Monday, March 30, 2015

Soap au Naturale

Lately I've been on a quest to make my natural soaps even MORE natural.  Every now and again I get questions from potential customers about how my soap is made, and I've found that some people have a real aversion to fragrance oils. While I know that I get my fragrance oils from high quality, reputable sources, some people are just really uncomfortable with soaps that use fragrance oils instead of essential oils. Since there's clearly a market for essential oil soaps, I've been trying my hand at some new, more natural, techniques and materials.

From Top to Bottom:  Grapefruit Orange Soap, Oatmeal Honey Soap, Mother Earth Soap

First, I wanted to incorporate more essential oil soaps into my lineup and on my Etsy shop.  I ordered some additional essential oils, and used what I had on hand while I waited for my shipment.  The first of my au naturale soaps was Grapefruit Orange.

Grapefruit Orange Soap

I used orange 15x, grapefruit, and lemon essential oils in this one.  I was a little bit concerned about scent retention, since citrus essential oils can tend to fade over time.  I made this batch almost two weeks ago, and so far the scent is stable.  Of course, time will tell on this one! For colorant I used titanium dioxide and iron oxides, which I personally feel fall into the "natural" category.*  I'm always trying to perfect my design techniques, so I used a hanger swirl with this batch.

Next in my pursuit of a more natural soap, I decided to try my hand at making a rustic hot process soap. I'm not usually a fan of hot process.  I started out doing melt and pour soaps, and quickly moved on to cold process and never looked back.  I've only done hot process a few times, with a few rebatches here and there as needed.

Hot Process Oatmeal Honey Soap

The other day I was in Teresa Deleen's jewelry shop here in Des Moines, WA (she has some awesome jewelry, by the way) and saw that she had handmade soap for sale.  I'm always up for trying a competitor's product, so I bought some.  I'll be honest; I wanted to hate the soap.  I wanted to feel superior and scoff at the competitor's crappy product.  Imagine my disappointment when I tried the soap and it was a really, really nice bar of hot process soap. Feeling competitive and deflated, I immediately hunted down a recipe for Hot Process Oatmeal Honey Soap from The Nerdy Farm Wife's website.  I'm so glad that I did! Her blog is amazing, and the soap turned out so well.  The great part about hot process soap is that it's ready to use right away (no four week cure time like cold process soap).  After this batch I didn't feel so put out by my competitor's fantastic soap!

Lastly, I decided to play with some natural colorants.  I ordered some madder root and alkanet powders, but in the meantime, went to my spice rack for inspiration. Armed with dried parsley, a mortar, and pestle I got to work!  I used an essential oil blend of bergamot, cassia, cedarwood, nutmeg, lavandin, and peppermint and called this one Mother Earth.

Mother Earth Soap colored with dried parsley
With my recent essential oil purchase, I'll be sure to have more au naturale soaps to show off soon.

P.S.  I'm going to be doing a giveaway soon, so if you like my blog, it would mean the world to me if you would subscribe!  There's a link on my landing page to subscribe via e-mail. If you just get too many e-mails, you can follow me on Google+FacebookTwitterPinterest, YouTube, or Instagram. Thanks so much!

*Generally speaking, I use mica and iron oxides, ultramarines, and titanium dioxide to color my soaps (along with other natural colorants like coffee, calendula petals, etc.). Iron oxides are naturally occurring, however, when found in nature they contain impurities that would be dangerous. Oxides used in cosmetics are "nature identical" which means it has the same structural components, but is created in a lab to ensure the product is free of impurities. Because the term "all natural" is not regulated, it is up to each individual to determine what they consider natural. Oxides are generally recognized as being a natural product. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Landscape Soap - Soap Challenge Club Submission

This is the first time I've participated in the Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge Club.  Our challenge this month was to find a photo or drawing of a landscape scene and recreate it using cold process soap.  I've never tried to recreate an image in my soap before, usually opting to design something of my own, so this was a real learning experience and a challenge for me!

Preparing to be challenged!

I decided early on that I wanted to do a beach landscape.  I grew up on the Oregon coast and now live near the Puget Sound in Washington state, so beach living is just a part of who I am.  I really got hung up on choosing which beach to use as inspiration!  The original work that inspired my soap is a lovely landscape painting called Beach Dreams by artist, Katie Larner.  The piece can be found on her website, along with some other absolutely gorgeous paintings.  I would highly recommend checking them out!  I loved that this piece evoked whatever beachy feelings I wanted to project upon it.  The calmness and serenity really came through, and I loved that I could identify this piece with both my childhood beach memories, and my adult ones.

