Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hues of Blues

Above - from the left 'Inches Lane, St. Ives Bay, Ethereal Seas

I've been playing with colour and am on a new journey to explore once again the beauty of natural colourants.  First up are the blues.  I just acquired a small jar of the real deal - Lapis Lazuli (pron: Lap-iss-Laz-zew-ly/lee) powder.  I have been a user of Ultramarine blue for a number of years and have always been impressed with the results, but not with the sulphur aroma, which wafts out of newly un-moulded soap.
Kudos goes first and foremost to Heidi from Bodygoodies, an incredible soaper and soaping friend and somebody who inspires me to always do better and to make better and to strive to only ever offer my customers the absolute best.  She is the only other soaper I have seen use it successfully.  Many others claim to be using it but from what I've read, they are 
mis-guided in their knowledge of what Ultramarine 
blue actually is.
Off the top of my head (and after just reading about it once more to refresh the old brain), synthetic Ultramarine blue is not made from Lapis.  It is made out of a combination of several different ingredients (kaolin/china clay, coal or wood, charcoal, soda ash, silica & sulphur), which are then fired in a kiln until red hot (literally glowing red), the resultant mix is then washed to remove any sodium sulfate and is then ground to the fine powder that soapers know and love.
Lapis on the other hand is made by mixing the ground stone with wax and a diluted lye solution.  If memory serves, this makes a kind of paste/dough, which is kneaded in water until the resultant blue crystals are washed out and collected ready to be ground up again into a fine powder, which tends to be used more by artists than soapers.
Whilst both practices for obtaining these powders are a tad confusing, I am intrigued by the science of it all and will continue on with my research on this subject.
I believe that no one is better than the other in terms of results in soap.  I basically like both.  In terms of which one is better and safer for skin, then Lapis wins hands down.  For a brief example, Lapis used to be used as eyeshadow, whereas Ultramarine blue is certainly not safe for eye or lip use.  The amount used in soap, however is so minimal that chances of ever having a soap made with it upset the skin is very, very slim, hence why it is deemed safe by the powers that be. On the other hand, if you were to snort the stuff, I think you may experience a few health problems! In a wash-off product we basically have no need for alarm here but it is good to address the issue no?
The process to make the powder I have in my hands is a long, tedious one, which in turn makes for an ingredient with a rather large price tag, especially when compared to the price of synthetic Ultramarine.
The main goal in my soap making is to create a safe, natural product with no nastiness.
Natural of course doesn't always mean safe as we know so research, research, research....


Below are some pictures of 3 soaps.  I will explain what I have used in each under each pic.

This is Ethereal Seas soap.  Picture taken outside in the shade to show the colour correctly.
The base of the soap is coloured with the Lapis, the drizzles are coloured with Kaolin clay.

Same as above.

This is Inches Lane soap.  Coloured with Ultramarine blue and Charcoal to give a darker, more navy blue like colour.

Same as above.

This is St.Ives Bay soap.  Coloured with Ultramarine blue and Titanium Dioxide.
As you can see, the blue here is vibrant and more deep than any of the others.
In this batch I use a few grams of Ultra blue to give that seaside blue colour.

St.Ives Bay again.

As I say, I do like all of the colours but am more drawn (at the moment) to the Lapis Lazuli colour.  Probably down to the fact that summer has just arrived here in the UK and I have longed for long, hot days for many months since we just came through one of the coldest winters in history.  
In summer, my mind is drawn to soothing, soft hues and pastels.  As we venture into late summer and autumn I tend to go for more powerful colours that pack a punch.  Weird.

So, as I experiment more I will post my findings and conclusions.
Next up I will be working (a little more with the lapis!) with greens and my first one will be ground parsley leaf, which I'm informed goes a very nice colour in CP soap.  We shall see.
Exciting huh?


4 comments:

Jennifer Young said...

All very exciting!! The only blue I have worked with was Indigo and it is fabulous if your base oils are clear/ white. Thanks for sharing your experiences!! xo Jen

Topcat said...

Fascinating Tiggy! I had no idea that lapis was used as a colourant. I love the soft, subtle blue you achieved with it too xxx

Natalia said...

Wow, love this blue! Never heard of lapis ,the only blue I used was indigo, alkanet and blue. metyl. Tthanks for sharing your experiments, will have to search for it!

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