Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Valentines Collection and how I feel about soap

Aphrodisia Soap
A creamy, sweet, floral blend of almost edible aromas. Juicy notes of Raspberry and Melon entwine with Mango, Honeysuckle & Jasmine with a base note of Indian Oudh.

Entice Soap
Vermilion red Strawberries in a thick coating of the finest milk chocolate alongside a tall glass of bubbly Champagne.

Jilted & Crushed soap
A keepsake box of loves lost. Chunks of Copal resin, Indian Attar's filled with Oudh, Flakes of Amber resin, Black Tonka Beans and offerings of Dragronsblood, finished with a lick of Vetiver.

La Vie en Rose soap (life in pink)
Soft powdery Violet, Indian Mahogany Rose, a vintage jar of Parma Violets and a hint of dark, sticky Labdanum oil.

I've been meaning to update this blog for a year! Yep, caught beneath the grind stone again.
I thought I'd just drop by and put up a few pics from our new Valentines collection and have a little talk about bar soap and whipped soap. I have a few things to get off my chest.

Deep breath, here goes.
As the business grows I find that more and more of my customers want whipped soap in a jar more so than bar soap.  This saddens me greatly.
Whilst the soap in a jar is a great product (it took three years of trial and error to get it just right - no pre-made base from Stephenson's here!) it isn't as amazing as a bar soap on the skin.
Sure, I love opening a new tub and digging my fingers into the mousse like product but I'm not overly mad about it. I make it because my hair loves it and because it is in demand...like, really in demand.

I make the whipped soap with various surfactants, the primary one being Sodium coco sulphate.  It makes a massive difference in the feel of the product on the skin and hair because it is way more gentle than it's cousin SLS or it's aunty, SLES, but it's still not what I prefer to use on my own skin on a daily basis. I tell a lie...I do use it on my particulars (!) as it's gentle and won't strip the skin down there. Ahem, moving on.
I use it on my hair every single day. It has made my hair shine like never before, and along with our hair conditioner, my hair is left tangle free and ultra shiny. So, you see I'm not dissing this bitch, why would I? I made it and I made it to the best of my ability, I'm just frustrated to a point. 

So, let's get back to bar soap.
Bar soap is the bomb. Bar soap is where it's at. Bar soap is what brought me here. Bar soap to me is my passion, my baby, my everything.
From the oils and butters, to the essential oils and fragrance blends, the colours, the clays, the flowers, the infusions, the yoghurts, the milks, the creams...every part of the soap making process is what fires me up.
I love the rustic side of soaping (you may be aware of that if you've seen my slap dash video's), the throw it into the mold and see what we get approach.
I love making it, cutting it, stamping it, trimming it, then looking at it, looking at it some more, sitting on the floor of the workshop by the curing rack and sniffing it, and of course I LOVE using it. Opening up a fresh bar from the packet is like a gift every single time. I love the initial drag from a brand new bar of soap, I love how when it hits the water it softens and as it hits the skin it lathers and turns to thick cream and I like how it rinses away, leaving behind clean, soft skin which smells divine.
I love the whole process of dreaming up a new bar, a new scent, a new design.
I don't get to do that with any of my other products. The rest of the products, whilst great, are not that pleasurable to make. Yanno, I can't just throw in some Vanilla pods or some dead sea mud, some salt or Rhassoul into those like I can with real handmade soap.
The act of pouring the gloop into a wooden mold and then swirling in another colour, and then peaking the tops and sprinkling the whole deal with some kind of botanical gives me more pleasure than any other part of my job. Ask any soap maker, they'll tell you the same thing. Even after soaping for 10-20+ years, they will still tell you the same thing. Soaping is the passion behind any soap, bath and body co. On mornings when you wake knowing you have several batches to cut up, it's like Christmas or your birthday. It's exciting.
Cutting into a batch and seeing the design inside makes me smile. It makes me smile wide...unless it's a total fail, then it makes me frown. I should mention that I do have a love/hate relationship with the art of soap making, but that's a story for another time.