Beach Dreams, by artist, Katie Larner (KL Studio Art can be found at

With this piece, I felt that color blending was what really brought it to life.  I separated the piece into seven zones in which I'd incorporate different color blends.  I used oxides, micas, and some lake colors (which I don't normally use because they have ingredients that I feel are less-than-natural, but they certainly make lovely colors!).

The beginning of my color palette.

I layered each color very carefully on top of each other, smoothing the soap out as if I was frosting a cake.  I don't think I achieved the graceful color blending that Ms. Larner did, but I really liked how my colors complemented each other within the same palette.  I also had a challenge with proportions. The painting was more square, and I was using a loaf mold, which ended up skewing the overall perspective of the piece.

Layering one color over the next and smoothing it over like frosting on a cake.
I ended up using some cocoa powder for the darkest color in the center, which I mixed with some cobalt blue oxide powder.

Cocoa powder for color in the middle section, mixed with cobalt blue oxide.

I scented the soap with Pure Amber, which reminded me of the smell of suntan lotion after it's been applied and you've had a chance to bake in the sun for a while.  It's subtle, but so fitting for a serene beach motif.  My one disappointment with this project is that one of my blue oxides morphed into a lavender purple, which made my finished product look more like a mountain scene than a beach landscape.  All in all, I'm proud of my work, and feel like a better soap maker for having participated in such a fun challenge!

The finished product!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

On Scent and Memory

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived. The odors of fruits waft me to my southern hoe, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard. Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief. Even as I think of smells, my nose is full of scents that start awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening fields far away."  
- Helen Keller

Because of the way our bodies are wired, our sense of smell is intimately connected with our memories and emotions.  Since we encounter most new smells when we're young, certain scents can take us back in time to memories that you associate with that fragrance.  For example, smelling roses always reminds me of my grandmother's gorgeous patio garden.  She had quite a green thumb, and I can almost smell her Hawaiian Sunset roses by just thinking about them.

Lots of citrus soaps on my drying rack right now!

Now that spring is almost here, I'm finding that I want to switch up the soaps I'm using in our house to brighter scents, sunnier scents.  I'm so into citrus these days!  It reminds me of sitting on my deck with a cold drink and a good book in the sunshine while I listen to my two adorable kiddos playing in the back yard.  I just posted a citrus-scented Energy soap to my Etsy shop, and I also have Lemongrass, Fresh Squeezed Oranges, Coconut Lime Verbena, and Cranberry, Fig & Orange soaps on my curing rack.  Next, I'm going to make a soap using only orange and pink grapefruit essential oils.  I can almost smell it now!

What smells bring back particular memories or feelings for you?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Upcoming Events in My Soapy World

This Spring is sure gearing up to be busy!  I've decided to participate in this month's Soap Challenge Club, hosted by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks.  This month's challenge is to find a landscape photograph and create a soap design that matches the picture.  I'll be blogging about the entire creation process in the next week or so, but I'm still trying to decide on a photo.  I've seen entries from some prior challenges, and there are some incredibly skilled soapmakers in this group!

I've also been playing around with new fragrances and techniques.  The fabled butterfly swirl, created by Zahida of Handmade in Florida, is one design that I'd wanted to try for a while, but had to watch YouTube videos (over and over again) until I felt confident enough to try it out.  For my first attempt, I really feel like it was a success!  I wish I would have chosen brighter colors for contrast, but I think the idea came through in the final design just fine.  This is a design I'll definitely be revisiting!

Butterfly swirl, first attempt.  This one is scented with Fresh Squeezed Oranges from Nature's Garden.
Later this month I'll be vending at Springfest in Burien, Washington.  It's a vintage market with local crafters and merchants, food trucks, craft workshops, and all kinds of fun!  If you're in the Seattle area, I'd love to have you stop by and say hello!

When:     Saturday, March 28, 2015
Where:    Burien Community Center, 14700 6th Ave. SW, Burien, WA, 98166
Who:       Local artists, collectors, and foodies

Lastly, thank you for reading my blog!  When I started selling soap on my Etsy shop four months ago, I had no idea my little hobby would begin to transform into a business that's dangerously close to being financially solvent.  For my blog readers, here's a coupon code for 15% off of your order on my site!  Just enter SOAPBLOG at checkout.