Inspiration, LIfe, Natural, Soaps, Social Agenda

Craftmanship – Creative Confident Explosive

I continue to be astounded by the craftsmanship that is so alive and thriving in this day and age… surrounded by appliances, machines and all things that automate our lives to make it easier and at the other end you find people painstakingly sewing a beautiful dress for a two year old…. or making a terrarium in a tiny glass jar that becomes a beautiful pendant.

My hubby is so eager and enthusiastic whenever I describe to him these little timber trays I have imagined I must have to present my soaps.

NOT.

So here, in Vadodara, I asked my Dad two days ago if there is a carpenter near by who would make me these trays. And I was really surprised when he said yes.

We walked down to this humble shop 300 meters down from our home.

I was looking around as we walked and noticed this broken clay pot on the road ….

Having grown up in India, I am very familiar with the clay pot that is in many households, even rich ones. It keeps the water cool and I think it is healthy too. The clay would act as a natural filter I imagine.

I notice it with fresh eyes now. Perfectly formed, impossibly thin. Some one has made millions of these possibly not pausing to recognise the talent he or she has…
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At the shop, we are describing what we want… we choose teak and I give the dimensions… Dad kept challenging them and insisted that we see some samples before commissioning 30 pieces. “Bring the soap here, so we can test it. ”

Clearly, my father has a lot of faith in my ability to measure 😉

Back home, I give the soap to Dad. He looks at it. He has his feet up on the sofa. After a while he says, “Yes, these dimensions will work”.

Ahem. It is a new found skill after all, so I guess the incredulous realisation that I can measure accurately is well founded!!!

I walked down to the shop later that afternoon to see the two prototypes Mr Smartie created for me. He was so excited to see me… “here they are”, grinning from ear to ear.

I loved them. I had my iPhone with me because I wanted some pics.
“Can I take a pic of you to share the story?”
“No” he says. “Why would you want that?” ”
Can I just take one of your hands while you are working on these?”
“No. You might cut off my hands then, like the people who worked on the Taj Mahal”.

I burst out laughing. “Do I look like Aurangzeb!!?” I retorted, laughing!

It wasn’t even Aurangzeb.. I forget the history lesson 😉

Any way, no photos of the craftsman then.

I do have photos of the trays and of course I had to see how these looked with soaps in them.

I took those along to Mr Smartie so he could see what he has created….

“Ah, these are soaps?”
“Yes”
“And you make them?”
“Yes”
“How?”
“I take some milk, add lye, mix it all up with oils and voila!”
“And you send them overseas?”
“No, I make them overseas.”
“How much do they cost?”
“I will bring you one. I have one of these – pointing to the clay & loofah one.”
“Yes, that is the nicer one.”
“Bring two” This was a guy standing next to Mr Smartie.
“We will try them and see how they are” … unabashedly mimicking a good lather up with the soap!
Yes, Sir

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Inspiration, LIfe, Natural, Skin care, Soaps

Artisans… passion, reality and what is in between :)

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Artisans are a wonderful community. Passionate and in love with life, the joys of creation. 

A little bit delusional too.

Like, we dream. And then there is the reality. 

O, I have created all this stuff. What shall I do with it? Is there a practical use for all this stuff? Like all these pieces of paper I am hoarding because something may get created from it?

Then, there is a flurry of stuff to get what you have created out of the door. 

Like, going to markets. Talking to other artisans. Being on FB!!!!!

I stumbled on making soaps a little more than a year ago, and then went to my first market about six months ago, because my hubby, Dad, Mum, sister, friends, cousins, trespassers could not possibly use all that I made. 

So I went to a market, which believe me is TOUGH. You wake up at about 3 am. That is if you have been able to stop all the activity in your head mocking up how your stall will look and how you will talk to your customers & visitors at your stall…. then by the time you finish, you are still on a high figuring out what you could change, what you would do differently, blah blah. O stop please, any time now!

So hubby dear (to save his own weekends) coaxed me to jump online. So I built my own website, started a Facebook page, found a gorgeous online directory and online communities who are so warm, welcoming and supportive of budding wanna be Artisans…

And hence started the online business…. works like a charm…. my Paypal on my phone goes “cha ching” and I race to the computer who has ordered what!! Simple pleasures!!!

Then, pack the goodies, print off a label on “Click & Send” and deposit it with the friendly girls at my local Post Office. 

