Monday, August 1, 2011

Even the Soap Snob Loves These Soaps!

Okay, so one of the goals of this blog was to not only keep you up to date on what is going on here at 13th Moon, but also to showcase other very talented artists that deserve your attention & recognition for what they do. While I want to go through, show by show, and showcase items we have purchased and have pictures and links, etc. I also, obviously, have a thing for handmade soaps and cannot stop myself from buying from other soapers every chance I get.

Some take offense to this and think I am doing some sort of sneaky research or stealing of ideas, which, I guess, I can understand, but it is genuinely for my love of soap, and really good soap at that. To be completely honest, I have so many ideas swirling around in my head that I can’t get to all of MY ideas and batches of soap that I want to, let alone trying to make something that someone else is already doing. My goal in all of this was to let my personality and sense of humor come out in what I do, (and believe me, both are very unique to only me). How can I do that if I am taking someone else’s creativity and love in an attempt to make it mine? That’s just not me, never has been.

I buy from other soapers to support handmade products and to support my craft. I LOVE what I do, every single aspect of it. I like to see that same love and care taken by others and I like to support them for that reason. I love to talk soap with other people in the industry, almost to a fault, I never know when to shut up about it.  If they are willing to talk and share, we can learn so much from each other and further our craft. Isn’t that what it is all about anyway?

So, I figured I’d start this portion of the blog out showcasing two wonderfully talented soapers that I met at different shows. Yes, I have met many other soapers, and nothing against them at all, I am just a soap snob and am very particular about the products I use. I not only admire these women for the beautiful and well loved products they create, but for their glowing personalities and willingness to be kind and gush about what they love to do when meeting “the competition”, lol, so funny to me that we are “competition”.

One of the things I love the most about handmade soap is that creating your formula is so much like creating a food recipe (oh how I love my food and cooking!). Just like, even when given “grandma’s” recipe for something, you can follow everything step-by-step, yet it just isn’t quite the same as when grandma makes it. I know that I could even give out my formulations to someone, and they can make a batch using the same oils and butters and liquids that I do, what they come back with will be completely different from my batch. That is part of the beauty & magic in it. That is also why I am so willing to share what I have learned with others. There is only one me and only I make what I make the way I make it. It took me years to come into my style of soapmaking and I only was able to do it with the help and guidance of other soapers. For that, I will be eternally grateful to them. My promise to them, that I will continue the craft and share my knowledge as freely as I can.

But, on to the fun and good stuff, the two amazing soapers that I really admire and suggest, that if you, like me, are a soap junkie, try one of their products. They are both very different from mine, but still beautiful to use and left my skin happy.

1. Marie’s Soaps in Ottsville, PA.

Marie’s is very established and has been doing this for quite a while. It is a family run local business, and all female, which I admire. I first met the granddaughter, Brooke, at a school craft show last winter. She was selling for her family, soaps made by her mother (Brenda) and grandmother (Marie). Brooke was kind enough to chat with me for a while once I told her that I, too, was a soapmaker. She asked very good questions, like what got me started, what processes and ingredients I use and she shared the story of how her family got their start.

I absolutely loved the enthusiasm she had for their products and her excitement for when she would be able to make batches herself. She knew so much about what went into the process and the ingredients they used, for her age, it was very impressive. She was quite the sales woman as well. I left their booth with 2 bars of soap, “California Citrus” (I rarely do straight citrus blends, so that is usually what I go for from other soapers) and “The Stripper” which was an exfoliating scrubby hand soap, I was out of my “Monkey Wrench” at the time and like to see what others use for this purpose.

Marie’s uses only essential oils in her soaps. Both of the soaps I got from her were very nicely, lightly scented with beautiful, creamy, fluffy lather. As many of you know, I love my fragrance, so I know that my soaps tend to be on the more scented side of the spectrum. I use toward the maximum usage rates for almost all of my soaps to make sure the scent lasts. I love when the whole bathroom smells of the soap you used right after a shower. But, I also know that many people prefer a less scented soap, or different blends from what I have to offer. If that’s you, then Marie’s is your place to go. Her formula left my skin very soft and feeling loved and pampered.

I later, at another show, got to meet Brenda briefly, then at a different show, had the pleasure of briefly chatting with Marie. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to talk as much as I would have liked, but I did get to tell her that I love her formula and which soaps I purchased. I also got to tell her how taken I was with her granddaughter. Again, both of them couldn’t have been nicer, no wonder they have been so successful! I point this out because some soapers simply get annoyed with another soaper wanting to chat. Or you try to make conversation on something you don’t have or offer (or even intend to for that matter) and are told that things are a “proprietary secret” when it is something having to do with how they use their mold, not even about their formula. Hell, I’ve actually written down fail proof starting formulations for people looking to get into the craft, as a here, try this, see how you like it, research and tweak as you see fit. But at least it’s a starting point.

I’ve even had another local soaper, not naming names here, trash me to an event coordinator! Now, this woman never tried my products, so had nothing to base her claims of, “oh, my soap is better, you should kick her off the show and put me on, I will have better sales.” Well, everyone, I will tell you this right now, that attitude will not get you very far with event coordinators, or anyone else for that matter. Because I was so excited about the show and so friendly to the coordinator, she felt the need to call me and let me know of the “trash talk” that was dished out and who said it. This left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth about this person, her business, and her products. And since I’m not naming names, I feel I can say this, I bought a soap from this person about a year before this happened. The soap was used twice and thrown away! Do you know how hard it is for someone like me to actually throw away a bar of soap without using it? I use everything down to the smallest sliver, but this was not something that did anything positive for my skin at all. But as I said, I am a soap snob.

I feel the love in my soaps, as I do in Marie’s and Donna’s (read about her below). Maybe if you can feel the love, you can also feel the bitterness, lol? Maybe it was the bad attitude that came out in the finished product, but it was certainly not superior to anything I have ever used, period. This was even before I was selling my soaps that I tried hers. I am not trashing her now, please don’t take it that way, I am simply saying, that you truly do get back what you put out there. People pick up on these things whether you realize it or not. I hope my gushing about what I love shows in every single batch, just like Grandma’s special recipes that cannot be duplicated, no one will put what I do into a product, just as no one can put what anyone else can into theirs. Soapmaking truly is a labor of love.

2. Donna McGinn at Garden Party Soapworks in Pequea, PA.

I met Donna at a show in Columbia, PA. We were both selling at the show and were a few booths down from each other. I seem to approach other soapers with caution anymore, lol, but there was no need with Donna. She has gorgeous soaps, she is confident in her products and it shows. Since the show was a little slow, and luckily, Dan was there with me to help man the booth, I was able to go and chat with her a bit during the lull of the show. Donna was so generous with sharing her knowledge and techniques, some of which are similar to some of the things I do, but as I said, we are all so unique and I love it!

I fell in love with her “Smokin Sexy” blend. This was a white bar that was filled with black “confetti” soap. It was shredded black soap in a white base, not only was it beautiful to look at, it smelled like heaven to me. I now regret not taking a photo before I used it all up! As I said, my nose likes a lot of fragrance, and this was the only soap of hers that I could actually smell much, and I loved it. She was kind enough to let me know what was in the blend, at least some of it. Needless to say, I left with a bar of the “Smokin Sexy” and a half size/travel bar (I love these for at the sinks) of Green Tea & Lemongrass, which, admittedly, I cannot really smell, it just smells clean and fresh, like handmade soap should! Much like my own, and Marie’s, I could feel the love that Donna puts into her soaps. My skin thanked me for using her bar, which is beautifully formulated with rich, fluffy lather. So, if you are, or if you know someone that is, one of those people that can’t handle fragrance, but loves a great bar of soap, then you really need to try Donna’s Garden Party Soapworks.

Well, all, that’s it for sharing my love of others soaps. It does take quite a lot to impress me, but both of these companies did. I admire all of these women mentioned, not only from a business perspective, but for who they are and allowing it to show in their products and to me. Thank you, ladies, for your kindness and sharing and for making an excellent bar of soap. As a soapmaker, you not only represent yourself, but the whole community and industry. If you sell before you are ready or have an inferior product, it reflects on all of us. A person that buys from you or me, or whoever is selling soap will now think all handmade soap is like the one they bought, good or bad. They remember that experience. Let’s get together as a community, start acting like one and respect each other, it only furthers the industry for all of us. Ladies, I thank you for representing all of us soapmakers in a positive light, both from your sparking personalities to your high quality products you put out there.

