravity swirl in all future uses. I can't imagine it's all that original. It's painfully simple but I like the effect so that is pretty much that. It's not unlike my in the mold swirl except that you pour the batter into the mold at different heights so the colours penetrate to different depths.

The soap is Neroli, Orange Peel, Bergamot and Chamomile. I have a certain love affair going on for those last two notes. I'm using them a lot lately. The soaps don't end up smelling the same or anything. It is the blender in me I suppose. I find notes I like and I use them in different ways to enjoy the notes.

In any case, Playing with Gravity:

Since I am entertained making these videos, and trying to improve on them, I'll probably post another one next week. For now I am giddily awaiting the next Soap Challenge.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Soap Challenge 2013 - Week 1 - The Tiger Stripe

For the first time I am participating in the Soap Challenge. The Challenge is hosted by Great Cakes Soapworks. Each week will have a new soap making method that all those involved in the challenge will attempt to create. This is week one. Before this year I had heard of the challenge but never really known how to participate, when it was held, ect. It's going to to be a lot of fun to try new methods. I love an excuse to experiment and of course to soap.

Week #1: The Tiger Stripe.

This technique was created by Kenna of Amathia Soapworks. Her results are beautiful and I am hoping that mine are in anyway close as good.

I let my soap get to too thick a trace for my first batch. However, it worked rather well.

Attempt #1 In the mold:

Attempt # 1 Cut:

As it happens, this soap glows in the dark, namely the lighter segments. I'll take a glow in the dark photo in the future when I am more comfortable manhandling the soap.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A Soap Video

Soaping one handed is not my forte. This has been proven once again as I just made a video of my process for my Youtube channel. It's nothing exciting, the lighting is horrible but I will share it anyway at the end of this post. I am not a coordinated person. Actually, I'm accident prone. So soaping one handed is awkward at best and clumsy at worst but how do we ever get better at anything with a lot of repetition, aka practice. The videos will only be filmed with batches that I've soaped during daylight hours given lighting and all. This will mean that only one or two batches a week will probably be possible to film. I have more “days” off my day job that are actually nights off so I tend to soap around 2am.

In any case, this is the video:

It's really shaky and I need to keep the camera where it is showing you something useful but for my first video, it could be a lot worse.

I still haven't finished my product photography. It's now become my morning after work project. Actually, that may not be a bad way to wind down.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Building a Website

This is not my favourite part of the job. I love making soap. I truly love it. From melting my oils and mixing my lye solution to blending my scents and adding my colourants, I love every step. Labeling and packaging are not even particularly obnoxious chores. The design aspect of these ongoing, interconnected projects is a therapeutic process that I delve into when I am either too tired or too sick to soap. Building my website is considerably less therapeutic.

There are so many steps to it and I can often find myself a little overwhelmed. The big step I need to get on with is stock photography. I have the stock, not all of it, but much of it made, cured and waiting. I can't list the stock for sale without pictures, etc. Really, I need to get on with this. But I am still experimenting with just what I want my photos to look like, their core elements, etc. There is just enough of a perfectionist in me to say that we aren't there yet. The photos are not quite right.

The rain has abated for the most part these last few days. It's time to settle the photos and stock the website. Let's see if I can get this all done by the end of the week.

This is one of my experiments. Forgive the quality, it was photographed on my kitchen table at  8pm. The same layout but under natural light will be better.

The soap in question will either be known as Dew or Wet Grass and I made it last night. In any case I haven't decided on the name just yet.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The first harbinger of spring

I can never seem to keep up a blog to any reasonable degree. I'm starting this blog from scratch, a clean slate for a new year.

Currently, I'm sitting on my couch and listening to the rain as I wait for the oils and lye of tonight's batch to cool. The colours are sitting on the counter, mixed with oil, and ready to become a column swirl. Belladonna is one of my favourite scents, both sweet and herbaceous. Considering I am generally most drawn to florals, it is slightly odd that this fruity scent would be in my top three. But it is. It's a blend of sweet, juicy blackberries and dry, aromatic sage. It's been a year since I soaped this scent and I've missed it.

The planned soap will be purple, pink, green, and black. It should be eye catching. This is hardly my first batch of the year but in a sense it is my first batch of the spring. Early March is traditionally when spring starts here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The fact that it's raining does not make the weather any less spring light. When you live in a rain forest, rain is just par for the course. We probably won't see that much sun until June or July. The harbinger of spring, for me, is the robin. I spotted my first one of the year a few days ago. At the sight of the nimble little bird, winter became spring. Tonight has been my first proper chance to soap. Soap making may be my passion but my day job demands a good deal of attention.

I've set May as my goal month to launch my online store. I'm largely finished building the website and now I need to both make, and then photograph the stock. Much of it is made, but there is always going to be more. It's not like I don't enjoy having a reason to soap.

Product photography and packaging are both pains and pleasures to me. I'll need to devote the next dry day to photography. But of course, I'd rather be soaping.