What I'm saying here is, well....handmade bar soap vs. whipped soap for washing the whole body wins hands down in my book. Every. Single. Time.
Use the whipped soap on your hair, to shave, to use on your particulars (whoop there it is again), but on your body....SOAP. USE SOAP! (you can of course do as you please but please don't).
Mwah, til next time x

Friday, 28 February 2014

Catching up

It's been too long again.
No posts since Xmas last year I believe.
So, what's been going down?
We kicked off the year at FuturePrim with a Valentines release, which I don't usually make too much of a deal out of but this year my customers asked that I make a few scents, which go against the grain.  Scents for the single people out there who don't have love from a sexual partner in their lives.
Ok...I can go with that.  If there's one thing I don't like very much it's the typical Valentines thing.  I don't really do flowers and pretty, pretty things but it's not to say I don't like it.  I do, I just don't like the whole Valentines flowers, hearts, chocolates thing.
So, this year I invented a few scents based on a darker theme.
The number one bestseller out of the bunch was Jilted & Crushed.  A blend of dark and resinous notes such as Tonka, Vetiver, Vanilla, Incense, Dragonsblood and several different aromachemicals.
Here's a pic of the freshly-poured soap I made in that scent:

For colours I used some TD, some Cocoa, Activated charcoal & Aussie Red clay (just a smidge as that stuff goes such a long way).
It was a great scent but as is the case at times with my own scents, I go off them almost as quickly as I swoon over them when I dream them up. I don't know why that happens.
Matt loved it and used up the whole bar I took home for him within a few days.

Other scents I did for Valentines included Quite the Gentleman - a very green, masculine and fresh blend of several fo's and eo's, including Bergamot, Lavender & Geranium.  Strangely a lot of our female customers loved it!

Our next release is coming shortly and will include some favourites from last year along with a few extras.
The Spring release I love, not only because it helps me to restock bulk ingredients but also because it kicks off the best time of the year in my opinion.  There is no better time to me than spring.  Being on the cusp of that great warmth that comes in summertime is what keeps me trudging through the winter months.
This year we are bringing back Ethereal Seas, Gossamer Ghost, Green Room, Clotted Peach Cream and Penny Black will be making an appearance again (this time in all products, not just soap).
The soaps are still curing on the racks but here's some pics of freshly poured and peaked loveliness!

↑ Ethereal Seas ↑
A blend of 4 different essential oils to mimic British seaside flora.

↑ Gossamer Ghost ↑
A blend of essential oils, which include a beautiful Neroli accord, a bit of Coriander
 and Grapefruit.  Yep....I did the pretty, pretty thing. Shut up.

And here's both of them after the un-moulding a few hours after making them.
I used some mica in the Ethereal Seas soap to get that beautiful, clearwater blue along with some Lapis powder and TD for some white contrast.
For Gossamer Ghost I used the Aussie pink clay I used last year mixed with a bit of TD to get that pastel pink.  Isn't it ultra pretty?! 
Something about these two sends my mind into over-drive.
I used a different pouring technique with these as I did with the Valentines soaps.
I did a drop swirl, then swirled that around with a chop stick a little bit, waited a short while and peaked the tops with the back of a teaspoon.  I love the way they turned out.
When working with my slab moulds I'm always a bit miffed that when cut into logs I don't have that 'middle peak' if that makes sense.  So, by doing the teaspoon texture I was able to make some faux logs so to speak.  My bars are around 8.5cm wide so I just made a mark on my mould where I wanted the log to start and end and peaked accordingly.

More news about our Whipped soap formula:
Ok, so I've been making our whipped soap base from scratch for a few years now and have had many trials and errors when making it to my preferred consistency.
After many failed attempts to get it just right I now have what I consider to be the best base for all over body use.  I wanted it to be suitable for hair, for body and for shaving and have chosen ingredients to suit all three purposes.
I start off with a hefty dose of Vegetable glycerine combined with the amazing stuff that is Sodium coco sulphate.  SCS is so gentle on the skin and hair and is found in eco branded shampoo's, body washes etc.
There is a trick to get this stuff to perform well for you but it did take me a lot of hard work to get it right.
It comes as little spheres these days, whereas when I first started using it, it came as little noodles, which I preferred as the spheres are somewhat harder to dissolve.
I mix these two ingredients with several others, one of which is Plantapon.  Again, another mild, Coconut derived secondary surfactant, which does not leave the skin dry or tight in any way. Combined with a little bit of Sodium Lactate powder and we were well on our way to perfecting this multi-purpose product.
Sodium Lactate is used by soapers mainly (I believe) to give their soap bars hardness.  I do not use it in my soap as my bars are made with a substantial amount of solid oils and butters, which leaves them so hard you can knock on 'em and it sounds like wood!
I use Sodium Lactate for it's amazing humectant properties.  It gives a velvety feel to the skin, it moisturises and is a great supplement to the skin's own naturally occurring SL.
I add a couple more ingredients, stir it all up & when I'm finished making it and it has cooled down I am left with a white coloured, solid mass of bubbly goodness, which when whipped makes for the most amazing product.
This is it after being whipped with some pink clay and fragrance:

and here are some pics of some of them jarred up and labelled: 