Until next time…….


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why I do What I Do

It’s been way too long since I’ve written anything. Such big plans on reporting back on all of the shows, great artists we’ve met and things we’ve purchased and fell in love with from them, new formulas & products, tons of notes, yet it seems so difficult to find a few moments to collect them all together and share them with you. Well, I am trying very hard to change that. I plan on trying to catch up. I have some pics taken of the great things we’ve gotten from amazingly talented artists and links to their sites/etsy shops so you can check them out! Check back for hopefully more frequent updates. But for now, I would like to share a personal story that will give you a little background knowledge into why I do what I do and am so passionate about it, not to mention why I am so adamant about doing things a particular way.

Those close to me know, I am not exaggerating in the least when I tell you I am allergic to almost everything and am asthmatic. Knock wood, I have been able to keep my asthma in check for the past few years with many changes to my lifestyle. When I would go to the allergist for what I call the torture test (where they prick your skin to test what you are allergic to), the results would come back with something like 150-160 things caused a reaction. All molds, pet dander (but I love my doggies), some foods, you name it, there’s a chance I will react to it somehow. The allergist would almost always offer up the “allergy shots” where they inject you with a little of what you are allergic to in order to try to build up your system. But, the issue they’ve had with me is that they can only give something like 6 things per shot, so my regimen would consist of like 3-4 shots with a cocktail of 6 allergens in each shot per week in order to try to build up a tolerance over the course of a year or so, then move on to the next set of shots with different allergens and repeat until all the big ones have been covered. I have had these shots several times in my life, and this last time it was offered, after a few weeks, I decided that I would try a different route. I don’t know how or why I am this way, but I am and have had to learn how to live with it and understand how to stop/prevent reactions.

Well, I have been feeling awful these past few months, knowing I have run myself down trying to do way too much, I wasn’t exactly worried about it. I also knew a slight reprieve was coming, so I pushed through it. Since my immune system was a little beaten, it was no surprise to me that instead of the normal once or twice a week reaction (starting to break out in hives, usually around the eyes) to who knows what, they started getting more and more frequent. But, as per usual, the run to the bathroom, strip off all clothes, put them right in the washer with my homemade laundry soap, jump in the shower, use a salt bar (since it seems to do such a great job of getting whatever oils on my skin off) all over, then repeat once or twice, dry off with a clean towel. My wonderful hubby will have water and Benadryl waiting for me and the hives seem to go away within 20-30 mins. Well, this was not the case on July 16th. Leading up to this day, I had been getting increasingly worse, not only with allergic reactions, but my entire body seemed to be hating me, a lot.

I ended up with an ear infection, so was prescribed some drops to clear it up. Apparently these drops had sulfates in them, which my body hates, especially when it is already taking a self inflicted beating. But I will get to that later. I went in to my day job for a few hours on Saturday (the 16th) to get caught up on some things since I missed some time during the week from feeling ill. That morning, my eyes were swollen and hurt really bad. The light was almost unbearable. Oddly enough, the whites of my eyes were swelling bigger than my eyelids could contain. It looked like they were watery, but they weren’t, it was the white of my eye swelling. It was very painful. I only made it 3 hours at the office before heading home. By evening, the reaction kicked into high gear. These hives were the worst I’ve had in about 5-6 years. I knew a trip to the hospital was inevitable almost immediately, but still tried the usual routine. By the time I got into the shower, my entire body was red and the welts started growing. My body was on fire, I couldn’t cool down, I couldn’t stop the burn or itch. It was head to toe. I scratched my scalp until it bled while washing my hair. My legs bruised for over a week from how hard I was scratching to try to ease the itch. I went as far as to use my Pumice Foot Stone on my body to try to get whatever it was on me off. It was clear, this was internal, not something that could be washed off.

