Color–one of my favorite topics.
I find myself drawn to color, which probably explains why I like gardening, flower arranging and soapmaking. They allow me to enjoy creativity in coloring, whether blending or just enjoying the beautiful hues. The possibilities in creating color patterns are literally endless and I can admire photo after photo of colorful soaps that my fellow soapmakers have created. The same is true of candles. I’m a stickler about the color matching the scent, but I enjoy the many colors and designs in candles. At the same time, I want to see a lilac scented candle with lots of purple. Don’t confuse me with something red!
One scent/color combo that I find disconcerting is peppermint. Have you noticed that it can be red, blue, or green? How confusing. Give me something easy like lemon. The soap or candle will be yellow; but, simple, common peppermint, and I have three choices! It can really wear on a person trying to decide which color to use in a case like this.
Quite often, a scent doesn’t conjure up an obvious color. As a matter of fact, I recently made a soap using a sandalwood vanilla fragrance. What color should it be? I think it should be a light brown, because sandalwood is a tree and tree trunks are brown. Also, vanilla beans are brown and the scent will turn the product brown, so I’m just being realistic. I ended up making it light brown and blue. Why blue? I don’t know. I just liked the blend, and thought it would be appropriate for a unisex soap. You might say I’m breaking my own rules, and I am. In my defense, however, I do attempt to offer my customers a variety of colors so that if they’re looking for a soap to match the bathroom or kitchen, I have it and for some reason, I don’t offer much in blue.
Do you feel the same way about color? Must you color your soap and candles, or is it unimportant to you? If you use colorants, what are your favorite ones?
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Remember back to the days when you first began to make soap or candles. For some of you, it’s a distant memory. For others, it’s easily recaptured. Regardless of the time and path traveled from then until now, try to remember how “green” you were– maybe far enough back that “green” only meant the color or that you were new to the craft! Are you remembering how confusing everything was, how many terms you had to learn, how to procure the equipment and supplies? Remember carefully studying the safety tips others gave you? I want you to put yourself in that place again for a moment.
Why? I have a couple of reasons in mind; one of them is empathy. If you can remember how much there was to learn and the trepidation that you felt at the beginning, you can feel empathy for the newbies you run across. Yes, it may feel as if you’ve answered a certain question a hundred times and yes, it might seem obvious what the answer is to another. Nevertheless, you can answer that question or help the person figure out the answer, paying back what has been given to you.
I don’t have to tell you that soap and candlemaking have been serious industries and crafts for centuries, their secrets closely protected and passed on to future generations. Just as in the past, this vital information must be passed on to others now, so the crafts will be preserved for the future, which is my second reason for asking you to think about where you began. I personally remember many teachers I had–Rita Scheu of TLC Soaps and many others I “met” online who taught and encouraged me along the way. Indeed, I’m not finished learning. Just a few days ago, I asked a question which other soap makers helped me with, and that knowledge will make me a better soapmaker.
Potential and beginning soap and candle makers these days face a different challenge than many of us faced. Before the explosion of the internet, instruction was difficult to find. Today, they are barraged with information, much of it inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst. If you can lend some encouragement along the way and show newbies where they can find good information (Saponifier), you’ll be doing them, the craft, and you, a world of good!
Until next time, bubbles up!
We soapmakers love our oils, do we not?
Many of us like to try a wide variety of oils and become connoisseurs, learning the color, viscosity, and nutrients found in each of them. Those of us who make other bath and body products, even more so. We want the best oils for a balanced bar of soap, for the perfect consistency of lotion, for massage, and a host of other products. They are, indeed, a mainstay of our businesses or hobbies.
One of my favorite oils for soap and for other body products is sunflower seed oil. When we visited my city’s farmers’ market this summer, I gazed lovingly at the bottles of golden liquid sunshine offered there and had an interesting discussion with the vendors about how nice it was for soapmaking, as well as for cooking.
