Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Cuppa Jo Challenge Winners

The Cuppa Jo Soap Challenge had three beautiful entries and three beautiful winners! The Challenge was described in the previous post, but here is an excerpt:

Since I've moved into my new place, I often wake up before sunset, take my fresh coffee and walk, in my pajamas and slippers, to the Intercoastal Waterway/Lake Worth Lagoon, which is only one block from my new place.  I love the salty breeze that wafts into my face and through my short hair..... while I listen to the small waves slapping against the concrete ledge I sit on.   Within minutes, the black sky turns twilight blue and from the horizon, emerges orange and pink colors.


It has been a new experience living near the water and enjoying the sunrises I get to witness when I sit out there and ponder life's curves, dips and surprises.
 
This one may be hard because I'd really like you to tap into your creative mind and try not to be too literal in your interpretations  (if you CAN).


I want all of you to design and interpret in your own way, my morning cup of coffee at the Lagoon.


If I were to participate in this challenge, I'd start of with a layer of soap mixed with sea clay or mud with superfine coffee grounds (this would represent the concrete ledge I sit on). I'd then make an orange to pink ombre technique.  But that's just me.


JANEL GRUBER-STEVENS, Colorado, USA
"Okay, here is my interpretation of Jo drinking her coffee in her new place. (a little background first - this has ocean critters, but smells of grapefruit, coconut and tropical goodness)...


As Joanna walks out onto the terrace of her new place with cup in hand, and looks out to the sand, ocean and sea, and smells the crispness of the citrus, coconut that is Florida (ha, don't know just guessing here that that's what FL smells like) she sees all the critters of the sea. Dolphins, sea turtles, sea horses, and tropical fish rising to the top of the ocean to greet her for the sunrise, while just under the crashing waves there is turmoil in the sea, but the sandy bottom is calm. Mixed in with the creatures, there are a few shells because they have to get stirred up and taken to the beach somehow, right? 




And as she is most every morning at sunrise -- she is at peace...

And as she is most every morning at sunrise -- she is at peace...


*


BRENDA MERRICK-HAVLICE, California, USA
"At the Intercoastal Cafe and Reflection Center we strive to cleanse our minds and enjoy each sip life has to offer. We manifest our intention to allow our souls to bubble forth with all the promise of a new day!


Goat milk salt bar with coffee grounds, scented with a blend of espresso and sea spray. Mad Oils micas: Tahitian Teal, Neon Orange, Neon Pink 


(note to self: double check which salt you pull off the shelf... Dead Sea Salt results in a gloopy mess and a need to start over...)"






RACHAEL BROWER, Montana, USA


"The smell brings you in, coffee, mocha, espresso, the grit, the bluster of the wind, the wake me up caffeine of it all in one bar, a coffee flavored world. Here is my soap Cafe Mocha, made with cocoa, brewed coffee, and coffee grounds" 


*

Thanks, you three, for participating!  Because there is a lack of entries for the last couple of Soap Challenges, there is really no way I can continue doing them right now, while I am so busy at Mad Oils. So....I would love some participation regarding photo tutorials made for this blog or a blog post on ingredients or processes....etc. Hit me up jo@madoils(dot)com.


peace


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cuppa Jo Sunrise Challenge

I have been neglecting the challenges for WAY TOO LONG.  I have to offer my sincere apology for the major delay in fun.  Mad Oils has exploded and not only are we understaffed, but between seasonal colds and unforeseen employee childcare issues, we have had quite a time keeping up with the floods of orders (which we love!  Thanks to all our loyal customers!)  So having been a bit overwhelmed at work and tirelessly navigating my personal life and continuing to improve on myself....I have been a very bad blogger, and I am sorry.... :(



So I challenge you up, baby!


Since I've moved into my new place, I often wake up before sunset, take my fresh coffee and walk, in my pajamas and slippers, to the Intercoastal Waterway/Lake Worth Lagoon, which is only one block from my new place.  I love the salty breeze that wafts into my face and through my short hair..... while I listen to the small waves slapping against the concrete ledge I sit on.  Within minutes, the black sky turns twilight blue and from the horizon, emerges orange and pink colors.

It has been a new experience living near the water and enjoying the sunrises I get to witness when I sit out there and ponder life's curves, dips and surprises.

This one may be hard because I'd really like you to tap into your creative mind and try not to be too literal in your interpretations  (if you CAN).

I want all of you to design and interpret in your own way, my morning cup of coffee at the Lagoon.

If I were to participate in this challenge, I'd start of with a layer of soap mixed with sea clay or mud with superfine coffee grounds (this would represent the concrete ledge I sit on). I'd then make an orange to pink ombre technique.  Ombre is a gradual GRADIENT change from one color to the next.....


{You can see the tutorial that was posted here on The Soap Bar Blog in 2012.  The tutorial was written by Emily Shieh of Shieh Design Studios.}



I think I would take  some dark mica and mix into a cup of soap batter and pour it in blips and plops from high up, so it reaches close to the bottom of the first layer.  One of those bloops would represent me, a figure.  In the photo below shows some designs from the soap I "blooped".





So I suppose even if I did a tutorial, everyone's soap design would end up being unique because of the haphazard way of the plop/bloop "technique".

So there you go.  Challenge has been assigned.  Please post your final creations on our Facebook Group, Soap Challenge Gallery.  PLEASE tag your post with #cuppajosunrise

Challenge starts now and all soap entries (entries are posted photos) are due by April 9th!  The grand prize winner will receive Mad Oils Micas ~ FOUR Mad Oils mica samples of your choice!

Good luck and soap on!

xoxo
jo


Monday, November 30, 2015

Inspiration For Today



When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. 

- Jimi Hendrix

Monday, November 16, 2015

Local Yocal Ingredients - Special Soaps Using Special Ingredients

Using local ingredients adds a holistic approach when making handmade soap.  Not only does it feel great to use your own soap in the shower when you're supporting your local businesses or using ingredients from your own garden.  When someone purchases your soap with local ingredients, it adds an element that many who seek the pure, the handmade, love to see special ingredients added to a soap.  Why?  Perhaps it stops a piece of their vacation in time, like if you added sand to your soap and sold it where people typically come to escape the ice storms up north.  Then when they take it back home and use it, it brings them back to the town they loved so much and brings them a sense of relaxation.  I know when I visit an area that is new for me, I love to see local artisan's work, especially when they incorporate their immediate environment's elements.

We had a challenge called LocalYocals and it challenged all the soap makers to incorporate a local ingredients into their soap.  I thought it would keep people thinking about ingredients and how simple one local ingredient could transform a regular soap into a gem.

We had some great entries with unique ingredients!  Here are some to give you an idea of what YOU can do to spark it  up.


Curtis Hayden used multiple ingredients from his area in Charleston, South Carolina:

Basic Beach by Curtis Hayden

"This soap features a cold pressed juice from my local juice shop Huriyali which gets the majority of its produce from local farms. The juice is their "Aloe-Ha" juice consisting of raw unpasteurized coconut water, raw local honey, and much more! I don't see how I could get more local than that! But then I figured out a way to get even more local, I used sand from one of the local beaches I go to all the time on the bottom of the soap!! Scented with 3 different scents and made with a lot of love! The juice shop is actually featuring this soap in their store and the pictures I am featuring of the soap were taken at their store!"

Bhakti Iyata lives in Phoenix, Arizona and used her local ingredients:

Desert Flower Soap by Bhakti Iyata 

"Desert Flower Soap, made with Prickly Pear Cactus Extract (Prickly Pear Products, LLC Mesa, Arizona) and scented with Cactus Flower FO. Hand molded flowering cactus and little hummingbirds on top."



Leanne Timm-Chevallier lives in Southwest France and used THREE local ingredients!
Soap by Leanne Timm-Chevallier
 "Love this challenge ! For the Local Ingredient challenge, I used local organic french green lentils from a farmer down the road here in SW France.... I also used local Duck Fat.  Makes a nice scrubby soap. Colour is Chlorophyll powder."


There were so many good entries......great soaps, but I can only choose a few to feature.  Thank you everyone, for trying out new ingredients!  It always feels like you all take these challenges to heart and that makes me happy.  :D

We will be taking a break from Challenges until well after the holidays, but I'll be back with some beautiful pictures as I spot them.  So keep it real and send me pictures anytime!  Maybe YOU will be featured in my Soap Porn!  Send pics of YOUR soaps to me at joannaschmidt@live.com.  Leave your name, email, where you live and if you'd like to share, ingredients you used.   Have a great Thanksgiving holiday and stay clean!

xox Joanna

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Local Ingredients...

Years back, I was asked by the local glossy magazine, Palm Beach Illustrated (PBI), to create a soap that would represent this area (Palm Beach county). Their 60th anniversary issue was being put together and they wanted a local soap maker to design something just for them.

Hrrrm.  What would feel good to me if I visited a local beach area for the first time?  Because my county snuggles the ocean, I decided that I'd collect ocean water to make my lye mixture with.  I would go to the beach with my empty water gallon jug, fighting the waves (no sand) until I past the swirling water.  Collecting ocean water from the edge of the breaking waves proves to be a sandy water collection.  Ask me how I know. I would hold the empty jug under the surface in order for it to fill: glub, glub, glub, glub. An empty water jug is harder to hold down than one would think.  Then I'd return to the beach with my gallon of ocean and fully drenched from toe to chest.