Over the past few weeks I have been trialing this stuff on my head!  With the 1st wash I was just blown away.  So blown away that I posted about it on our FB page immediately after drying my hair and having the most fantastic, bouncy locks.  I was a bit dubious about posting about it so fast because sometimes when a product works so well to begin with, it can also very quickly become a product, which doesn't live up to your first experience.  Not this.  This has been my go to product for my hair since the end of January and I haven't looked back.  My head no longer itches incessantly like it does when I use any other type of shampoo.  It doesn't go greasy overnight, nor does it feel dry and in need of repair.
I do pair this with my usual conditioner as I have colour damaged hair and it needs something after shampooing to enable me to get a comb through it.
After posting about this I asked that some of the customers who had some in their possession to try it on their hair and have had nothing but fabulous feedback ever since.  Check out the posts by others on the Facebook page here to read and see how it's performing for them.

Here are the results after using it on my hair:

This is me today - I just took this pic in the workshop.  It is filtered a little via Instagram but not a lot.
See the shine?! Those caramel tones are the golden lights I have in my dyed hair, whilst the base is coloured with Blueberry Chestnut hair dye.

So what I intend to do is re-market this stuff as a 3 in 1 product, which won't be long to come to fruition.
I have a few varieties left in stock but aim to make this available in all General Catalogue scents shortly.
I'm liking the idea of 'Festival' scented hair for summer and 'Shadow Show' for those sexy, dark days!

Thanks for reading.  I'll be back...one day...in the not too distant future I hope!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Yule Production 2013

A picture heavy post of our soap production over the past 8 weeks or so...

Freshly peaked 'Ebeneezer' soap - an essential oil blend including Eucalyptus, Pine, 
Lemongrass & Lime.

Unmoulded soaps (Ebeneezer & Cratchit)

Freshly poured, peaked & sprinkled 'Sixpence Pudding'
an essential oil blend of many oils to produce an authentic Xmas Pud scent.

Soap logs of 'In The Pines' soap. 
An essential oil blend of Siberian Fir Needle, Himalayan Cedar, Scotch Pine, Ho Wood 
and Lavender.

Back for Yule 2013! An old classic of ours....Bar HUMBUG!
Originally made in 2007 and on general release in 2009 as par of our Organic range.

A close up of Bar Humbug...

A close up of Cratchit

Snowdrift is back...!

A recent batch of White Witch

A new look for Rook & Raven. The birds will be made of soap next time, this time they are 
black paper birds!

A close up of Chocolatier soap

And Festival....god bless it!

Cratchit...curing on the shelf

Labels at the ready...this weekend will be well spent!

Pure white soap balls that I used in Bar Humbug

and finally....getting ready for product shots (not the best pic but you get the...erm...picture)

Our Yule Release for 2013 goes live this Friday night 
at 7pm (London Time).

Monday, 23 September 2013

Halloween Release 2013

Wow, what a crazy time!
I decided to create a double release this season (one for the arrival of Autumn and one for Halloween) and all products from both releases are now available to purchase in the shop.
I gotta admit I'm pretty tired after all the work that has been put into this over the past couple of months.
I just have to keep ploughing through however as it looks like I won't be getting a break for a while yet.
Matt and I hope to catch a mini break in Cornwall at the end of October, so fingers crossed.
In all I have created 18 scents for this release, some of which are keepers for next season and some of which are tests to see how they're taken.
Here are some soap pics from the two releases:

10,000 Pumpkins soapThe Scent: October – full of cold winds, long nights & dark promises. Days get short, the shadows lengthen. Those special autumn days when the air smells like smoke and the twilights are orange & ash grey, and right up ahead 10,000 Pumpkins lie waiting to be cut! (Ray Bradbury). 
Warm gingerbread, Pumpkin spices, cold Laurel leaf and frosted soil with a hint of metal from a lightning rod.

Dust Witch soap:The Scent: Crushed Dragonsblood incense, aged Patchouli, resinous Vanilla, Sweet Orange oil & Oakmoss absolute with a pungent heart of Stewed Rhubarb stalk.

Lughnasadh soap: The Scent: Patchouli, Frankincense, Labdanum & Ho Wood sits beneath Lavender, sparkling Orange & Lime with heart notes of Geranium leaf, Black Spruce, Rose absolute and the barest hint of woodsmoke on the wind.

Mama Didn't Listen So I Told The Bees soap: The Scent: A heavy blossom honey, the nectar collected from Myrtle bushes, Orange blossoms, Ylang Ylang blooms & Jamarosa grass, the hive made of Himalayan Cedar & Camphorwood. A deep resinous base aroma of Myrrh, dark Vanilla, Cypress, Bergamot and Vetivert.

