Thursday, December 6, 2012

Soap Porn Hump Day

I have been doing test batches of soap for months and just when I thought I had finalized my formula, I changed my mind.  I have become a perfectionist, I think.  When I was less knowledgeable, I kind of flew by the seat of my pants with basic ingredients.  Never tweaking SO much because my soap was just fine and smelled so good! 

Well, having tried hundreds of other soaps from soap makers around the world, I realized that my soaps just aren't as good as they could be.  The smells?  Yum, but the soaps themselves aren't particularly extraordinary.  This got me into the soap studio and batch after batch after batch, I tweaked, changed, drastically changed, researched more and more and made MORE changes, until yesterday (sigh), I made, what I am hoping will be THE BAR.  Haven't unmolded it and I am nervous to even cut it, too.  I have spent more time with the new formula than focusing on Christmas sales.  Crazy, I know.

I had to get out of my head and into other's soapy madness, so on the Soaper's Retreat Facebook Group, I asked for everyone to post their most recent soaps.  I titled it, "Soap Porn Hump Day" (it was Wednesday yesterday).  Wow, oh wow.  Gorgeous soaps were posted.  As Michael Kitney, of My Planet Earth Soaps said so perfectly,
I am humbled today as I see the amazing offerings for Soap Porn Hump Day! What a fantastic and talented group of people we have in this room! :)
I will only choose five to post here, but you should go to the group to see the others.  Well worth the trip.  We have some amazing soapers in that group.

My favorite of the bunch (which may have to do with the fact that it looks like a dark chocolate dessert), is the first one, but they all are so wonderful, aren't they?????

'Queen of the Night', by Clara Lindberg (Auntie Clara's)
Vanilla, blackcurrant & vetyver. Charcoal.

Full Moon, by Shieh Design Studio
made with evaporated goat milk

Cupcake slice, by Raelene Albery

Rosemary and Sage Soap, by Nikory Bath Treats

FUNGHI soap by aromaNature Savon Naturel


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eye On Detail

The latest photo challenge on FB Soaper's Retreat was another close up photography in natural light challenge.  What can I say?  I love to see detail and natural light makes things stop time and creates silence for me.  For that moment, nothing else exists.  That is why photography can be so moving.  A photograph can create a mood or do nothing at all with the same subject, depending on how the subject is captured with the lens.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”   
   – Henry David Thoreau

Danielle Martin is the inspiration behind this new photo challenge. (this photo below is Danielle's soap) Her Gin Thyme is breath taking!

 Gin Thyme by Danielle Martin

So the challenge was to get as close as your camera could get while focused, then to choose the most interesting "frame" of your soap and post it onto facebook's group: Soaper's Retreat.   Then, list:
What soap is featured
Location of photo (back porch, laundry room, sock drawer....etc)
Name of your company (if you have one)   

There were so many beautiful postings for this challenge.  It was really hard to pick, FERSURE!  I will say that I noticed something that  a lot of you may have overlooked.  Part of the challenge was to get as close as your lens could possibly focus to and then find the best shot from there.  Also, there were some really great shots, but a lot were just out of focus, so let's be more detail oriented.  I am not busting horns just to bust horns.  I am only trying to make us better at presenting our work and being more mindful of presenting the beauty that IS our work.  Be proud and don't shortchange yourself!  These are masterpieces and they deserve the red carpet.

Winners are....

Lina Vilniskyte
Gel phase... Milk, honey, oats
Light source: Cloudy day at the window

Stacey Sherman Johnson
Victorian Christmas
 In the soap room
The Little Flower Farm

Michael Kitney
Rosemary Mint - AKA Get Your Zombie-Like Ass Out Of Bed and Wake The Hell Up!
Afternoon sun on my soap table
My Planet Earth Soap Company

Congratulations to the winners!!  Lots of love to all who participated and those who watched.  Let's keep plugging along soaping the soap or watching us soap!  :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Soap Porn Photo Challenge Results

Some of you may not know about the Facebook group I started called Soaper's Retreat.  I really started it as an extention of this extend it into more of a community.  It has taken off and I am so in love with how things are going.  There are over 600 members and there is consistent sharing, advising, asking, venting....etc.  We are tapping into eachother's knowledge banks and saving all sorts of time and heartache.  You must request to join, but anyone can accept your request.

Sooooo... I decided that as an artist, it's always good to be challenged out of my comfort zone once in a while to explore a new perspective, experience a new medium....whatever the challenge may be.  So I set up an impromptu challenge for everyone in The Soaper's Retreat and gave only 30 hours to complete and post the photos from the challenge.