PBI ended up loving the way it came out and featured it in their magazine.  It DID look tropical and the ingredients I used were luscious. It included coconut milk, ocean water, shea butter and sea salt and it looked like an abstract ocean beach scene. 

People love the idea of handcrafted items made with local ingredients.  And the more "LOCAL AND COMMON" the ingredient, the more interesting it is that the soap almost becomes a celebrity on its own!

Now, I have never heard of potato soap, but if I lived in Idaho, I would love to buy a local soap made from Fingerlings, or Russets.  Wisconsin....cheese (maybe goat??), Florida?  Palm sugar, perhaps??... and so on.  Some of us have spent many hours looking for common ingredients that can make our soap unique and compelling, and it doesn't always have to be food!

I have used actual sand on my soap.  I dipped my freshly cut soap into a pan of white sand and sold it like a pumice soap, but the sand gets washed away after the first few washes.  People loved it!  Especially Northerners who miss the beach sand when they are cold and slushing through snow, sleet and the bitter cold in the middle of winter.



My friend, Charlene Simon, of Bathhouse Soapery, gave a presentation at the 2013 (?) Soap Guild Conference regarding additives.  She brought 20-30 cut up soaps made with different ingredients she had tried, including volcanic rock, which of course, made me want to go roll in that rock just thinking about it!  She emphasized the importance of incorporating local/regional "ingredients" that can uplift your soap from plain ol' soap into a classic art form.  It adds depth to an otherwise basic item.  (I'm not calling soap basic, but when people stand in front of a soap made with ground oatmeal, they may want to see that it's made from the local OAT farm in Wasau County.) 

Perhaps finding a local farmer, local winery or other business owner may be good for business.  Perhaps include them in your plans to make a local soap, tourists.  And you and the biz owner could benefit from it.  Equally!and discuss a possibly partnership of sorts.  I know there are soap makers that use their local winery to make wine soaps and the winery sells the soap at the winery!  Or a microbrewery, a sugar farm, even a diamond jewelry maker could grind up unsavory diamonds and you could use the diamond dust in your soap....one never knows if there could be a common thread that can be an uplifting hit to the local area, to you and to your business choice.

So for this challenge, I want you to take some time to think about your area and what may bring tourists there or what might be a surprising tidbit about your area that interests you and work that into your soap plans.  Then perhaps after you make soap with that ingredient and share with our group, you may even be able to approach your local business with your soap in hand and talk it out.  Expound on the idea and make it exciting.

Post your photos here on Facebook.  Use hashtag #localyocal so I can quickly find it.  Challenge ends on October 20th.  Then we shall talk a bit about Halloween!  Bwahahaha!

xoxo Joanna


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sweet Soap Porn Saturday

I have been taking photographs for my business' new website (not live yet), and also working on post production, editing each photograph carefully until the crop, light and color was just right for the photographs of Mad Oils' colorants.  As a mica supplier, it is incredibly important to make sure the colors I put up on the screen are identical to the colors we carryAll month I've been photographing micas, fragrance oils, poppy seeds,  (yes, Facebook viewers, most of you figured out that the "Who Am I?" photo I posted was indeed a gaggle of Spanish Blue Poppies.) 

One of my real passions, however, is photographing soaps.  It's my favorite subject matter and I realized that in 2007, when I started this blog reviewing soaps from around the world.  I do miss reviewing soaps, but at some point after a couple of years, there were a bunch of soap review blogs that popped up out of nowhere, so my soap reviews didn't seem necessary anymore.  Other bloggers were doing a great job reviewing soaps, and because I was getting increasingly busy, I turned the blog into my personal diary and for displaying soap.  I basically handed it over and begin something else:  SOAP PORN.  The only reason I ever started the blog was to expose talented unknown soap makers to the world through photos and positive reviews.  Giving the handcrafted soap world a place to reveal themselves was my goal and I think I was involved in something wonderful.

This weekend, I found fantastic soap blogs with better than dynamite photos of super-stunning soaps. Three women soap makers and bloggers. I share with you, the three artists that I think have incredible talent and need to be further exposed.


SOAPJAM, Philippines




 



I love everything about Soap Jam's soap, from the colors she puts together, to the designs she creates all the way to the stamp that's perfectly placedThe photography is also spot on!  Thank you, Sylvia, for being an inspiration and for sharing your beauties!  I am so happy I stumbled on you this weekend!

