Mad Oils is my company. Please support us!

Sunday, August 2, 2015


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.




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

“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

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.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Shake It Up With Photos Skillz, Part One

Some of you want to sell your soap but are having a hard time doing that because getting a good picture of them isn't easy.  Photographs of your product are more important than you think.  Images are what speaks to people more and more these days, because isn't the internet all imagery?

We all have a comfort zone: Things we do that make us feel secure in our abilities.  But in my opinion, that comfort zone needs a little shaking up.  That's what I'm here to do.  We all need to open ourselves to see new perspectives.  Some of us make soap for fun, or for the sake of art, and some make soap for a living, but the one thing you have to do, no matter why you soap, is document your soap journey.  Even if it's just for yourself.  If you are sharing your documentation, you want the viewer to really see your work.  Not just photos lined up with a back drop taken 3 feet away, one - after - another.... It's boring to see "catalog-type" photos one after the other.

If you take pictures of your soap just to get the image on paper (or screen), you need to stop that right this second... just  S T O P !

One of my personality traits that I can't help, is trying to see things from other people's perspective.  I put myself in the shoes of others in order to understand what they see and feel.  And then examine WHY.

This trait carries through into everything in my life.  Relationships, art, political discussions, and crime stories (random, I know, but my whole life I've been fascinated by stories of deranged people doing what they do and then trying to understand why).  Putting myself in other people's shoes helps me with photography.  Whhhhaaaaat??  When I look at a photograph in a magazine or on a website, it evokes a response in me.  This is true for product imagery and that's why advertisers use everything in their power to create emotions in consumers.  Why?  Because consumers purchase things mostly by how they feel when using, wearing or having a product.  If I put myself right into the shoes of a person, for instance, looking for soap, I try to photograph the soap in a way that is intimate or shows a different scene that is out of the ordinary.  Photography creates a silent image, sometimes so powerful that words are not even necessary.  THAT is what I try to do.  What do I want to see?  What do I want?  I use that, too, all the time.  

Evoking an emotion in someone will make them take a second look, which may turn into a soap sale for you.

Natural light and position/perspective are KEY.  I will go into why and where in the next post, but this post is going to focus on practicing the technique of light and position...

Find a new perspective ~~ Basics

So go grab your camera (or phone) during the day and make sure your flash is OFF.  Set your soap on a steady surface near natural light and take TEN photographs of your soap from all different positions.  YOU need to move in different positions, not the soap.  Take a photo from above looking straight down; This will give a dimensional view.  Take a shot from below the soap, looking UP at it;  This will enlarge its presence.  Take a super close shot....get intimate with your bar.

You have to try new perspectives to see what you like.  But you will never know if you like them until you try it.  It's a pretty low risk, taking photos, so just DO IT.

Here are some examples of the same soap photographed from different angles:

My soap:  close up

My soap:  straight on.  Taken at the same level

My soap: photographed from above (and close).

These are photographs of my soap from 4 or 5 years ago, so if you were a customer of mine at Absolute Soap or a reader of my blogs, you've probably seen these already, but they show you one soap, shot 3 ways.  Now, think about what each one makes you think, feel and like.  Which is your favorite position?  Try the all and MORE!

Out of the ten photos, choose one picture (don't forget!  Shoot in natural light and at a different angle than you usually take your photos). That photo will be your entry photo that you need to post in our group on Facebook: the Soap Challenge Gallery.

I want everyone to participate. All entries need to say "#photoskillzpartone" and need to be posted one week from today:  My birthday, JULY 11th and the deadline time is at 3:09 pm (EST), the exact minute I was born.  The top 3 photos will be posted on this blog (and for those of you who don't realize how many people come to this blog, let me shed some light:  between 17,000-25,000 page views per month.  And I only write on this blog, LATELY, once a month.  So participate and fight to get some exposure!

This is not only an assignment to make you better, but it's meant to be fun, so have a good time!

Peace out.
- Jo

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer Loving. The Memories Don't Die.

There were very few entries this month, but they were all wonderful and I thank you for participating.