Owlett's End soap: The Scent: Simmering Black Tea, Clary Sage & Coriander leaves, Nutmeg dust & Cinnamon sticks, sticky dark Orange oil and Blackened Cardamom pods.

Soul's Midnight soap: The Scent: October air tainted with the scent of acrid smoke, dead leaves swirling over the grounds’ surface & Cypress trees swaying forcefully to warn you of the arrival of Dark & Cooger’s Carnival. 

Sparklebox soap: The Scent: Sugar-dusted Orange wheels, Italian Mandarins, Dark & Sweet Amber resin and Black Madagascan Vanilla beans.

Toffee Moon Face soap (now General Catalogue): The Scent: English Butter Toffee shards, Baked Mandarin rinds & Spiced Apple compote, topped with a Caramelised Sugar nest.

Witley Court soap: The Scent: Oak leaves, Lemon-scented Fir trees, Black Spruce & Scotch Pine, Hay absolute, Copaiba balsam, Labdanum & Frankincense with hints of sticky Benzoin, Oakmoss and smoke. Utter perfection and England at it's glorious best.

I will be coursing my way through the orders from the Halloween Release, which went live on Saturday (21st) then I will be working on a few Ltd Edition test soaps, then I will move swiftly on to our Christmas release stock.
This year I will be bringing back some favourites from last year but will also be introducing some new 100% essential oil blends.
It has been my mission for quite some time to introduce more and more scents using only essential oils.
It's how I started out and I'm at my most comfortable when blending EO's as opposed to FO's.
Blending EO's seems to come naturally to me and I gain a lot more excitement out of my products when using only pure oils.  Luckily a lot of my customers enjoy them as well and would prefer them over FO's.
I have been battling with the crossover for a long while and I still am battling but as I explore new oils to use I am positive that I will end up in the direction I should be going!

A great big hearty thank you to all of my customers who have paved the way for me and who have allowed me to follow my passion by being so supportive of my business.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Making Scents

It's been quite a while again.
I made a pact with myself just a short while ago about doing blog posts at least once per month.  I guess I broke my pact.
Ah well.
Over the course of the last 2 months I have had a bit of a struggle concocting scents for my Autumn release.  I wanted to create 5 new scents this year as the release is coming out in two parts.  One for the start of Autumn and one for Halloween.  Sure I could have just kept last year's scents and by now would have completed the whole release, but...well....I like to change things up some. *eyeroll*
What I wasn't prepared for was the onslaught of failed scents, soap batches and body whip batches to boot.
I shan't elaborate on the failures but more so on how I managed to gain some much needed inspiration for the 5 new scents I will be releasing tomorrow night (Friday 23rd August).  Yeah, I made a mistake in the newsletter.  Tiggy wouldn't be Tiggy unless she made mistakes! (I had put the 20th!)

I took a trip to a beautiful old English Manor House, Witley Court on the outskirts of the City of Worcester.
As you leave the city and move closer to the countryside you notice old Victorian houses, black railings, old lamp posts, gateways and everything in between.  It's as if time has literally stood still around here.
Our little town of Evesham is a half hour drive away, and whilst it has it's own lovely & quirky buildings, there is something about seeing old Victorian city streets and houses, which does something inside of me.

Witley Court was once a very popular Manor House for the English gentry and housed many a party for the rich and (probably) famous.
In 1937 it was ravaged by fire and left to enter a state of decline.
It has been taken into the hands of English Heritage now, which is a really good thing as it means it should stay standing for a long time to come.
The house is but a shell, with old underground passageways, and multiple levels above.
You really do have to let you mind wander to imagine what it would have looked like once upon a time.

I took my trusty journal and my pen and arrived at 10am, just as they were about to open.  Best time!  Quiet, not too many people and the perfect time of day to get a good feel for the place.

It is said that a picture can tell a thousand stories, so without further ado:
(it will pay you to click on each pic to blow it up and see this place in it's full glory)

There you have it.  A head full of inspiration no?
I came away with enough info to make up 3 new scents in addition to the 2 I already had on hand.

The three scents in inspiration are:

Witley Court: 

The Story: Witley Court - A derelict country manor house, long ago ravaged by fire and left to fall into decline.
The basement full of dark passageways that carry the ghosts of housekeepers and children, it's grounds covered with majestic trees and scurrying wildlife, and the cackle of Green Woodpeckers filling the outside air with their mischievous laughter.  A combine in the distance casts clouds of orange dust as it cuts through late summer barley.