Until now, it is going to become so much dearer…. hence this post… please support us by signing this petition, so Australia Post can continue to let us compete with the big guys… 

 

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Inspiration, LIfe, Natural, Skin care, Soaps

Playful Goats, Milk, Soap

I am part of a truly wonderful community of soapers. They handcraft soap, research ingredients and generally have a lot of fun. Mostly this group is utterly supportive of each other.

I have now been making soaps for about a year. What initially started as a hobby has now become a passion. The caterpillar in me is totally out to play. And what I seem to chase the most is getting stuff to make soaps straight from where it is “born”.

And so, when I found Shelly, I had to go and see her goats and get fresh, raw goats milk and see what happens, really 🙂 I totally was not expecting a bunch of playful, naughty kids prancing about the land, wanting to follow their “mum” into the house and wanting to play.

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When they saw me, they wanted to suck my thumb, nibble on my tee, laces … whatever they could get their mouth on!!

This is Lacey. I was talking to Shelly and she started biting me. “You are biting me dear” I said to Lacey. She stopped and proceeded to try and get under my legs! OML. They are the most divine, beautiful, playful things I have ever seen!

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And here is the one month old slipping on the pile of hay she clambered onto! This is what her mum says about her “Oh that’s Blue Brook Kalamitty! & yes she’s full of mischief but very affectionate  Her mum is the 2nd highest milk producing British Alpine in Australia at the moment – so not only gorgeous but hopefully will give me lots of beautiful creamy milk too”Image

So I got about 15 litres of this divine goats milk and brought it home. It is frozen, which is perfect for soaping because when you add lye to the milk, it heats up. This is what it looks like with the lye gently and slowly added to the frozen milk.

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It looks so creamy and intensely lick-able! You absolutely cannot!!

This beautiful creamy mix is then blended with virgin oils and raw shea butter, cocoa butter to make soap.

Yesterday I felt like it was a “roses” day so this was my soap with rose essential oil and rose buds on top.

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This morning, I wanted to make something warm, spicy & citrus-y. So I chose clove and orange essential oils.

 

So here is the soap… swirled with some cacao powder on top and then textured! Smells beautiful!

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If you would like some goat milk soap, you can get some on my website!

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Inspiration, LIfe, Natural, Soaps

Christmas

I made my last soap before Christmas today. Two actually.

Earlier this week, we were dropping off my son for cricket. He is 23. Why are we dropping him off you may ask? Well, he has just moved out of home into a very nice apartment in North Sydney, so he can sleep in and get to work on time… Apparently though, our life is still meant to revolve around him. “Like, you left your car in Copacabana? How silly!!” Says my daughter, who had to pick him up from Wahroonga Station because he was coming home on Saturday. “You know I have cricket on Sunday” says my son. The fact that he said to us that he won’t come home on the weekend because we were busy setting up our home in Copacabana is kinda irrelevant. Right?

So anyhow. I asked him “What are you getting me for Christmas?”.

“Nothing”. Says the wise one.
“Maybe you could get me a soap cutter”. Says die-hard (me)
“I am not fueling your hobby” Says the wise one.
“My hobby doesn’t need fueling babes. It is already on fire”. “Remember you got my goodies from Lush for nearly $100 4 years ago?. You will never need to do that again. ”

Silence. From the wise one.

“Will you come to Copa next week?” Says Dad.
“No.” Says the wise one.
“It is beautiful. Why don’t you come?”
“Was I not clear?” says the wise one.
So the conversation goes. Well, at least it is more than a grunt. I could see this laconic sense of humor when he was 1. I should have spanked him maybe? He may have turned out obedient, you reckon?

Anyway, the good part, as my daughter says, who has also befriend-ed all his friends… is that they bonded the previous night when we weren’t home.

So back to the soap.

I wanted to use essential oils that have staying power. So it was rosemary. And I wanted herbs. So the morning was grinding sage, rosemary and lavender… and topping these off with organic sunflower oil….. they will sit there infusing on my shelf next to the window for months.

The sage went into my first soap… Image

This has Goats Milk, Organic Oats, Mineral Water, saponified oils of organic coconut, extra virgin olive oil, virgin shea & cocoa butter, Organic Sage & Chamomile powder, Raw Honey, Organic Orange Pulp, Pure Lavender, Rosemary & Peppermint Essential Oils, Australian Pastel Pink Clay. It was hard to stop after doing the curves with a skewer. I did though!!

I like the orange peel contrasting against the pink clay and sage coloured soaps… and the plain soap in between is kinda nice.

I still had appetite for one more. After all, it will be at least two weeks until I can soap again.