As with our latest challenges, I have asked for an explanation along with the soap you made, so that we, as artists, draw out our thoughts as we create and really get in touch with your art and your inner artist.  It also makes the soap more interesting to look at as a viewers standpoint because the history adds depth and understanding.

When I say dig deep, some of you clearly do and I am honored to have the remains of the upheaval shared with me.

I loved EVERY submission.  This was about memories (or fantasies) and you all rocked it!  The most original soap in my opinion along with the back story is Milo & Otis.  She describes the moments of her lying at the bottom of the river, looking up at the surface while listening to the unique sharpness of stones tapping together underwater.  The description of that magical moment of time brought back huge memories for me...being underwater in complete oneness with no angst. I remember loving the feeling of being immersed in water.  It erased the tensions of the world above and made me float.  It muffled all the yelling and hatred and calmed my soul.  I wanted to be a fish and never leave or sometimes wished I would painlessly and magically drift away into the bliss I found alone and under the world I knew.

Milo & Otis made this soap:

This is her story verbatim:

Summers in my childhood meant one thing, the lake and the cottage. Some of our friends referred to it as the cabin, but it was no cabin; It was a sizable white clapboard house on one of two connected lakes that was about 30 minutes from our house. Our family of seven had taken a few vacations, which must have been quite expensive and no doubt provided little relaxation for my parents. Instead of family vacations, they decided to buy a house on a lake within striking distance of our home so my dad could commute for work while we spent the summers and some weekends there.

I remember our first visit to the house for sale, the foreign feeling of being in someone else's house and the familiarity of a lake but the unfamiliarity of this one. While my parents talked with the owners, we played in the shallows and had seaweed fights. They bought it and the house took us on.

We spent endless hours in the lake the way children can without ever becoming bored. My sister and I were delegated the task of watching "the babies" (my brothers are 2 and 3 years younger than I, so it's a relative thing) swim in the area buoyed off for them. They would daringly somersault over the line or swim underwater under it, then U turn and swim back before coming up for air. We didn't mind their shenanigans but occasionally yelled at them so it remained fun for them to do. We all became excellent swimmers, completely comfortable in the water, probably more home to us than the house was. I would man the big net with my brother, catching minnows for bait. Within a couple hours, my sympathies would get the best of me and I would move silently under the pier to the bait can floating in the water, quietly open the top and tip it over. Swim free, little minnows! I took a couple fishhooks to the head, standing too close to my brother as he swung the rod back to cast, then as he threw the rod forward, the hook would set in my scalp, me shouting at him to stop before he yanked me off the pier. He was good at getting them out.

We played alone and together, the five of us. I loved wearing a mask and swimming along the bottom, enthralled with everything in the green light, watching the pull of the waves sending swirls of detritus to and fro. I would lie on my back and exhale enough that I would sink to the bottom where I would be lulled by the ebb and flow as I followed the beautiful patterns of the sun on the surface of the lake. I never failed (and still don't) to be amazed at the clarity of the sound of stones being tapped together and how far it travels underwater. We dunked each other, cannon-balled off the pier, stood on inner tubes, and were generally loud and happy. The constancy of our feet on the bottom packed it down into firm sand and obliterated any weeds. Just beyond our pier, the water was over our heads and we hated walking past the end of that demarcation. Your foot would sink into the clammy, cold, obscenely mushy bottom and the seaweed would brush your skin in way that felt perverse. As kids, we called it "the ooglies." If we took running starts to jump as far out as possible off the end of the pier, we all swam back as fast as we could.

Sometimes our dad would take us out in the boat to our favorite swimming spot. It was a ways offshore from an abandoned lakeside restaurant and was instantly recognizable by the wide expanse of water that had no weeds, in spite of being deep. We didn't know why there were no weeds there and we imagined it to be unfathomably deep, although our anchor told us otherwise. Every time we went, we would watch the anchor come up from the bottom, waiting to see evidence of seaweed but all we ever saw was sand floating off in a thin trail. We loved it there. We would do flips off the boat and dive down, although none of us ever made it to the bottom, perhaps to protect the mystery we felt. Hippo, our dog, would occasionally jump in to swim with us, then, not understanding that the boat was our station, she would take off for shore. One of us would have to go get her and lead her back to the boat so someone could lift her back to solidity.

Two doors down from us was a restaurant that got heavy traffic, being on the far side of two lakes and town. They had boat slips, a bait shop, a boat launch. The pier ran through the deep water in a big square and in the middle, although it was thickly weedy, was where kids who were visiting would jump and swim. One morning a man and his nephew went out to fish in the early morning before it was light. It was a Sunday, their last day on the lake before they went home, and during their horseplay, the man pushed the boy into the lake. When he didn't come up, he thought the boy had snuck to shore and gone home, a sore sport. He shrugged it off and headed out to fish, leaving the boy in the dark cold water in the ever tightening weeds, until he could hold his breath no longer. Later, when the day was hot, the kids came to play in the water and in their jumping, they knocked him loose from the weeds and he finally came to the surface under the pier.

Our neighbor's rule was that he and his kids would play softball or volleyball every day. It was optional for us but not them and anyone was invited to play. I watched the softball games rather than play and that day, as I stood with the batting team, we saw people come running up from the lake to the restaurant. One of the kids, in the bald blunt way of children, yelled over to one of the batters, "Jay, your brother's dead!" I could see Jay, caught half in paralysis, half in panic, try to understand and finally start to move, jumping the fences between the yard and the restaurant. We went down to the lake shore in front of our house, where I saw my dad, sadly shaking his head, kneeling next to the boy on the pier. He had been in the water for too long for there to be any possibility other than death. My dad, his face grim, crossed the yards back to our own, incongruous in his orange jumpsuit. (He was not a convict. It was the 70's and his favorite color was orange. You can get away with wearing just about anything on a lake.) As I stood and stared at the still body on the pier, it started to rain. The clouds were high and bright, casting a yellow light, and it seemed too scripted but there it was. Maybe the skies do look down on us and shed tears. My parents had been preparing to go back to our house and we got in the car, driving in silence all the way home. I watched the rain spatter on the windows and thought about the people who had only wanted a weekend of sun and swimming. The lake broke that family.

We were aware of the dangers of the lake even before that boy's death, and my parents surely were acutely conscious of it. We were not allowed out in any of the boats without a life preserver. However, they were bulky and hot and we were all good swimmers, to say nothing of the fact that kids are notoriously overconfident. My sister and I took the paddle-wheel out one day and of course took off our life preservers. We were on the return leg, not too far out from shore or our house. I had gotten up to stand and pedal backward when we heard the slap of the wooden screen door and my mother's piercing shriek. It stopped us in our tracks and we watched her bull-like charge across the yard with trepidation. Shouting at us non-stop, she stomped across the neighbor's lawn, pushing a wave of ferocity ahead of her. Her eyes lasered in on us, she did not look where she was going and went down face first in the neighbor's hostas. Laughter burst out of us for a mere moment, pushed back as quickly as she snapped back up to continue her lambasting all the way to shore. It was like laughing in church; the more inappropriate the place, the stronger the urge, but we did not dare give in to it. You simply did not laugh at my mother. Thankful for the distance, we reluctantly started our trek in to the pier where she went to await us, but the moment her back was turned, we laughed into spasms. She continued to exude fury but we were shielded by the vivid image of watching her face plant. Whatever her punishment was, the count was clear. We won that one.