This was the challenge:

Soap Porn Photo Challenge:

We need some serious soap porn here. Get your cameras out. Everyone has an assignment: Take one picture by natural light at a different angle than you usually take your photos. Then post in this group. Winners of this CHALLENGE will be in my next blog post on The Soap Bar blog.  I'll choose three winners. All entries need to say "Soap Porn Photo Challenge" and need to be posted here in this group by Thursday at 3pm Eastern time (Florida, USA time!)
This is supposed to be fun, so have a good time!

Such nice shots were taken.  Not just beautiful soaps, but great photography!  I think, perhaps, some of you stretched out of your comfort zone and were pleasantly surprised.  Am I right?  I am proud of every one of you who put yourself out there.  This is a community and I am honored and proud to be a part of it all.

Now, on to my three favorites of the bunch:

Soap: Heaven in a Cup (Mocha, Hazelnut, Coffee + Vanilla with Cherry on top)
Location: On worktable with window lighting in the afternoon
{newt+fig soap co}

Soap: Lavender Mint
Location: My Lanai
Light: Natural light from the window

Soap: Unscented/Uncolored Pumpkin Soap
Location: Work table
Light: Natural light from the window

 I personally believe that natural light takes products and enhances their natural beauty.  I urge you to continue taking no-flash photos of your soaps until you are more comfortable.  Thank you so much for participating in this quick and fun roller coaster ride.  Let's do another one soon!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Heavenly Shampoo Bars

Rosemary Nettle Hair Shampoo Soap by Elegant Rose

Lemon Chamomile Shampoo "pucks" by Bee Rogue

Botanical Shampoo Bar by Mossy Creek

Tea Tree and Green Tea Shampoo Bar by Scum Soaps

Sea Salt Apricot Lavender Shampoo Bar by Makana Art

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mianra Artisan Soaps - A New Love


I'm having trouble writing this review for Mianra because there were yummy soaps and cakes she sent from Ireland, and I am kind of beside myself.  A small box of lovelies, but an abundance of quality minis.  Here a picture of the gift I received from Hajni Kele, owner of Mianra.  Wish the picture was better...

First of all, I know Hajni makes mostly cold process soaps, but I quite fell in love with her hot process soap, Cashmere Gold.

My photo of the gem

"A gorgeous blend of Vanilla, Amber, Mimosa Flower and Clove, made with cocoa butter and silk"

SCENT:  Well, I can really only add that I had to breathe slowly in to fully grasp the scent.  Ever changing gorgeousness, really.  When I first smelled the soap, I detected the vanilla and amber and then as the moment passed, the (normally sharp) clove scent slowly wafted in with the slightest hint of cocoa butter and then just when I had a grasp of it, the note changed yet again and went to the softest floral.  The scent itself was so gentle as if caressing my senses, and teasing me with delight.  A simple looking bar with gold mica glittering the top; the off-white color grounded the exotic level of scent that consumed me but not overwhelming at all.

LATHER:  Fantastic!  Super-sonic fat bubbles that quickly tightened and became a creamy lather.  Ah, a soap that soothes my love for seeing big bubbles, but my skin's need for the tight and creamy moisturizing bubbles.  As quickly as the bubbles arrived, they quickly washed off leaving my skin smooth and without a stitch of film.

MOISTURE:  My skin truly loved the way Cashmere Gold left my skin feeling.  AND smelling.  I felt moisturized without feeling overly soft and I felt clean and lovely.

She sent more beautiful looking soaps and they all left me happy and they are truly eye candy with simialr results, but my heart goes to Cashmere Gold, which was a surpise, really, because I don't know if I normally would go for such a scent.  I love it when soapmakers send me things I wouldn't have normally chosen.

Well done, Hajni!  Thank you again for sending me the lot of yums.  I absolutely have loved every second that I've had with them in my new home.  I have a big bathtub I have yet to use the bath treats in.  I will surely be relaxed on that day!


Let's see some soap porn of her work of absolutely stunning soaps.  I drool at my computer when I see her masterpieces.

Please go visit her website here:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Liquid Soap Tutorial Using The Glycerine Method

Thank you to Emma of Spiral Soaps, for sharing this wonderful tutorial on How To Make Liquid Soap.  We had a heck of a time getting this to you.  Enjoy it!  And do let us all know how YOURS comes out.