Why do I like it so much? One reason is because it has a nice skin feel, being light and not too greasy. It contains tocopherols, vitamin B, and trace minerals. Sunflower oil is a beautiful color and creates an almost-white soap used alone. The imagery of fields of golden sunflowers lifting their face up to the sun is warm and inviting, and cheerful, at the same time. What’s not to like? The fact that it is readily available and cost-effective helps, as well.
What about you? Tell us about one of your favorite oils.
What kind of soapmaker or chandler do you consider yourself?
Are you an artist, creating and offering soaps and/or candles that are intricate and beautiful pieces of art that customers are more likely to admire on a shelf than to use? Or, are you a pragmatic artisan, offering to-be-used, but plainer soaps or votives and tealights?
At first, I made melt and pour soap and loved coming up with new ideas for making beautiful soaps. People purchased them as gifts or to display in their bathrooms, for the most part. Later, I learned CP soapmaking but still wanted to make artistic soaps. In talking with a fellow soapmaker, however, she offered her observation that plainer soaps sold better. The purchaser was more likely to use them and come back for more, not to mention the fact that they took less time to make so there was more profit to be made. Since I was having trouble mastering the swirl, I quickly decided the plainer but more profitable, artisan route was for me. I did miss the fancy m&p soaps and decided to make them in a few seasonal soaps if I got around to it, and I’m still working on my swirls and other techniques that challenge my creative side, but that is no longer my focus. Part of me wants to do more, but the business side tells me to concentrate on my main product.
I am not a chandler, but have seen others’ work, and the artistic vs. artisan influence is certainly at work there. I admire the candles that look like sumptuous desserts, for instance, but are unlikely to be burned, and I also admire a nicely made candle in a tin or a votive that burns well and makes the room smell pleasant.
One is not intrinsically superior to the other; it’s more of a preference, a market, and what one finds fulfilling, but just in case it’s not clear, here is how I separate artistic from artisan:
Artistic: not the basic bar or candle; features colors, swirls, shapes, and other visual appeal designed to delight the eyes.
Artisan: more of the basic geometric bar or candle. Although visually appealing, not designed for artistic market. Designed for everyday use, instead. Focus is on the performance of the product.
Of course, both are artisans. Neither one is intrinsically superior to the other; it’s a preference, a market, or what one finds personally fulfilling.
So, here’s my question: what do you do? Do you strongly prefer artistic soap and/or candle making or are you an artisan? Perhaps you’ve combined the two?
Until next time, happy suds and wax!
Have you made whipped soap?
I’ve been perusing sites recently, and thought I’d share a few with you:
http://nizzymoulds.com/Whipped/WhippedSoapGallery.htm (this one is classic)
Ooh, look at that beautiful soap! I get excited about trying it just looking at the pictures. Although I should admit to myself that it won’t happen until after the holidays, I have a tiny glimmer of hope that I’ll sneak in a batch somewhere here soon. It keeps me going. For you, is it the fact that the soap floats or the creative possibilities that intrigue you? I am definitely part of the creative possibilities camp.
LaShonda Tyree did a demo in July at the NY Bubbles & Blazes Gathering and it looked easy enough, so I don’t have any qualms about trying it, I just haven’t. I love the possibilities with color and the impressive confection-like soaps that can be made with whipped soap, and am betting that anyone with cake decorating experience would go wild with the possibilities. If you do decide to try it, be sure to read the instructions carefully to be safe. Careless mixing or not paying attention to the length of time the soap needs to saponify and cure could be your undoing–but then, we soapmakers are used to exercising caution!
What about you? Have you tried it, are you interested, is it on your soapmaking bucket list? If you have tried it, what do you think of the technique? Any drawbacks or special cautions you’d like to share? Tell us.
Most of us, I believe, would consider cold process soap to be the standard, or most common method of soapmaking among those who are creating soap using lye and oils.
Nevertheless, there are quite a few variations on this theme, not to mention other types of soap altogether.