On some nights, we played Hearts. Before a remodeling, our long long dining room table was on a porch barely wider than the table itself. How my parents got it in there is a feat of engineering I'm not certain I will ever understand. Family, friends, neighbors all, we would cram around the table, its oilcloth tablecloth wiped down after dinner, our places marked by sweating glass bottles of Squirt and Coke, the Real Thing. We played to win. No mercy, no matter what your age. The two losers would have to wash the dishes the next night, a duty that defaulted to my sister and me otherwise. We used real dishes, no paper or plastic, for a minimum of seven people and far more frequently for 10, 11, 12 or more. No dishwasher. I tried to win but I tried harder not to lose; the feeling of lettuce leaves in dishwater still sets my teeth on edge. We had to play under fake names. My Hearts name was Mabel. Through the game, we would toss out cards and jabs and lighthearted insults, but tensions built when it became clear that someone was trying to moon (collect all the points). It could be a deal breaker. If someone managed it, they had to literally moon the table, by law, which we all did with relish. The exception was my mother. Fonzerella struggled with the idea of dropping her drawers in front of everyone; I think perhaps she worried it would undermine her authority. (It didn't) It wouldn't surprise me if she purposefully avoided it except for the times she was dealt a hand that made it impossible not to moon, and then she would gloat. There were always shouts and cheers when someone mooned, but when my mother got one, it was near bedlam. We would be hooting, pounding the table and catcalling, drowning out her protests until she finally got up and flashed us so quickly, you had to wonder if it had even happened. How did she do it so fast? Did she practice in front of a mirror? We could probably identify any other player by their butt, but my mother retained her dignity in a difficult situation. After the game broke up, everyone would go their separate ways, sometimes for a night swim or skinny dip, if you weren't in mixed company, to read or watch a movie or lie in front of a fan, making sounds into it so you could sound like a robot. Too often, the next night, the losers would be forgotten and my sister and I would be in the kitchen, singing theme songs from TV shows to bide the time, getting dishpan hands.

Summer memories jumble together. We went barefoot all summer and would start the summer limping and hopping over the sharp stones of the gravel driveway, "winter feet" we called it, and ending in hardened soles that could take anything except a direct jab to the arch. We went all day, swimming, then drying off, then pulling on our cold sticky suits once again in the sweltering heat that existed behind the house and miraculously disappeared as soon as you got to the lake. It made you wonder why you were in such a hurry to get back in the water.

We slept in our clothes, ready to go the moment we woke up. Some mornings were utterly still and the lake looked like "Glass lake! Glass lake!" my oldest brother would shout, running through the yard, sending up the alert to my cousin, brothers and neighbors. He would wade in to get the boat off the mooring and bring it to the pier, unsnapping the cover as he went. Within minutes, they would be ready to ski, heading out to break the calm surface of the water with rooster tails from the slalom. I spent most of my time in the boat watching for falls and signaling to the skier the quality of their sprays. I wasn't much of a water-skier but my cousin and I worked on a trick. Wrapping my arms and legs around the thickness of our life preservers and him, I would hang on his back until he got up, then I would climb up and sit on his shoulders. It was our only trick, so its life was relatively brief. The last time I recall doing it was when my mom drove the boat for us, which she didn't do regularly. When we said, "Hit it!", she went full throttle, which was more than required for two kids. I scrambled up to my perch on my cousin's shoulders and realized we were going far too fast. We frantically signed to slow down before my cousin wiped out. I fell from the height as if onto concrete, skittering along before sinking. I learned that if water is going fast enough, or you are relative to it, it can perforate tender skin. I'm not sure my derriere has ever been the same.

Most summers we would walk across the lake on the logs of a long fallen bridge that ended on our seawall. We knew where it was and, dragging a boat with us to let other boaters know we were there, we would pick our way, feet finding the slippery roundness of the huge logs, long submerged, until we were at the sandbars all the way on the other side. We'd play in their water for a while and then head back across to our home shore. We would canoe into the lily pads, listening to them hiss, feeling them on the underside of the boat. We'd watch for the huge carp that loved the warm murky waters, fearful of falling in and frantic if we did, sure we'd be eaten.

My sister and I would canoe around on 4th of July, singing every patriotic song we knew at the top of our lungs before dusk fell. Once the fireworks started, we renewed our singing efforts while sitting on the pier in the dark. Sound really carries on a lake; I feel a bit sorry for the people across from us.

The smell of the water, the smell of boats, the sound of feet pounding on the pier, the deep ka-ploosh of a well-done cannonball. The lake, the green lake, was what summer was. I didn't like it there so much when I was a teenager, but that's another story.

My soap is made to look a little like the surface of the lake as I lay on the bottom, looking up to the sky.

Please go see some of the beauties that were submitted in the Soap Challenge Gallery facebook group.  Search for summerloving and see the art!

Thanks for all the support of this soap challenge group.  And thank you for following my blog.  Kisses!  xo Jo

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Summer Loving...It Happened So Fast

Do you remember when you were a kid, school had ended and summer stretched out in front of you filled with endless possibilities?  How you were full of optimism and excitement and it felt like you had all the time in the world to make anything you could imagine happen?

Today's soap challenge is to design a soap that represents your childhood summers.  Whatever the wonders of summer were for you, whether they involved new love, hours on the beach or the simple joy of opening a fire hydrant on a hot summer day in the city, represent them in your soap.

When posting your Challenge photo on the Facebook Group, you must also tell your story or the photo will not be judged.  You do not have to be a good storyteller, but it helps the viewers (me and others) understand your soap's content and a little about you.

Memories can be extremely difficult to tap into for some, and for those of you that have almost no good memories, share with us just one, even if it was a childhood fantasy and not an actual memory.  I understand we all have had different lives and experiences.

Feed your artist; Feed yourself. 
Make Soap.

Challenge ends:  June 25, 2015
Post your photos here:

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Little Soap Porn, My Dear?

We haven't had soap porn in a really long time.  I've been missing it....

I know secretly you have too.  Here is a handful of new bright and cheerful photos of hand crafted soaps I have never seen:

Diane's Naturally -  Australia

Heavenly Bubbles Soap - UK

Pink Parchment Soaps - USA

Island Coconut Bar - SunyIslandBlu

Hibiscus - CoquetteBath USA

Ginger Grass and Lemon - the charming frog - USA

Lavender - Kirk Estate - USA

I just LOVE staring at handmade soap!  Isn't it just beautiful??

xoxo Joanna

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Intimate Garden Walk With Milo + Otis

There is something almost primal in getting down deep into the earth... an element of connection and reflection.

This challenge was meant to be an exercise for you to get in touch with a primal emotion and infusing that deep internal force into your art.  I call it the Emotion Transfer Technique.(ETT).

Art is complex and I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, but through my own experience I have found that art takes on the Maker's feelings. Think about some of the artists you know of, and think of the art that is/was so obviously theirs. Personality comes through. So to not lose sight of your inner self and artist, ETT is an essential element to exercise regularly.  Terrible flops can occur from them, but that's why you should exercise ETT, because flopping is just a blip or bump in the works.  We must all trip and fall before we can stand up tall, and then there is more tripping throughout our lives.  If there isn't, my guess is that the person is either not an artist or they are a control addict and will not open themselves to FEELINGS.

On that note,  with coffee in hand, my garden walk begins.  Join me and we'll walk together:

I went on a short but deep journey through Milo + Otis' backyard Jungle.  The story of her garden was told in such a way that I felt present, walking beside her as she told the story of the overgrown and oh-so-loved maze of plants that she navigates through and absorbs it all in.  Well, the Creeping Charlie needs a flame throwing trim once in a while, but ...that's another story.

Milo AndOtis's photo.

You'll understand.  This is her own explanation of the Digging In The Dirt soap she made.  Read on.

"I love dirt. As a child, we would change into old T-shirts and crummy pants and go mud sliding after a rain. I could sit in a chair in an empty room doing nothing and come out dirty. I have a close and intimate relationship with dirt; it can't stay away from me. Nor I it.
Ever since I had my own yard, I have dug in the dirt, planting bulbs, growing flowers and vegetables alike. My current garden has been affectionately named The Jungle because my tomatoes grow to 7 or 8 feet tall and after planting sunflowers one year, they won't stop coming up. I don't have the heart to pull them up, so every year, I have towering sunflowers whose heads get so heavy they pull the thick sturdy stalks down, sometimes all the way to the ground. When I walk through it every summer, I get to know the obstacle course, when to step over, when to lift up and go under, and when to simply duck. I know when to step around all the volunteers of cleome that spring up in the paths that I can't cut down, either. When I go out late at night, I can walk it essentially blinded.
I was out yesterday, pulling up grasses and clearing the way for the day lillies, using my flame thrower to take out the creeping charlie (I'm sorry, Charlie, but you won't stop!). It was perfect day with mellow sunshine, fresh dirt, the green of the new shoots and the perfect blue sky. Getting on my knees and turning dirt with my bare hands, getting it stuck under my nails, finding last year's dead leaves in my hair, is energizing but relaxing and calming.

I made my soap after that, using yellows for the sun, greens for the new growth and blues for the sky and the water that make it all grow. Black of course is needed for the dirt and the night. I used a round and round hanger swirl to represent the continual change of the seasons. Honeysuckle is the scent as I love my fragrant flowers. I was hoping for a soap that would look interesting, with energy but ultimately gives a soothing feeling, just like dirt on my hands gives me." 
- Milo + Otis

I was not only touched by her story, I WENT there and felt it.  And the  soap interprets her story.  Just Beautiful!  In a short interpretation of Digging In The Dirt in words coupled with a thoughtfully made soap, I declare Milo + Otis the winner of this challenge.  A secret surprise  gift will go out from Mad Oils to Milo + Otis.  Congrats!!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Digging In The Dirt

"Something in me, dark and sticky
All the time it's getting strong...

The more I look, the more I find
As I close on in, I get so blind ..."
- Peter Gabriel

All weekend I spent my time digging in the dirt and planting new plants into my front walkway. My husband and I ripped out a line of very "vanilla" hedge-like bushes along each side of the walkway.  It was boring and cold and didn't feel like home.  It was really hard work and took a number of sessions to complete.

Yesterday we finished one side and we're really tickled with how it looks now.  It's way more "US"; it has different heights, textures, colors, styles....with scattered potted plants taking up some of the nooks and crannies.  Digging in the dirt felt so good.  In fact, I was thinking to myself how much of a release it is to use my bare hands in the fresh dirt just as my husband asked me if the dirt on my hands made me crazy.  No, I love it.  There is something almost primal in getting down deep into the earth... an element of connection and reflection.

Cat Motor, stalking wild animals.  Picture's blurry, but colorful :)

I know not everyone experiences gardening in such a zen-like, philosophical way, and believe me, it doesn't always happen for me every time, but often, gardening brings a sense of peace.  Until I overheat and sweat so much I start attracting mosquitoes.  Then I'm done.  The spiritual side of me shuts down because I hate mosquitoes.

Bare hands in the cool, rich dirt.  Where does it bring you?  Does it bring emotions up or does it make you forget everything?  Or both at the same time?  Is your ultimate goal to make colors or textures or a place called home?  Creating something you may not have felt since you were a young child?

So you are probably wondering how all this dirt and gardening junk relates to the Soap Challenge.  As always, my words to you FOR YEARS has been:  Dig Deep.   Now it is literal.

If you are in a temperate climate, get into the dirt and plant something new that you have been wanting.  Even if it is small.  Really experience the planting.  If you currently live in a frozen tundra, use your IMAGINATION.....DIG!  Then let your dug up feelings and colors of your garden blend or co-exist and make your soap reflect those two things together. 

You may have to really think about this one.

It is April 6th.  I blew the April 1st target date for starting this new challenge, so I know I messed you up.  I will give you only until May 7th to complete this task.  Once you've completed your soap, please post in the Soap Challenge Gallery on Facebook.  I expect there won't be photos for awhile because the work here is in your head, BEFORE the challenge.

This soap challenge is called Digging In The Dirt.  Use the hashtag #digginginthedirt with your photo or I won't find it.  You also must explain your soap with your entry.  Describe your experience and description of what you did.  I can't judge just the soap.  It has to come with an explanation.

I occasionally will offer a small gift for the winner.  This time, it will be a secret surprise for just the winner of the challenge, sponsored by Mad Oils (my company).   Thank you all for the support and love.

xoxo Joanna

.....  dig deep .......