   

 INFUSIONS, Maya
 




Infusions... I am breathless.  I wish her About page has more information so I could share that with you and also know myself, more about her background.
___________________________________

SAVONS FANTASIES, Jazz







Jazz, who writes the Savons Fantasies blog, has a wide range of techniques she uses. I do love the different styles she attempts (and does well!) and it's wonderful to see one soaper try all of them.  Some soap makers can find their groove with one style and then find it hard to expand their horizons by trying new techniques because of their comfort zone.  It seems as if Jazz tries everything and does it with style!

______________________________

This is one of the reasons I run Soap Challenges on Facebook (and here).  Expanding the way we think, look at things and reveal the artist within us all.


To wrap it up, I am sharing a photo from Soap Jam's blog of Sylvia and Maya together!  Sylvia on the left and Maya on the right:



I lift my coffee to you both and to Jazz!  Thank you, soapy ladies.

xoxo Joanna


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Origins Concept

August has always been a pivotal month in my life.  One, because I always dreaded school and two, because the weather would change from warm to cold and I was never able to handle the dreary dark, windy, cold days with great discomfort, both physically and emotionally.  

Now, living in Florida is no picnic for me 6 months out of the year.  I especially can't deal with weather like it has been for weeks.  Over 90° F and 90% humidity.  I am like a flower that wilts and shrivels in that heat/humidity combo, I assume it is because I have an auto immune disease and the heavy heat steals a bit of thunder.

I digress.

To the ORIGINS challenge!  It was a basic, back to its roots challenge and I am eager to see the results.  The challenge was to "...use a food in your soap and .....then photograph the soap at the place of the food ingredient's origin."    

Hence the name: Origins.  So I will pick the winner and 2 additional entries that I think deserve space here.... As mentioned in the challenge, the winner will receive a small, personal gift from me. 

The winner for this challenge is Helka Finn!  She posted many different ORIGINS photos and they were all excellent!  Here are three of my favorites of hers:

honey is the ingredient in this soap
water is the ingredient used in making this soap :0)

Lye originally came from ashes... a required ingredient to make soap

Helka attempted ingredients in two of these that aren't "additional" elements but elements nonetheless.  Not only were they brilliant concepts, but very well executed.  All three photographs were very beautiful, original and unique.  Thanks, Helka, for digging deep and taking on this challenge with great thought.  This is what I talk about when I say "dig deep".



Phuong Ly made beautiful soap with avocado and this picture was well lit, lit naturally and the colors are to die for!

ingredient: avocado        






Huy Nguyen used tomato as the ingredient
Beautiful camera work, Huy Nguyen!  I know it was very hard to choose a photo from all the pictures you took, but it gets easier to do once you get into doing it often, to not choose your favorites, but rather eliminate ones you don't like until you get to a number that feels reasonable.  Then you can more easily choose your favorite...  or just eliminate all the way through.  

Doing this is counter intuitive (especially with the "glass is half full not half empty" attitude and approach, but it tends to work for me.  Try it and feel the difference. 

You all did a wonderful job and in the future, I hope more of you take the challenge.  Love from here to there.  Peace!  xoJo

Helka, please send me an email with your address so I can send you the "Origins" challenge giftie!  :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Origins

Peridot is the birthstone of August and green is one of my very favorite colors. It has many symbolic meanings:  It has been said that its owner, when worn would have the power of invisibility.  Some people believes it can bring peace and protection. It has also been worn to calm anger by soothing ones nerves, expelling negative energy. My favorite symbolism and the one I found inspriation from was that it promises growth for the future and gives strength to individuals.  GIVES STRENGTH.
Onward and upward.  We shall gain strength this month from the process of this challenge.

August is a transitional month for many of us who are effected by school.  Summer winds down, vacations come to an end and nerves arise because of going to a new school and the weather will be changing.  It's a time where we may need to find love and strength from a new source.  Focus on something bright green and go with it.

This challenge has a few challenges to meet.

I want you to make a soap with a food product that, after some cure time, you can photograph next to or on food product's place of origin.  For instance:  incorporate cherries into your soap recipe and when it's ready, photograph your soap at the base of a cherry tree next to the fallen berries.  Or use milk in your soap and take pictures of a cow alongside the soap maybe on a fence, or stump. I have to insist you take photographs by natural light.

In short, find a food product that you will be able to access its source at a later time, then use the food in your soap and once that is complete, you must then photograph the soap at the place of the food ingredient's origin. I will accept ONLY those photographed by natural light. Be creative.  Be you: unique.  Think outside the box and don't be afraid of trying new things.  Remember, I do this so you can grow as an artist and expand your thought process. We all think so differently from each other that it's fun to see all of the interpretations of these challenges!

Please post your photos in my Facebook group:  Soap Challenge Gallery with the hashtag: #origins to be considered for this challenge.  Ends:  August 25th.  You can take on this challenge multiple times if you wish.  Please do not post photos of previous soaps.  That is cheating. You have to MAKE the soap for this.  That is the point of these challenges.

Good luck!  There is a tiny prize for the winner of something meaningful. Thank you again, for all your wonderful participation. 

 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Winners of "Photo Skillz Part One"

So you shook it up and I am beaming like a mama bear.

I asked you to shut off your flash, move around your soap and step out of your box and you all trusted that it could work and it did!  Every picture was interesting and creative and there's no way I could choose the best.

I will choose three, as I promised, but there were dozens that I wanted in the trio today. 

These are in no particular order....


Amanda Wolf


Amanda Wolf, you stepped right off that box and added an interesting and relevant background image for your soap and it works!  In fact, the movement of the water makes in work.  If it were just on a sink next to the faucet, it wouldn't work because it would look posed, but this with the straight on perspective feels like someone's prepping my bath.  MY bath.  It makes it intimate and not a show.  Well done!


Tanya Rasley of Canard Labs
The pearly light peach splatter of color in this background of varying whites, draws the eyes attention to the detail.  It transforms the soap into a creative blast of wonderment.  Flickering images of shooting stars, Pollack's flick of the paintbrush or bioluminescence.

wonderment:  the rapt attention and deep emotion caused by the sight of something extraordinary 



Bee Iyata
 Bee has taken soap making to a new level with her artistic hand molding and scene creations.  This one is one of my favorites, but it's not just the soapy birds and eggs that made me choose this photo.  No...  It was taken on a different angle than all others.  It's an overhead shot but askew instead of straight down, which adds a depth I ever noticed before.  It works especially with the subjects and the nest of eggs in the natural light.  It's breathtaking and it is focused perfectly.  Bee used the light to make her creation pop.


These are three very different soaps with different angles a vibes.  Each one of them speaks to me in a different way.  Thank you, Amanda, Tanya and Bee for the inspiration.

I do hope that you continue to shoot around your subject, turn off the lights and shut off your flash!  Natural light makes for better photographs of objects.  Flash photography has its place in the world, but with soap, it is much harder to get that intimate feel.

Which leads me to the next Soap Challenge.  But that will have to wait.  I have something secret I'm working on that needs a little time to get ready.  Keep shooting and stick around for the next fun game to play with your soap.

WELL DONE, EVERYONE!!!!

Love,

Joanna


Monday, July 6, 2015

What's in YOUR red colorant?


I know this is my soap blog and I try not to include too much stuff about Mad Oils, my wholesale supply company, but I thought this was just too important not to post here:

Mad Oils carries only vegan ingredients.  We believe in using and selling only cruelty free products.  We are an animal loving team here with a vast array of rescued pets between us.

Carmine is an ingredient very often used in red and pink micas.  You may not be aware of what it is or where it comes from, but it might be in the micas and other colorants you use in your products.  

photo courtesy of http://safewithdrsandraelhajj.com

“Carmine” is an ingredient used often in the food and cosmetic industry.  It is often found in micas and other colorants to produce red, pink, purple and brown colors.  What is carmine?  Cochineal bugs that are dried and crushed to produce a red dye, are called cochineal, carmine, or carminic acid.  The dye comes specifically from the female insect called Dactylopius coccus. These bugs are killed, dried and crushed to create the color.

It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound of cochineal.

 


photo courtesy of http://www.hottopixnow.com
 

Carmine is generally safe, but manufacturers of products need to know that in a small number of people, carmine can cause swelling, skin rashes and even respiratory problems.  The red powdered pigment is used as a natural alternative to artificial coloring, but it is not vegan.  It is important to be aware of ingredients we choose when making our products so that customers can choose for themselves what they want to use on their body.  

We share this information with you, not to gross you out, but to ensure that when choosing Mad Oils, you know exactly what you’re getting.  We stand by our claim that Mad Oils will carry only 100% vegan micas.  In fact, all of our products are 100% vegan, even our fragrance oils.  (Yes, fragrances often contain animal products).  We know this is important to many of you, as it is to us.

It’s important to make an educated choice when purchasing reds, pinks, browns and purples. It is up to you whether to use products containing carmine or not. Remember that knowing what is in your products and providing full disclosure about their ingredients is empowering to you, as well as your customer.  Knowledge is power.



Xoxo - All of us at Mad Oils

Note: Please refer to the FDA website for color additive regulations to find out what label requirements are in effect.