The Scent: Oak leaves, Lemon-scented Fir trees, Black Spruce & Scotch Pine, Hay absolute, Copaiba balsam, Labdanum & Frankincense with hints of sticky Benzoin, Oakmoss and smoke.  Utter perfection and England at it's glorious best.


The Story: Made to mark the beginning of the Gaelic harvest and to welcome the changing colours of late summer/early autumn.
A lakeside walk, Indian balsam leans towards the water, a canopy of Gunnera leaves creates shade from the ever-hot sun.
A mighty oak stands proud at the front of the old Manor, it's protective branches reaching out as far as the eye can see.
Rhododendron bushes, gnarled and as old as the hills line the pathways,  Pine cones nestle in amongst long summer grasses, the last of the summer flowers, vibrant and sweet smelling, bloom one last time & walnuts sit green in their coats as they ripen on the bough.  Crystal clear trickling water ambles on downstream and open Waterlilies rest casually on top of the lake water. 

The Scent: Patchouli, Frankincense, Labdanum & Ho Wood sits beneath Lavender, sparkling Orange & Lime with heart notes of Geranium leaf, Black Spruce, Rose absolute and the barest hint of woodsmoke on the wind.

Mama Didn't Listen So I Told The Bees:

The Story: An early Autumn evening, a melancholy air mists your being.  Saddened and feeling quite alone you take a walk.  
Deer & muntjac graze their way across an open field, buzzards fly overhead, closely followed by rooks & crows.  Across the way you see the farmer walk out of a copse at the side of a deep wood, pipe casually resting at the side of his mouth and followed by trail of smoke from smouldering burlap & pine. 
As you approach the wild hum of 40,000 bees fills the air.  
You sit at the foot of the hive and begin to tell them your thoughts, and seemingly they listen.  Slowly, relief washes over you and happiness prevails once more.

The Scent: A heavy blossom honey, the nectar collected from Myrtle bushes, Orange blossoms, Ylang Ylang blooms & Jamarosa grass, the hive made of Himalayan Cedar & Camphorwood.  
A deep resinous base aroma of Myrrh, dark Vanilla, Cypress, Bergamot and Vetivert.

All three are 100% essential oil blends where I have used over 10 different oils in order to perfect the scent.

Other scents available in the Autumn line up are:


The Story: A curious carved wooden box found in an old curios shop in Summertown, Oxford, UK.  
The lid closed & the box locked for all eternity, until.....
You prise it open, as the lid is slowly lifted hundreds of tiny fireflies grace the air. A tiny slip of paper falls to the floor. A spell conjured long ago reads 'Remember the law of three, and only good things will come to thee'.

The Scent: Sugar-dusted Orange wheels, Italian Mandarins, Dark & Sweet Amber resin and Black Madagascan Vanilla beans.

Owlett's End:

The Story: A corn field long past its cutting date houses a derelict old town house, black beams exposed & dull white paint slowly peeling off the brickwork. 
Owls nest in the eaves, dust-covered cobwebs hang over the windows, a rustling wind whistles through the old back porch, old books piled high along with half-finished paintings, old mirrors & rusting signage.  As you look up the faces of children in the upper windows reflect your gaze.
Sitting in the seat of a rocking chair rests a lovers keepsake box - the inside full of curious spices, long forgotten spells & dried tears.

The Scent: Simmering Black Tea, Clary Sage & Coriander leaves, Nutmeg dust & Cinnamon sticks, sticky dark Orange oil and Blackened Cardamom pods.  

Toffee Moon Face:

Inspiration: Do you remember The Magic Faraway Tree?  Then you will remember Saucepan Man, Silky & Moonface too!
Housed inside the tree are many 'lands'.  Our favourites include The Land of Spells, The Land of Topsy Turvy, The Land of Magic Medicines and The Land of Goodies.  
Our soap is particularly inspired by Mr. Moonface - who loves to eat Toffee!

The Scent: English Butter Toffee shards, Baked Mandarin rinds & Spiced Apple compote, topped with a Caramelised Sugar nest.

All scents will be available as Handmade Cold Process Soap, Olfactory Bathing Grains, Bubbling Sugar Buff, Body Whip & Aromatic Oil.
I have also made a short run of 4 different whipped soaps, scented with Autumn inspired scents (not the ones above) such as Pear, Plum, Cider & Vanilla.

Halloween will follow soon, details of which will be available as soon as I know what I'm doing!

And with that I am off to see my printer to pick up the labels for all the products I have made.

Thanks for reading