June 13, 2013

Natural Colorants: (Not) Seeing Red

I wanted red for an upcoming soap project. Red is not an easy color to deal with. Ever. And I've now learned it's especially difficult in soap. Particularly if you're using natural colorants.

My first attempt was using tomato paste in hot process soap. I figured using hot process would be kinder on the color. I knew I wouldn't get red/red from tomato paste, but the red I was looking for was supposed to represent a pimento so a tomato-y red would be OK. But, as you can see, it produced something peachy/pink.

I then scoured the internet hoping to find something. There are micas and liquid colors available, but I really wanted to stick with something natural and/or something I didn't have to order. I live in New York City, damn it. The center of the universe. I should be able to find something to turn my soap red.

At one point, I wondered about buying a few bars of red soap and melting them down. Red soap though is also hard to find. Wonder why.

Finally, while in Westerly—after (unsuccessfully) looking at their vast collection of soap for something red, I spied some insanely expensive Moroccan red clay. I had seen red clays on the internet, but the finished soap looked more orange than what I wanted.

Still, I kinda wanted to get on with my life and perhaps find something new to obsess with. So I bought it.

This is red clay in cold process. I dissolved the clay in some olive oil before adding it.

I wasn't too happy with the results. (You'll see scraps from this experiment in Mommie Dearest aka Bed of Roses. When it finally cured it was definitly pink.)

So tried using the same clay-in-olive-oil in some clear melt and pour.

Not bad. Definitely useable. And now I have nearly 6 ounces of expensive Moroccan red clay for other projects.

June 6, 2013

Downstairs Seating Only

The name of this soap—Downstairs Seating Only—does not refer to the area of your body it's supposed to be used on. In fact, I don't recommend using this soap on your downstairs area at all.

Downstairs Seating Only is a phrase Gray Line Tour Guides will say thousands of times between now and Labor Day. Summer is our busiest season. It's the cheapest (and worst) time of year to come to NYC—and everybody wants to ride on the top of the double decker bus (the best way to see the city). It fills up quickly.

When new passengers board, we have to tell them, "Downstairs seating only." Sometimes they're understanding and patient and are fine with waiting until somebody gets off from the top. Sometimes they don't believe us and go up anyway (with their three kids, grandmother and bulky stroller) only to come down disappointed. Sometimes they get very angry. One year, I had a guy kick the glass out of the bus's door.

Meanwhile, when we're actually giving the tour— upstairs —it's 95 degrees and insanely muggy and their doing construction all over the city and it's like riding through a dust storm. And the sunscreen that doesn't really work is dripping in your eyes. And there's a little kid screaming, "I have to poop." And nobody is listening to us say that the last boat cruise went out at 3:30. And we know half of them won't tip and we're lucky if we get $8.26 by the end of the tour that we have to split with the driver who's been on the phone the whole time fighting with his girlfriend.

And we're thinking about going home to our apartments that we just spent the day trying to pay for, turning on the A/C and taking a shower with a bar of soap that will truly wash away the disgustingness of the day.

And Downstairs Seating Only will do just that. Lots of scrubbing action from my favorite exfoliate, cornmeal. French green clay to help draw out the construction dust that mixes with the sunscreen. A generous dose of moisturizing shea. And the fragrance! A refreshing combo of mints, rosemary, basil, eucalyptus and orange.

Makes the job seem worthwhile.