So, I was thinking oranges again. I had bought some vanilla pods from our local markets in Thornleigh. These were infusing with some dried orange slices in sunflower oil. I wanted to get some vanilla – orange into a soap. I also wanted to use activated charcoal – am totally sold out of all my activated charcoal or black clay soaps. Rosemary for green and its smell and its benefits…

Goats Milk, Organic Oats, Mineral Water, saponified oils of organic coconut, extra virgin olive oil, macadamia, virgin cocoa butter, Organic Rosemary, Organic whole orange, Pure Orange & Rosemary Essential Oils, Activated Charcoal, Vanilla Bean went into this one.

So here are some pics… goats milk & lye nicely mixed… Image

The orange, oat milk & vanilla pod slush with orange and rosemary essential oils.. this smells beautiful… and I quite like the vanilla pods that you can see crushed up… there are a few bits in there as well…

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Rosemary with bits of orange stuck in it 🙂Image

The oils & cocoa butter combo

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The oils blended well with the goats milk lye solution…. in went the orange-oatmeal slush and then I blended some of the soap with the activated charcoal and some with the rosemary. Rosemary did not give as green a color as the sage did…

Poured it all into the mold in layers… drop swirl is my new best friend 😉

The top is the best part… the smell was so uplifting it is like swirling to the opera!!!

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So here is the top… the magic of activated charcoal…. Only, I dropped the towel on the top 😦

One part of it is smudged… am hoping the gel phase will forgive my towel for popping off my shoulder on to the beautiful swirl… pretty please!

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Inspiration, LIfe, Natural, Soaps, Social Agenda

Awe, Inspiration, the weather and the sky….

There is something about the raw beauty of earth that pulls me. This picture is of Australia at it’s most magnificent…. if there is such a thing!

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My first encounter with awe was when I saw the Kanchenjunga – the second highest peak of the Himalayas. I must have been 9 or 10. And may be it was since then that I have always pondered about stuff. But not really cared about nature and its bounty. When I say that, I mean, I was the penultimate consumerist. Keratin treatments because I was never happy with my hair, peels because I was in anguish over my scars that I had from chronic acne for many many years… food, because I thought I would cook healthy meals but didn’t… shrinking clothes in the dryer because I could not be bothered hanging the clothes out, plastic bags because I never remembered to take my bags with me.

My sister is a greenie. It used be very annoying how she was always tuned in to nature, to waste, to be conscious about her foot print. We would laugh. Grateful that she did not install a tank in her beautiful Californian home to fill recycled vegetable oil to fuel her car.

And I am talking about a few years ago. So I am not entirely sure what happened. Something sure did. We installed solar panels in our home. I started putting my clothes out on the clothes line. I started following Crunchy Betty and almost entirely stopped buying serums, creams or lotions…. even hair masks, which I would be spending hundreds of dollars on without blinking an eyelid. I think it was the luxury of having worked for 25 years, having raised kids and paying off the mortgage. I felt like I deserved to buy whatever caught my fancy.

I started noticing poverty. I always did, but I started really noticing it. How some kids seemed really happy on the streets of India with rags on and peddling books that would give them some money but barely feed them, let alone give them the life they truly deserved. I looked at the woman washing herself on the streets of Vadodara, in a skirt, hunched over her boobs for privacy… because she could not afford to use the wash rooms down the street.

So I think it was random stuff that led me to watch a video of making goats milk by David Fisher. So I bought some lye, got some goats milk, froze it and made my first soap…. that was in February this year. It is fun, wildly creative, and I love the creative leeway I get exploring different stuff.

My favorite ingredient is oatmeal. I used to buy Lush Angels on Bare Skin and decided to make my own with home ground oatmeal, clay, shea butter and coconut oil… it was amazing. And then I discovered that even Lush, who I worship, and thought was fresh, fresh, fresh…. had artificial fragrance and synthetic ingredients!

So back to soaps…. here is my fav way of doing this… I soak organic oatmeal in water and then blend it. That is your oat milk and it cost pennies relative to what you would buy in Coles or Woollies. Read about the benefits of oatmeal. I am personally quite taken by oat meal and I believe I have used it in every soap! My inspiration for soap comes from nature… lemons hanging off a tree or mandarins…

So here is how I made this particular soap – I was with a dear friend when I noticed the bright orange mandarins… I got some home and juiced them. Then I dried the peels and ground them.

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These are the ingredients that went into this baby: Oat and almond milk made with purified water, crushed orange peel, cinnamon and cloves, saponified oils of organic coconut, castor, sunflower, extra virgin olive oil, virgin shea butter, clove essential oil. I wanted the soap to be rustic… had seen something on pinterest that tickled my fancy. so decided I would “pour” the soap into a yoghurt bucket… (recycling in action!!). Essentially to make soap you mix the lye with water or in this instance with frozen oat and almond milks and then combine this solution with the blend of oils and butters.  I keep a stick blender and pans specially for my soap…. you stick blend the lye solution and fat until it starts looking like pudding… a little before that you add the botanicals…. in this instance, orange peel and essential oils; pour it into the mould, leave it for a couple of days and voila, you have soap!!

The lye solution reacts with the fat over a few hours, known as the saponification process, as a result of which soap and glycerin are produced. The soap is then cut and then left to “cure” for 4-6 weeks, which makes it milder, harder and just plain gorgeous!!

Then we are ready for “a wicked scrub” … which is what I have named my little baby hobby business 🙂

There are loads of tutorials and talented soap makers out there who post videos of beautiful techniques that make it look easy peasy. My fav is this lady who is drawing art with soap

My journey with soap is kinda chronicled on my facebook page… you can see how my recipes and technique has evolved over the past few months…

Am loving this journey and more than happy to connect with anyone who wants to watch or learn how to make soap! Specially if you want to gift it to someone special, there are so many pretty things to play with … like the one here…

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And ah, about the “weather and the sky” in the title of my story…. that is what I have learnt over several years of coaching, growing, leading… that your thoughts and feelings are like the weather; your mind is hardwired to protect you, so it’s job is to constantly talk to you about what can go wrong and your feelings tell you something that is terribly important to you is happening… they are like the weather, and you are the sky.

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Inspiration, Skin care, Soaps

For my kid sis…

My kid sister is a green guru. Hi there, if you are reading this!

We love each other dearly, but my mum would not know this 🙂

Like, it is a strange kind of love, one that may not be apparent to the naked eye.

So, the green guru, aka my sister, has recently started following my blog. Hence, this one is for you, sis. 

I was really really really surprised when the soap you picked for yourself was the rose geranium block. It is very pretty, undoubtedly. You are the practical one, though. What will you do with the rose petals and buds that will keep falling off?

And how will you possibly lather yourself with this block? It weighs a little over 400 gms and is 90 cms * 90 cms. And you are gettting this for Christmas.

For any soap makers out there, the orangey colour is zeolite pink clay.. which is always a shade of rusty pink in my soap… how on earth is it orange? The brown is from organic cacao… that looks nice, I reckon. I like the pattern… love the smell… there is something about rose geranium..

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Inspiration, Skin care, Soaps

Soaping Challenge… is this aboriginal art !!

So I love making soap. I started in February this year and don’t completely understand why. I love it. I think it is the explorer in me. Or perhaps the creative mad hatter.

When I read about Amy’s challenge, I thought, this should be fun. Squeeze soap out of a bottle into beautiful, flowing patterns.Ha!

In my head, I was drawing little flowers, fluidly, like our friend, Michelle Holtzclaw. or the chrissie trees a la Nancy.

So I decided to make use my signature blend (it has virgin shea and cocoa butter with the usual coconut, olive, sunflower and castor oils) in my usual batch size. So quite an expensive experiment in my art skills!!

For colour I wanted something dramatic, so used activated charcoal and turmeric… thought that could be nice orang-ish flowers with black centres (what are they called again?)… I didn’t have the squeezy bottles so bought two squeezy ketchup bottles and washed them out thoroughly to use for my soap. I also decided to be clever and “calculated” out a smaller portion of soap to make first. Talk about getting complicated.

Well, the beautiful flowers were ahem. I wasted more than I used.. Here is what the art is like… Image

I reckon I could pass this off as a child attempting to do some aboriginal art… I can keep gazing at it…just as I would at my child’s art and say it is a beautiful thing.. look at those patterns my lovely one… they are awesome!!

And of course the child would believe me.

It smells divine though… lemongrass, and I hold this soap more tenderly than any other 🙂 And I do think it is growing on me. Actually, I think it has grown on me. I will love it even if no one else does.

And then I wanted some swirls and texture on the top end..that I am very happy with … Image

And when I present these at the markets I am going to… this is perhaps how I shall display them…

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I think I can give up on my dreams for art that anyone would buy, or I would put up in my house.

Soap though.. yes, most definitely. I shall keep making those!

It does smell so beautiful; I have discovered that CP is kinder to Lemongrass EO, and also rosewood and rose geranium… is that true?

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