I was swelling up and fast, had to get the two rings I always have on off before they would have to be cut off, my grandfather’s and my wedding bands. They were already cutting deep into my skin. Luckily I keep the fast acting, melts-on-your-tongue Benadryl on hand for these occasions. Took it, nothing. Now, my throat started swelling, not again. I tell Dan, my amazingly understanding hubby, my throat may be closing, this hasn’t happened in years, let’s get ready to go to the ER. This, of course, brings a total look of panic across his face, “What do I do?” he asks. My response, “Calm down, get me some decent clothes and drive to the hospital.” In the back of my mind, all I can think of is how angry I was that this was happening. I had 10 batches of soap to make this weekend, why is this happening now?

We got to St. Luke’s in Quakertown, and I have to say, they were fabulous! I had a limited wait (only about 30-45 mins) where I sat in the waiting room ripping my skin to shreds in an attempt to get some relief. My throat now so swollen (on the outside) to the point where I can’t move my head without cutting off my breath, my neck was so swollen, but yet, internally, my throat was still open. My breathing was not affected, with environmental allergies; I immediately cannot breath and need a nebulizer treatment. This was completely different, which was scary, yet comforting because I could still breathe. When they took me back, they apologized for the wait. What? In an emergency room, you apologized for the wait? I’m from South Jersey, I’ve been in an ER waiting room for 4-5 hours having an asthma attack until turning blue in the face, while my mom frantically begs someone to help me. An apology after 30-45 mins seemed crazy to me, but was much appreciated. The staff was amazing and got me out of there within 3-4 hours. Yep, it was the sulfates in the ear drops, at least now I know.

I have decided not to go to the Allergists that do the torture tests and even the treatments don’t seem to agree with me, not saying they aren’t right for others, but my body does not seem to like most of Western Medicine other than my asthma maintenance drugs. I seem to have a negative reaction to so many medications, I wanted to try another route. So, I went to a homeopathic practitioner, who seems to have narrowed down my systemic issues (hopefully) and we are now trying to treat them with diet, supplements, and changes to my lifestyle. Only time will tell what my body can handle, even recovering from this reaction and getting all the yuckiness out of me seems to be taking longer than usual, I’m still not quite myself. But, I am so thankful for how smoothly this last reaction went, it could have been so much worse. But, I am still way behind on my soapmaking, packaging, updating the website, blog & booking shows! There just aren’t enough hours in the day, but hopefully I will be making better use of the hours I do have and give you more and more useful and fun information!

If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with soapmaking and my other products; it is my body’s reaction to things that got me into soapmaking in the first place. I love fragrances, always have. But I couldn’t/can’t always wear them. I did years and years of research to find out that it wasn’t necessarily the fragrance that caused the reaction, but in a lot of instances, it was the formulation of the product. I found formulas that work for me and I can use most fragrances now. As many will attest to, I am obsessed with fragrance, that is why I can’t ever seem to narrow down my lines, I want to offer it all! If there’s ever something you are looking for and don’t see, just ask, there’s a good chance the gears are already turning in my cluttered head and I already have some of the oils to work with, I just need that push to get me started. I always appreciate inspiration coming from a customer or friend. Speaking of which, Cape Cod Jeff, I have not forgotten about you, but actually have probably way more working than you were looking for, but I think it will be worth it, I’m getting carried away with the Vetiver blending! Samples will be headed your way soon!

Thank you to all of you for your patience and understanding if things are taking a little longer than usual to get done. This is temporary and I will be back to my hyperactive, whirlwind self in no time (hopefully).



Monday, March 28, 2011

"They call me the Wild Rose, but my name was Alisa Day"

“Do you know where the wild roses grow.......So sweet and scarlet and free?”

This was truly a labor of love….you see, Rose and I just have never gotten along, ever.  Don’t like it, gives me a headache, just can’t ever seem to work with it.  Well, I just couldn’t resist testing myself.  My challenge for myself: create a rose blend that a rose lover or one that does not particularly care for rose can both love and wear.  Since I have a love for Amber, I decided to start out with the main notes being Baby Rose and Amber.  I added in a bit of Rosehip, Oakmoss, and some others, it was nice, but it seemed to be missing something.  I added just a touch of Jasmine after about a week, and that seemed to be it.  It created a warm, romantic scent that you can pick up on the Rose a lot, but it’s not overpowering, very feminine, very beautiful.  So, finally pleased with the fragrance, and inspired by the upcoming Jim Thorpe Burlesque Fest, I decided to make a few very decadent specialty soaps to pamper the ladies, the first being Alisa Day…….

