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