I recently watched whipped soap being made and soap being felted. The whipped soap we worked with was simply done, but I have seen on the internet, soaps that look like bakery creations using whipped soap. The felted bars are like having the washcloth on the soap, and can be done mixing colors and patterns. Some theorized that these would be particularly helpful for the elderly as they make holding on to the soap easier than a plain, slick bar.
My favorite soapmaking method is CPOP (cold process, oven process). Some love the instantaneous results of HP (hot process). Still others, though few it seems, rebatch or handmill each of their batches, noting with confidence that their additives are not being destroyed by the lye.
As if that’s not enough, we have liquid soap, made with potassium hydroxide (KOH) rather than sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Naturally, then, why not a combination of KOH soap and NaOH soap, and call it cream soap?
So, you’re afraid to work with lye or your work is very artistic. In this case, melt & pour, sometimes known as glycerin soap, is your soap of choice. Not that I haven’t seen amazing works of art with lye soaps, but it’s a different kind of artistry that is created with m&p, and many use it for special effects, like the adorable soap I just received. It has a solid base, a cow embed in the middle, which is clear, and then a solid top. Who wouldn’t love that?
What types have I missed? What’s your favorite? What haven’t you tried that you would like to?
One reader, Dawn, recently commented on the last blog post, where one company’s natural soaps was mentioned from our Soapers’ Showcase. Dawn questioned soapmakers’ use of the term, “natural.” Here is what she posted:
“Since you brought up the subject, maybe we need to look into natural again. When making my soap, I do not like to use 100% natural everything because it stifles me in color and fragrance. I think most Americans do not like the smell of most essential oils and prefer the more mellow fragrance oils or a blend of essential and fragrance oils. Until glitter is 100% natural, I will have problems making 100% natural soaps. When using mica, oxide, and lab colors in soap, it makes soap less natural. So us in the soap industry should state that our soaps are mostly natural or 95% or what ever percentage natural, should we not? Do some of you feel this way, or do you think that if we should just say fragrance and coloring on our list of ingredients and be fine with that?”
Dawn brought up an excellent question, though akin to opening Pandora’s Box. I do want to emphasize that I don’t believe that Dawn was stating that the soap in the Showcase was less than natural, just that reading about these soaps caused her to think about the topic of natural soap. Unfortunately, no simple answer to the dilemma exists.
Why this lack of definition? In short, it is because we have no official definition of natural. We all think we know it when we see it, and yet we do not all agree. Indeed, the more we learn about cosmetic ingredients, the more complicated the decision becomes. Additionally, the FDA has no legal definition of what constitutes natural ingredients in cosmetics.
We might, in a broad sense, consider anything that comes from the earth to be natural; but soon, we are faced with deciding how much processing in a product is tolerable before it no longer fits the category of natural. Many cosmetic ingredients are derived from something most of us would consider natural, some of our foamers being a prime example. At what point did these ingredients cross over from being natural to being synthetic? Or are they still natural? Are essential oils less than natural because of the processing required to obtain them? Who’s to say?
Hence, natural is left to individual discretion. Indeed, at least one group who is has undertaken the task of defining natural, but they are not a governing body, so their opinions are not official or binding. Thus, it again boils down to individual thoughts and opinions.
The best I can offer, then, is that each soapmaker must search his or her own conscience regarding labeling and claims, regardless of what others do. Do you feel truthful about using the term, “natural,” even though you have added fragrance oil and colorant? If you use no more than 5% of what you consider natural ingredients, for instance, do you feel truthful in offering your customers, “natural” soap? How do you feel about modern, lab-derived sodium hydroxide?
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughtful and civil opinions.
We’ve talked about adding milk and herbs to soap, but what about vegetables and fruit? Perhaps you add a few other foods, as well.
