May 31, 2013

Whiskey, Tobacco and Sandalwood

I love this soap! The fragrance is unbelievably sexy. Warm, rich—just a little sweet. What a man should smell like. And we're talking real man. Not the kind of man that calls other men 'bro' and 'dude.' Or wears flip-flops on a dinner date. Or drinks Red Bull and vodka.

And in the shower (back to the soap, not the man), incredible lather from reduced whiskey and a little sugar. There's a pencil line (hard to see in the photo) of poppy seeds to gently exfoliate. Rhassoul clay (that's how I got that gorgeous brown—reminds me of expensive leather) helps remove impurities, but loads of cocoa and shea butter moisturize and condition.

I will be saving one bar from this batch to give to give to the next real man I meet. There're not a lot of them in NYC these days. They're a dying breed.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries

May 23, 2013


The wait is over

It took a while for me to get all ducks lined up on this batch, but it's worth it. I guess. It feels like a culmination of recent failures. And I'm too frazzled at this point to think about 'lessons learned.'

First the soap itself. The polka dots (which I hope look like big raindrops) are a rebatch of an olive oil Christmas soap (fragranced with frankincense and myrrh) that didn't look so festive. Paper mache gray just doesn't get anyone in the holiday mood.

My goal was black—and I know some of you won't think that's a Christmas-y color either. It is if you live in NYC and have a lot of rock-n-roll friends. Anyway, the charcoal infusion I made just wasn't strong enough, hence the gray. The first failure.

When I rebatched, I added a little lavender essential oil to lessen the Christmas-ness of the frankincense and myrrh.

The overpour was a bit more successful on the black front. It's made with charcoal and alkanet. Still not the black of Joey Ramone's jacket, but at least not gray. And I added more lavender essential oil to the batch.

But when I got the batch into the mold, it was shy of being normal sized bars. Size really matters with me. At least with soap. Failure #2. I whipped up another small batch using olive oil infused with mallow to top it off. Really nice green. And I've got more mallow growing in my garden this year—it re-seeds like crazy—so it'll become part of my 'permanent palette.'

When I cut the finished bars (and they came out wonky), I was all set to call them Stormy Monday—from the old blues song—but after I thought about it more, I decided to call the batch Rain and include a story booklet with each bar.

For those of you not familiar with my writing, "Rain" is one of the short stories from You Are Here. It's a fairly dark story, but one of the most popular in the book.  The fresh, but mysterious, almost melancholy blend of the lavender, frankincense and myrrh in the soap mirrors the mood of the story.

I got my friend Elizabeth Shim to do the booklet cover. She's a very talented graphic designer and as well as a writer—in fact, I met her through Elaine Edelman's writing workshop.  Her writing has a very unique Korean/New Yorker perspective, lots of detail and humor as well.

The booklet cover by Elizabeth Y. Shim ( 심예린 )
She did a great job on the cover. I love it. It subtly tells the story of the story.

Laying out the booklets was a plethora of failures. Which is strange because I've done these booklets before without much issue.  Then my printer wasn't aligning correctly, then the labels I designed using Elizabeth's artwork didn't fit every bar correctly. Etc…

Today—my only day off for the next million years—the day I swore I'd get the whole shebang packaged and ready to get out of my apartment and into the hands of readers and bathers—it rained.

And the soap absorbed the humidity. And it got sticky.

And I said, "Just do it."

And I did.

The finished product.

It doesn't look like I wanted—except for Elizabeth's fab art—but it's done. And because this batch caused so much heartache, I'm giving it away—to people in my writing workshop. They in turn, will be asked to pass the bar on to somebody that doesn't know me and isn't familiar with my writing, but would enjoy the story and the soap.

There will be another soap/story version of "Rain" in the future. That one will be much different soap-wise and I'll still use Elizabeth's art, but instead of a booklet, it'll include a link to hear the audio edition of the story read by the author and produced by my friend Nate Cimmino at Harrumph Studios.

No more booklets! I'm going digital! You heard it here first!

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries

May 20, 2013

Seaweed Beach Bars—And the Mystery of Fragrance

What's in there that makes it smell so good?

I've been working on my Yet-Untitled-Cozy-Mystery lately, so I've slacked off on blogging about soap—and making it.

The mystery is going to contain a half dozen or so soap recipes. That's pretty common in cozies. Recipes or craft tips. I don't think I'll include this one—it's a little complicated and it doesn't really tie into the plot or any of the characters. Bed of Roses does. And Guinness and Ginger.

Perhaps going forward, I'll make some soap that specifically relates to the mystery. Captain Smokey, Forensics, Socrates' Shampoo Bar, Lucky Star Coffee, Woad Is Me.

Are you intrigued? Do you want to read the book when it's finished?

This soap—The Seaweed Beach Bar is a pretty standard salt bar. What makes it complicated though is I added a bunch of scraps from my Lavender Beach Bars. This made for some interesting salty embeds that become more pronounced as the bar is used.

I also didn't keep track of how much of each essential oil I used to make the blend. I never keep track. I mix by nose. In this case, I started out with a base of grapefruit, then added some may chang to anchor the citrus, a little bergamot and a little ylang ylang, then some more grapefruit—and you get the picture. There's also lavender essential oil in the embeds. But how much?

So, yea, too complicated to put in a book.

And going forward, if I'm going to create recipes to include in the book, I'll have to get some pipettes and write down my blends. And I'll solve the mystery of my fragrances.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries

May 11, 2013

Marketing Failure

Well, Mommie Dearest took off like a lead zeppelin. I sold two bars of it.

It might be a generational thing. A few younger people (even gay men!) didn't get that the wire coat hanger refers to the movie Mommie Dearest. Oh well. Even Apple has failures. It's still great soap.

And it's now had a make-over. Same bar, new name, new photo and new product description.

Presenting Bed of Roses:

A surprising mosaic of Arabian rose, lavender and fresh anise. Moroccan red clay and charcoal  to remove impurities. Cocoa butter to soften. And gorgeous, fluffy lather thanks to a generous dose of reduced red wine.

Hopefully, this will be more successful.

I'm still keeping a wrapped, coat hanger bar of Mommie Dearest in the soap box.  You never know…

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries