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WAY Outside My Comfort Zone

soap column

Do you remember the feeling you get when you say “Yes” to something that you’ve never done before?

That initial wave of euphoria, followed by a weird, cold sensation at the pit of your stomach that comes from knowing that you’re about to embark on something unknown and unfamiliar.

I’ve been feeling that quite often lately. Mostly because I’ve been taking on OEM / private label orders, and having to get used to working with formulations that are from other parties.

I had one corporate customer whose 720-bar order I repeated twice at my own expense, because I wasn’t familiar the customised soap molds that were required for the job, and the resulting soap bars were either too small, got stuck in the molds, or ashed over so badly that they had to be rejected. Not only that, the card boxes meant for the soap bars refused to work with the double sided tape we were using, and only later were we advised to use a hot glue gun by the client. Four of our staff worked over 3 days to get the job done–and all that hard work was for nought.

It’s easy to get sidelined by the proverbial wrenches that get thrown into the works… But I count myself extremely lucky to have a great team of people working with me at the studio and the shop, and I believe that we are all trying to deliver professional results to everyone we come into contact with. Plus there is also the fun side to bootstrapping, doing all that you can with everything you’ve got.

Case in point:

soap column

We’ve been so busy churning out batch after batch of soap, that we ran out of curing racks–so we made do by stacking these 4 batches of Tangy Lavender we made for a wedding in a circular column on the floor instead. I’ve always wanted to make one of these! Now we had the perfect reason to. 🙂 The air circulation for a column like this is much better compared to the narrow spaces on a curing rack, so hopefully this means that the soap bars will dry out a little faster than expected. It is by no means an original idea (look up for soapmakers from the Aleppo region–they have been making soap for the past 600 years, and stacking their soaps this way), and the folks from the GMP division may raise an eyebrow at the sight, but it does the job.

Now I have another 1,300 bars to make by the end of this week to meet a looming deadline, a shipment of balm tubes that have mysteriously gone missing to track down, and various administrative issues to grapple with (inventory management systems are elusive, yet scary!).

I feel my limits being tested with all this busy-ness, yet I am grateful for these opportunities to learn, and to be stronger. Mistakes trip you up, and you can fall spectacularly for all and sundry to see–but what counts more than the embarrassment of failure is the ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again (listen to the video below – Diana Krall says this best!) 😉

Have a terrific week ahead everyone!

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How Well Does Spirulina’s Colour Hold Up in Cold Process Soap?

I’m so happy to be able to write a little blurb about experiments in the studio again! I wish I had more time to do this amidst all the changes at work, but I’m happy for the occasional opportunity all the same. 🙂

So how does spirulina fare as a stable, all-natural colourant in CP soap? I reckon it does pretty well, all things considered. 🙂 Here’s what it looked like when I first sliced our Fiddler’s Green soap:

FG04

The powder itself looked a dark, deep blue-green which turned into this lovely fresh colour the day after I poured the soap into the mold.

Then 3 weeks later, this is what the colour looked like:

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Not exactly stable, but still produces a good strong green. It lost most of its blue component, to take on a more mature, olive green kind of shade. Interestingly, the powder that is in the swirl on the surface of the soap seems to have stayed quite prominent:

IMG_7760

I was hoping that it would retain its strong blue-tinged green, but I’m still happy with the results all the same. For the lowest layer of colour which was at its most concentrated, I used 25g of spirulina powder in about 2.6kg of raw soap (yes, that works out to be one rather expensive load of colourant for a bar of soap!)

It will be interesting to see what the colour looks like 6 months down the road. 🙂 Will try to remember to post pics when I can.

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Songbird Is GO!

I tweaked and tweaked, made notes and plotted, after the first trial batch I made last month… and now I’ve arrived at a formulation for Songbird that looks set to stay (if you all enjoy breathing it in and admiring it as much as I do, that is!).

Voila!

Locked down on the scent too. The virginian cedarwood, cypress, pine, eucalyptus all stayed, but I did away with the bergamot because it wasn’t really contributing much to the blend (it had faded away so much that it wasn’t really there anymore–and it’s way too expensive for me to use for now). So our study is now bursting with mildly minty, woodsy scent that definitely brings to mind a verdant, mountainous scene under a bright blue sky, populated with coniferous trees as far as the eye can see.

It’s a brief respite from the lousy haze that we have outside now, for sure!

These will be ready in time for Urbanscapes on June 16th. If you do come (and you really should, if you love all things art), I’m hoping you can follow your nose to locate my stall. :p It’ll be PACKED, for sure.

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Indigo Revelations

The wonderful thing about being addicted to soapmaking is that I find myself traveling down paths of knowledge that I wouldn’t have voluntarily tread myself.

Take last night, for instance, when I was agonizing over how I was ever going to make blue soap. I could use iron oxide, but the list of Malaysian suppliers I found on the net didn’t specify anything about their products being cosmetic grade. And I’m not looking to import anything yet–the small quantity I need doesn’t justify the massive shipping costs.

Then I found a site that mentioned Indigo powder as a natural blue soap colourant. That was exciting. Many, many clicks and a couple of hours later, here are a few (possibly eyebrow-raising) facts about indigo I’ve gathered to satisfy your curiosity about the stuff. It’s by no means exhaustive.

Indigo powder is the dried and crushed leaves of the indigofera tinctoria shrub, commonly found in India. And THIS is what the powder looks like:

Yup, it’s green. Not blue. If I’m not wrong, the blue indigo colourants you might come across in soapmaking sites is actually the hydrated indigo leaf powder which is then freeze-dried into crystalline form.

Indigo is known as “neel” in India. It’s used to colour hair (!!) without the use of artificial chemicals, anything from brown to blue-black, to black. I learned that from reading this page at  Joy Minerals.

It’s the same dye that’s used to give jeans that characteristic blue.

Want to see what another soaper has done with indigo in her soap? Check out Southern Soapers’ tutorial here.

I’m hoping to do my own experiments with indigo really soon! Got any stories to share about this ingredient?

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Now Available – Summer Fizz Soap

Here we are–have some fun in the shower with the Summer Fizz Soap! I originally referred to these as Sweet Orange, Rosemary and Peppermint Soap in my earlier blogpost, but that was a real mouthful. :p Hence the name change.

Read more about this skin and hair-loving bar of soap that has a scent reminiscent of fizzy lemonade over at the shop.

(Psst–if not for yourself, why not get one for mom? 😉 )

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Clarity Soap Now Available!

Heads up! Do you have:

  • oily skin that doesn’t ever feel tight, or is always flaring up with acne or pimples?
  • bacne (acne on your back)?
  • a runny or bunged-up nose from a cold or flu?
  • a head that feels like it’s stuffed with cobwebs, making you feel sluggish and your thoughts unable to flow?

Well then, this soap just might be able to help you get over those symptoms (albeit perhaps only temporarily). Clarity was formulated to include the sharp, mentholated scent of eucalyptus essential oil, along with the purifying properties of french green clay and activated carbon. All of them work together for the purpose of decongesting — be it your skin, your nose, or your mental state.

Sounds like it could be something for you? Read on here, and maybe even give it a go for yourself!

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Now Curing: Dark Chocolate Soap

Reformulated and prettified! This fresh batch of Dark Chocolate soap contains generous lashings of cocoa butter and anti-oxidant rich cocoa powder that will leave you with soft, silky-smooth skin after each shower. It doesn’t smell strongly of chocolate, but you might just catch a whiff of the cocoa butter in the shower. (I still occasionally stick my nose into my stash of cocoa butter just to inhale that heavenly scent!)

Dark Chocolate will be available for sale from March 22nd. As always, pre-orders are welcome — just send me an e-mail. Have yourself a lovely weekend. 🙂

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Now Curing: DreamTime Soap

Ah, hello there prettily-swirled soap! I made this batch a few days ago and they are now curing. Yes they do look quite different from the ones I made earlier , and I think this design will stay. 🙂

Available for sale from March 21st (but you can always order ahead by sending me an e-mail).

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Now Curing: Lavender and Sweet Orange Soap


Lavender and Sweet Orange Soap
After weeks of not being able to make any soap, this lovely new batch is now sitting on my drying racks to cure, waiting to make your bath time that extra little bit special!

This is a new blend of essential oils that I’m trying out — lavender and sweet orange. The scent is surprisingly bright and cheery, which is a nice twist to my usual Just Lavender bar. It is still suitable for all skin types (yay!). Continue reading Now Curing: Lavender and Sweet Orange Soap