In my soapmaking adventures, I’ve added many. Cucumber is a mainstay; it’s cooling effect a real favorite for myself and others. Others I’ve used include, in no particular order: strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, zucchini (and who doesn’t need another way to use zucchini?), tomatoes, apples, egg yolks, and pumpkin. As if that’s not enough, I’ve got pureed carrots in my freezer at this very moment, just waiting their turn.
Why do I add them? I add them for a few different reasons, such as the texture they add, the “good stuff” in the food, and even as a marketing tool. If it adds a cleansing or cosmetic feature to my soap, it’s fair game. Medical claims, of course, are off-limits. The color they add is sometimes a plus, but not always.
Let’s take, for example, the cucumber soap I spoke of previously. I prefer to scoop out the seeds, but leave the rest intact, and find that the specks of peel lend a lovely effect to the soap, as well as making it feel fresh and clean. Soap is even more delightful with cukes.
Are you a fan of adding foods to your soap? What do you add, and why?
Adding herbs to soap is nothing new, but always fun to experiment with!
They are added for the color they impart, as well as for the attributes they contribute to soap. They can be added using several different methods, as well.
Among the herbs I’ve used in soapmaking, using one method or another, are the following. In parentheses are the reasons I’ve used them.
- Comfrey (skin)
- Parsley (color)
- Dill (color, exfoliant)
- Marshmallow Root (mucilage, exfoliation)
- Calendula (skin, color)
- Chamomile (skin, exfoliant)
- Sandalwood Powder (skin, color)
- Cornsilk (skin, color)
- Plantain (skin)
- Chickweed (skin)
- Turmeric (skin, color)
- Paprika (just a touch for color!)
- Lavender (skin)
- Annatto Seed (color)
- Green Tea (skin, color)
- Rooibos Tea (skin, color)
- Poppy Seeds (exfoliation)
- Cornmeal (exfoliation)
The methods for using herbs in soap:
1. Make a tea with the herb and use it as the water amount.
2. Powder the herb and add it at trace
3. Make an oil infusion with the herb. Make it 4 – 6 weeks ahead by infusing the herb in the oil and then using it as one of your soaping oils, or add the herb as you heat the soapmaking oils and remove the herbs once infused.
You might be asking why soapmakers use different methods, rather than choosing one. The answer is complicated, but in short, the method is chosen because it yields the best results–the best color, the strongest infusion, or is easier to use a certain way.
For instance, Marshmallow root is best extracted in water, so soaking the material in water overnight yields the best mucilage that will make the soap most gentle on the skin, rather “slippery,” if you will. Of course, powdered root will add exfoliation, so if that’s your goal, simply add it at trace.
The possibilities for using herbs in soapmaking are virtually endless. We’d love to hear what herbs you use and how you use them!
Do you make milk soaps? If so, what kind and what do they add to your soaps that you like? Both animal and vegetable milks count, for the sake of this discussion.
I love my milk soaps, although my experience has been limited to goat’s milk or coconut milk. I feel that they add to the creaminess of the lather and add a richer feel to the soap, making it more moisturizing.
Goat’s milk has some exfoliant value, as well as vitamins A and D. Coconut milk is rich in minerals and Vitamin C, Niacin, Folate and phytosterols. Both are chock full of skin-loving fatty acids. Good stuff!
I haven’t researched cow’s milk or used it in soap, but I’m beginning to think I should. Of course, it also contains minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids, so why not? The only factors that have held me back are the fact that cow’s milk is so common and that organic cow’s milk is so expensive.
Along those lines, I know of others who have used sour cream, yogurt, and butter, among animal choices. I have even seen milk made from human breast milk! Vegetable sources include almond milk, soy milk, and rice, most commonly. I have heard high praise for the animal products mentioned, but not much regarding the vegetable milks. If you have tried them, please share your experience! We’d love to know.
One very good book on this topic is, “Milk Soapmaking,” by Anne L. Watson. A review of it is in a past issue of the magazine in case you’d like to know more.
I hope this short discussion has motivated you to get out your soap pot and create!