Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Table Full of Soaps

So, what happens now that my table is full? This picture shows a variety of my handmade soaps that are currently in various stages of the process of "curing" and my table is full.

Soap is a funny thing. The first time I had even considered that soap wasn't something that you just buy at the grocery store was when I was a kid, watching a re-run of the TV show, "The Beverly Hillbillys".

If you've never seen this show, was a top sitcom back in the 1960s where a poor hillbilly, Jed Clampett finds oil and becomes suddenly rich beyond his wildest dreams. He decides to move his family to Beverly Hills and live in a gorgeous mansion, but he and his family can't seem to get the hang of living in Beverly Hills and fitting in with the crowd there. They still hang on to their old habits, creating a rather funny, silly comedy show. OK, OK...I am digressing just a bit here.

Now, about the soap part. In the one particular episode I am referring to, Granny (I can't remember what they called her in the show, it's been so long) is "out back, cookin' up some soap." She is dressed in goggles, a large apron, gloves up to her elbows and stirring a huge pot of steaming stuff. Like I said, I was a kid at the time when I saw it and considered this to be just another wild exaggeration that was notorious for that show anyway and didn't give it a second thought...until I learned how to make soap.

It actually was truer than I realized. My family know that I'm up something when I get out my huge pot, stirring tools, oils, water and sodium hydroxide...aka lye (can't make soap without it), put on my apron, don my forearm length Playtex gloves and set my safety glasses in place. My family realizes that I am now in "mad scientist" mode and back away. Such is the process of making soap.

All the soaps you see above were made using this humble process similar to the Beverly Hillbillies. Of course, I'm not "out back" necesarily, but I am in a room that is well ventilated so I am not overcome with the fumes created by the reaction of sodium hydroxide and water mix. All soaps start out this way, but can end up into lovely scented artsy creations you see above with just a little work.

Next time you go to an arts and crafts fair or see "handmade soap" for sale online for $4.00 for one bar, remember what it took for that soap to get like that. It is hard work, individuality, creativity and a whole lot of love for the craft. It is well worth the money compared to mass-produced store items full of unpronounceable ingredients that leave your skin itchy. They give soap a bad name...and don't think for one moment that liquid soap is any more pure or better. Often it has more chemicals in it than the bar stuff.

Just in case you are wondering what kind of soaps those are in the picture, the light ones in upper left are Pomegranite with a little designer artwork on it, upper right is also Pomegranite fragrance but has apricot seed powder on the darker side and smooth on the lighter side. Lower left (green) is a naturally scented bug repellent soap...has a minty, menthol-like natural fragrance from the essentials oils added to it. The lower right are Pink Grapefruit scented soaps.

Now, my table is full of soaps, why don't I just wrap them up and pile them away? Here's why...once you have finished "cookin'" your soaps, they aren't ready to be used yet. They have "set awhile" and cure for several weeks. During this cure time, the sodium hydroxide is still reacting to the oils and a chemical reaction is ocurring that turns soap into soap. They slowly harden up and become gentle on your skin. Right now, though they look lovely, they would probably be quite irritating on your skin.

Once the soap hardens up, you can wrap them in "breathable" packaging. I tend to wrap them in tissue with a little ingredient tag inside the tissue for regular orders. I also use special wrapping for those who are buying but want to give them away as gifts. I use special handmade paper and raffia ties, or corrugated cardboard with raffia for those occasions...never plastic or shrink wrap for these guys. Melt and Pour method soap is different and great for shrink wrap, but not these soaps.

Come tour my soaps sometime if your on Flickr!