Having grown up with a love of Nick Cave, one of my favorite songs is “Where the Wild Roses Grow”.  The chorus: “They call me the Wild Rose, But my name was Alisa Day.  Why they call me that I do not know.  For my name was Alisa Day.”  So, from the very beginning, if I was going to make a successful Amber Rose blend, it would be called “Alisa Day”.

I already knew I wanted to use double strength Rosehip Tea as my liquid, I really love Rosehip Tea in soap, it leaves a very pretty light rose color.  I set aside a few ounces of the tea to mix my decadent additives while it was still hot; Silk Powder, French Pink Clay, and White Kaolin Clay.  Since I can never resist Coconut Milk for its rich, creamy texture, I added Coconut Milk Powder as well.  Wow, this is going to be beautiful!

Once the tea was cool, I measured out what I needed for my lye mixture, less the few ounces that was used to mix in the goodies, and several ounces of ice to cool the mixture down a bit.  My oils already measured and mixed, I added my tea/clay/silk mixture to my oils, blended very well, then added that beautiful fragrance blend, and mixed some more.  Once fully mixed, and lye mixture fully cooled, it was time to get to work.

I strained my lye mixture into my oil blend, then got the stick blender ready.  To my surprise, this didn’t trace as quickly as I was expecting with the floral notes, it actually soaped beautifully.  I poured into two silicone loaf molds once at a light trace, once it started to set up a little bit, I textured the top a little.  I cut these into a little bit of a smaller, but wider bar since I know some women prefer the smaller bars that fit beautifully into their hand.  It’s still a nice, big chunky bar, but it is not as long or wide, but is thicker.  They are topped with a beautiful single rosebud.  I am so happy with the way they turned out, they are just fully cured and ready to be packaged for their debut at the Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival!  Come join us on April 2-3, 2011 for the Burlesque Bazaar!

How could I forget, also, making her debut at the event will be “Silk Stockings”, our other Silk Luxury Bar inspired by the beautiful ladies of Burlesque.  This lightly feminine fragrance lingers just enough after using the bar, which is off-white in color due to the Coconut Milk, has soft silk added, and just for fun, inspired by the line running up the back of old silk stockings, I drizzled some fine black swirls throughout the batch, and used a new technique to texture the tops.  What a beautiful bar of soap!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nothing Says I Love You Like Fetish in the Shower!

One of my all time favorite blends, so, so good....Fetish: A Rich & Sensual Blend of Leather, Vanilla, Berries, Sandalwood & a Beer & Coconut Milk Soap with Shea & Cocoa Butters

Fetish is made with local, home brewed beer, courtesy of our good friend Jim in South Jersey, Thanks Jim! ;)

The story of this fragrance is actually what started my quest to blend my own fragrances and in turn start making soap, so it is very near & dear to my heart.  When I was 19, I walked into a store and fell in love with one of their fragrance oils, Leather & Vanilla.  When I say in love with, I couldn't not smell this blend, I carried viles of the oil and small candles in my purse.  It was rich, sensual, and just perfect.  Needless to say, as always happens when one loves a scent so much, the company went out of business and never sold their blend, this wonderful scent just vanished.  But, the fabulous people at the store that carried it were nice enough to let me know that it was being discontinued far in advance, so I was able to buy every single bottle and candle that they had in the store for a month straight, and I can happily say that, though I use them, sparingly, I still have a little stock left almost 10 years later.  I still refer back to that bottle when tweaking any blend I've worked on with Leather & Vanilla.

So, knowing that I could no longer get that brand, I started out on a quest to blend my own to scent as close to that one as I could.  At that time I had no idea how complex fragrance blends were.  It said leather and vanilla, so that's what I started with.  Well, blending fragrances is a little more complex than that.  It takes many, many notes sometimes to make up what may only smell like a few to most people.  You cannot always pick out the other oils, but that doesn't mean that they don't play a key part in making a well balanced blend.  That is what this taught me.  Well, it has changed many, many times since I first started trying to blend it in 2002, and will probably be tweaked a little here and there since I can't seem to help myself sometimes, but I was so, so happy with the end result this time around.  Next step, what kind of soap do I put this beautiful unisex blend in?  

