Saturday, May 26, 2012

Landscape Challenge

I have to say, this challenge from Amy at Greatcakes Soapworks was one that I was really looking forward to and when it came, was so intimidated. The Landscape Challenge.
Winter Wonderland Dec 2011

It's not that I've never done it before. I made a Winter Wonderland soap this past winter where I made snowmen embeds and then just went with it and ended up with a landscape that I loved. I lost the whispy sky swirl, but the stearic speckles gave it a charming snowy effect, lol. For this week's challenge I actually had to plan to create a landscape. Yikes!
I'm a sky watcher. There's nothing in the sky that I don't love - it's totally untouched by human hands. When the sky bursts with brilliant colours in an evening sunset it takes my breath away and is proof positive that God delights to surprise us. So I went in search of a sunset photo for inspiration and found this absolutely gorgeous photo of a Canadian sunset.

Now I knew that I couldn't even come close to replicating this scene, but I gave it a shot.
Land of the Setting Sun
I chose to replace the road with rolling hills - that part isn't too bad. My sun sunk a little too low and I lost a lot of my colour. I poured directly over the sun yellow (oxide), then gold (mica), then tangerine (mica), then raspberry (mica). The first three colours looked very different from one another in their separete containters but were lost in the end. And the light clouds should have been a bit darker. Could have done without the bazillion air bubbles too.
I scented this with litsea cubeba, and for the first time ever, used tussah silk. Not stellar, I admit, but not a fail either. In fact, I kinda like it.


I'll keep looking skyward for those magnificently bright bursts of colour. And though I know I'll never re-create them in such brilliant spendor, I will keep trying in my soap!

Check out Amy's blog for some beautiful landscape soap creations.

Friday, May 18, 2012

And speaking of the Conference ...

The Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild, a.k.a. HSMG, hosts a soapmakers conference each year.This year the 15th annual conference was held in Portland Oregon May 9 - 11, and yours truely was so blessed to be able to go! There's just something that happens to a lone soapmaker who is suddenly engulfed in an international group of over 300 soapmakers - I have been empowered!!

Alas, I have no pictures - didn't even think about bringing my camera. But I have so many fond memories and a wealth of new information that will hopefully push my craft from hobby to business. Essential oil blending, the influence of social media, chemical composition of handcrafted soap, what women are NOT saying, product photography, the art of good copywriting, good manufacturing practices, new techniques in soapmaking - these are just some of the topics that were addressed. Did I mention the more than 300 other soapmakers in attendance? While waiting for a session to begin I started talking to the lady seated next to me only to find that it was Pam - we've been commenting on each others soaps during the Great Cakes Soapworks Challenges over the past few months - how fun was that?!  Linda, who I first met on the Soap Bar facebook page was fun and her enthusiasm is so contagious. And my conversation with Donna, whose faith and life views are very similar to mine, inspired me to trust  that God has a plan for me, even in my soapmaking, and it's a better plan than I could ever come up with for myself.

Yes, if you're a soapmaker and you've never been to an HSMG conference, you really should consider going to one. It's definitely worth the investment. Many THANKS to all those hardworking people who put it on!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Salt Soap Challenge - I am so late....

Oh well, I suppose that's why Amy at Great Cakes Soapworks leaves the Link up open for a full week.

I anticipated this to be an easy challenge. I've made salt bars before, so I thought I'd change things up a bit - I used coconut milk in place of the water and pink himalayan salt in place of sea salt. Between packing for the HSMG Conference in Portland and getting a weeks' worth of errands done before leaving I created lovely pictures in my head of a beautiful blue soap with the twinkling of pink crystals shimmering throughout. Mmmm Hmm. Not so much.

This bar is 80% coconut oil, 15% avocado oil and 5% castor oil, 100% coconut milk for the water portion and 20% superfat, and indigo powder in the lye solution. I made this the night before leaving for the conference, figured it would be hard enough for me to unmold after a few hours - wrong. I have to admit though, other than the pre-mature unmolding blemishes it's not as bad as I anticipated.
 I knew I could do better than this, so when I got home I tried again. The only difference in the recipe was that I did not add any colourant the second time round. I also oiled my mold with a bit of castor oil before pouring and waited til the next day to unmold.

Much happier with this bar.

Maybe I'll be brave one day and make a salt soap loaf. Or not - I kinda like this shape.

As always, be sure to check out the other challenge participants results if you haven't already.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Challenge #7 - Gradient Soap

This week's challenge from Amy at Great Cakes Soapworks was for a gradient soap. I decided to do a lemon-lime gradient beginning with green and ending with yellow. I'm still on my infusions kick so my green is coloured with spirulina infused olive oil and a bit of chromium green oxide. For the yellow I used the last of my annatto seed infused olive oil. I thought it would be enough to give me a light yellow. It's okay, but I wish I had added a bit of yellow oxide to it. Oh well - live and learn.

Lemon Lime Gradient log

I love this look!

Gasp - what is that?!

Can you see the teeny tiny yellow specks in there? When I first saw it I wondered if it was possible for DOS to settle in so quickly. I didn't think that was possible but they are everywhere! Then I pushed the replay on my brain and remembered shaking the jar with the annatto oil in it just before weighing it and then using my mini spatula to scrape out every bit of oil, including the residue on the bottom of the bowl. Upon further inspection I found not a single yellow speck in the bottom all green layer - the specks begin with the second layer and are more frequent as the layers lighten. So I'm assuming they are iddy biddy bits of annatto powder.

It's like a beacon!

They really are unsightly! Oh well...

I have loved doing all of the challenges so far, but I must say, dispite the ugly speckles in these bars, this has been my favorite challenge. I love this effect! I will definitely be doing this again, and soon.

Mama loves you anyway!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Those Pesky Bugs!

It's spring in Alberta, and while we all look forward to warmer weather and outside living, the reality is that we will be sharing the great outdoors with tiny pesky winged creatures. There's no denying that most of us love to be outdoors in the nice weather, but with the warnings against the overuse of 'deet' these past few year what's an outdoorsman to do??

I've recently been pondering this question with my mom in mind; she enjoys summer walks outdoors but those annoying insects inevitably send her indoors. So I've been researching natural products that will repel insects. Enter neem oil. According to the benefits of neem oil for humans, animals and plants are vast, not the least of which is it's a natural insect repellent that is good for the skin. It reportedly helps relieve symptoms of psoriasis, eczema and acne as well as dry, itchy and irritated skin.

Well, I make soap that is good for the skin. Why not try it? So I did. And soon found out why not everyone is on the neem soap bandwagon - it's odour is not exactly pleasant. But it does look creamy, doesn't it? This was the fastest tracing soap I have ever made. With a blend of essential oils including eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, and lemon, I'm hoping Mom and I will both be able to enjoy the great outdoors once again.

Buzz Off! soap  

The nutty-garlic smell of the neem oil has already mellowed considerably. It has a distinctively earthy aroma to it now. I'm looking forward to testing it in about 4 weeks' time and will certainly be posting an update.

Here's to summer and the great outdoors!