This tutorial demonstrates making liquid soap paste prior to dilution, using glycerine in place of water. To calculate your recipe, I suggest doing it here.  Also, hints and tips and makers experiences can be found here on The Dish Forum

Here is how I made it, have fun experimenting! (I used olive and castor oils)

step1. Melt your oils of choice in a crock pot

step 2. Heat up the glycerine (use in place of water amount) in a pan and keep hot on a very low flame. Very carefully add your potassium hydroxide a little at a time, stirring all the time, whilst still on the heat.

You must add the lye carefully and slowly as it tends to volcano if you add too much at a time. Keep stirring it down.

step 4. Once the lye has dissolved completely, carefully pour it into the hot oils in the crock pot and stir with a whisk.

step 5. Keep stirring as it goes through several changes quite quickly, after it forms an emulsion, it starts to thicken and darken.

step 6. Little bubbles start to form as you whisk and fly away into the air (this is my favorite bit!).

step 7.  The next stage is thickens more and gets paler, like liquid caramel.

step 8. Thicker still, keep stirring.
step 9. It is super thick now, and beautifully glossy.

step 10. Too thick to whisk now, time to leave it to cool down.

step 11. Leave overnight, and it hardens to a toffee consistency.

step 12. The next day, heat the crock pot again, until the mix turns clear and golden. Weigh some into a jar ready for diluting.

Finally, add the correct amount of boiling water for your desired dilution. This will take trial and error for your particular recipe.

The soap mixture is left to dissolve in the hot water, stir very gently and slowly, to avoid bubbles forming. It will eventually dissolve and as it cools it will thicken. If it sets too thick, add more hot water and repeat the above, until you have the consistency you desire. make lots of notes about your dilution process, so that you can get the same results each time.  Hopefully, you'll be able to add the correct amount of hot water in one go, once you have figured out how much is right for your recipe.

Good luck and happy soaping!

Emma (spiral soaps)


Again, Emma, thank you.  You are a trooper!   hugs, Jo

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Hanger Swirl Technique - Tutorial

 Celine has graciously offered this hanger swirl tutorial for those of you who are interested.  Celine makes amazing soaps (I know firsthand) and they are stunning, too!  Please go visit her site to peruse her art:


The Hanger Swirl Technique by Celine Blacow (Ireland):

This technique allows you to incorporate an advanced design in your cold process soaps very simply and easily, with equipment easily found in most houses. 

What do you need? Firstly make up your usual cold process soap formula to the soap batter stage.  Divide it into at least two colours, in the example shown, Adam + Eve, we’ve used a very classic combination of black and white.  Contrasting colours work best with this technique, however, you could get a very interesting combination from colours within the same range (consider using this technique as an add on to the gradient layers technique shown earlier on this blog from Emily Shieh). 

There are 9 basic steps in working with the Hanger Swirl Technique:

1                    Prepare your soap as you normally would but choose a fragrance or essential oil and a formulation that allows you time to play around with your soap – possibly not the best time to try that new fragrance oil or your extra spicy essential oils!

2                    Choose your colours - you’ll need a minimum of two colours and highly contrasting colours work really well together.  You can, however, choose as many colours as you wish … in this example of my Adam + Eve soap, I choose a classic combination of black and white.

3                    Have your jugs of coloured soaps ready and pour in equal sized layers.  The more layers, the more definition you should achieve.  Five or six layers are probably best, with two being the minimum.

4                    Once you have each layer poured, take your hanger.  The hanger you’ll use is a regular wire hanger, the kind you get with your dry cleaning.  A plastic coated wire hanger would be even better.  Bend and shape this so that it fits your mould perfectly, length and height wise. 

5                    Bang your mould to allow any bubbles to rise to the top and then you’re ready to use your hanger.  Place it at the longest side of the mould furthest away from you.  Push the hanger down into the mould, pushing lightly against the side of the mould.  When you reach the bottom of your mould, move the hanger fractionally towards you, keeping it at the bottom of the mould. Then pull the hanger up, keeping it nice and straight and slowly drag it up through the layers of your soap. 

6                    When you reach the top, move it fractionally towards you again and then push it down slowly back into the soap, keeping it nice and straight and moving slowly. 

7                    Move it fractionally closer towards you when it’s at the bottom of the mould, and then pull it up again, slowly dragging it up towards the top. 

8                    Repeat until you have reached the other side of the mould.  Depending on the width of your mould, you might have to do the push/pull technique four or five times.  You can repeat it going back in the other direction, if you like. 

9                    Once you’ve finished, knock off any excess soap off the hanger and place it carefully in your sink for washing up later.  Then work on the top of the soap as you’d normally do. 

The images below show both the layers and how the hanger has broken through the layers to create this swirl.