When trying to decide, all I could think of was beer and coconut milk.....what a beautiful bar!  I have to admit, that I could not put the bars down while packaging them, they smell amazing!  I happily tucked a few bars away in my car just so they will leave their scent....I LOVE THIS BLEND!  Even now, 3 bars sit beside me and I cannot seem to stop sniffing them.....So, have you figured out why I called this one Fetish yet? :)

I really had a point when I sat down to write tonight, but I keep getting side tracked by this scent....Am I the only one completely obsessed with Leather & Vanilla blends???

Happily sitting in a room smelling like Fetish Beer & Coconut Milk Soap when I should be in bed....


Friday, January 14, 2011

Honey, Valentine's Day is Coming!

I returned to soapmaking for the first time in almost four weeks between the Christmas and New Year's holidays.  It is always interesting to return after a small break.  I wonder, will the process be kind and forgiving or will it be a brutal disaster, angry that I have been away?  I know it sounds silly, but you cannot help but wonder, the process seems to take on a life of it's own once it starts.  But, I anxiously awaited the moment that I could begin working on the Valentine's line since that would bring about my return to my love, Cold Process Soapmaking.  Those four weeks seemed like an eternity that I had been away. 

I have been bugging Dan for months, "I really want to make a honey soap with this fantastic honey fragrance I got, but I'm so bored with the typical golden brown, uncolored bar of honey soap, as beautiful as they are, I want something different for us, you know, something"  Well, this turned into my bringing up the possibility of making the bar 3 layers of yellow, black, yellow, to look like a bee's abdomen, I jokingly have referred to this as our "Bee Butt" soap..... So, it had been a long time of planning, and I am not the most patient, so I was both excited and nervous as working with honey can be tricky since the sugars heat up the mixture and can make you have to work fast, really fast.  Didn't know how pretty it would be, would I be able to pour this beautifully into the mold, or will it trace too quickly and lump up so that it can only be plopped in a spoonful at a time, then mashed down?  Please, Soap Gods, let this pour beautifully at just the right time.......please, Selena, work fast enough.

And the race begins........
I have everything ready and set up, colorants awaiting raw soap emulsion to be blended in, fragrance and honey added to oils, everything very cool to give me more time to work......and alas, my darling friend has remembered me and welcomed me back with open arms, I thank you.  The fragrance is amazing, as I started to pour the yellow into the mold, I realized that I still had plenty of time, and I just HAD to swirl this one, so, after the mold was about half full, I poured some black into the yellow and swirled with a chopstick, beautiful, still plenty of time to work.  I then poured a layer of black over the layer of swirled, then finished up with the remaining yellow as the last layer, and textured the top as if it were cake icing (see below). 

As soon as this was done, I immediately asked, "What about Buzzz Word?"  So, the picture above is of, Buzzz Word, our take on a Honey Soap......We have also made a wonderful Honey Beer Soap for our guys in our Barroom Hero Collection, our Pale Honey Ale accompanies Buzzz Word along with linen spray and some other goodies in our Valentine's Day Couples Honey Gift Set.....Treat yourself and your Honey for Valentine's Day!   These will be available the last weekend in January (via me through email or at Chamaeleon Boutique in Ambler, PA)........More pictures coming soon.....See beow for a pic of all the upcoming soaps we just created!  The Pale Honey Ale Beer Soap & Buzzz Word Honey Soap are the ones to the right.  The swirled bar in the front of the "tub" is "Wanderlust....more on that and others to come.....

So excited about the new year already and I hope you are, too........stay tuned for more updates.......


"Cleanliness is next to Godliness"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Year, New Product

Well, 2010 was an eventful year for us, lots of hard work and late nights!  After a great time at the Firebird Festival in December, we used the holidays to take stock of our inventory and started planning what would be our new items in 2011.

Would like to take a moment to thank family and friends for their support as well as everyone whom we have met at shows and have shared our products with; many thanks to you!

We have begun the first items and once they are ready we will have posts and pics to share!

Happy New Year! And stay tuned...more to come!