Monday, April 7, 2014

Vanilla...Friend or Foe?

One  of the greatest frustrations a soap maker can experience is working with fragrance oils that contain vanilla. It's very challenging trying to keep pretty colors from turning into muddy something-or-other colors when using vanilla-based fragrances.  Color stabilizers are out there and may help for a period of time, but in the end, vanilla rarely, if ever gives up the effort to 'do its own thing.'

I recently decided to do an experiment of sorts using a fragrance that had a vanilla content of between 9-10%.  It is a lovely scent and one that I would like to use on a regular basis.  As part of the effort, I used the same base recipe for each of two batches.  For the first batch,  I separated out a portion of the emulsified soap mixture and colored it a lovely shade of purple.  I added the fragrance oil to the remaining soap mixture.  I wanted it to be a nice, creamy white in order to provide a contrasting  back-drop to the beautiful purple.  In order to help counteract the vanilla content, I added titanium dioxide to this  portion.  I poured it into the mold, doing a drop swirl with the purple and finishing with a light chopstick swirl.  Below is a photograph taken after unmolding the next day.

The color contrast was beautiful and just what I had wanted.  In spite of my satisfaction, I felt that it would only be a matter of time before the white would start to darken.  Even then, I wasn't feeling at all confident in the addition of the titanium dioxide!  The photo below was taken one month later and it is easy to see that the vanilla turned the creamy white into a somewhat mottled shade of brown.

For the second batch, rather than trying to avoid the effect of vanilla, I decided to work with it instead.  Once again, I used the same recipe as before and after blending the oils and lye, I separated out a portion of the emulsified mixture.  This amount would be divided in two portions, one that would be colored white and the other purple.  I added the same fragrance oil used in the first batch to the remaining emulsified soap.   I added brown mica to this larger amount in order to 'assist' the vanilla content in the fragrance.  After pouring it into the mold, I topped it with the remaining portions using the nicely contrasting colors of purple and white.  Below is a photo taken after unmolding the next day.  I was so impressed by the  finished product and not concerned at all about the vanilla.  If the main portion turned darker (it would), all the better!

 Below is a photo taken one month later...

The color has turned into a rich, deep, chocolate brown and is so pretty.  Best of all, I was still able to incorporate the purple and white colors that I had wanted in the first place!  From now on, cooperation will be the name of the game when working with vanilla fragrances.   Is 'friendship' possible with vanilla?   I think it is!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Finding Inspiration

Inspiration for soap design can be found in so many different places.  Some of my favorite inspirations come from delicious food recipes, especially desserts and beverages.  Both  lend themselves to fun and sometimes easy recreations in soap.  Who wouldn't love to try their hand at soaping a batch of double fudge brownies with ice cream, or pumpkin mousse triffle topped with whipping cream?  That certain cup of chai tea or mocha latte mustn't be overlooked either!

More challenging inspirations can come through scenery, including sunsets, majestic mountain peaks, beautiful lakes, colorful forests, and of course, sandy beaches that stretch into endless oceans.  I've seen incredible examples of these re-creations in soap that are nothing less than true works of art!  I aspire to that but am afraid that my creativity doesn't extend to that level.  I have a great appreciation for those who have achieved such intricate designs!

Other sources of inspiration can come from photographs where color reigns supreme.  Scenic photographs might fall into this category.  In this case, though, it is color that is the overriding factor, not so much the land or seascape.  On the opposite end of the spectrum is inspiration from abstract art or even color palettes that are used in home or clothing design.  There's no doubt that these combinations are put together with a definite understanding of and appreciation for color.  Beautiful!

Over time I have experienced a greater desire to look for inspiration in creating new soap designs. In this post I would like to share two soaps that are a result of that on-going effort.  The first is inspired by a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Triffle from the website: 

The recipe consists of  pumpkin mousse layered with crumbled gingersnap cookies.  Isn't it a delicious looking dessert?   My experience in using this masterpiece as inspiration is documented in the post "Pumpkin Snap" from the fall of 2012.  As mentioned there, I definitely had some breath-holding moments as I tried to get the layers in place before the soap got too thick.  I did take some liberties, and while it isn't an exact replica,  I was happy with the result. The Spiced Pumpkin and Gingersnap fragrance oils together were to-die for, by the way!

The second soap that I would like to share was inspired by a photograph taken when my husband and I took a cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The colors in this photo are the main attraction and, in my opinion, gorgeous!

The beautiful turquoise and aqua water against the blue sky backdrop is what caught my attention. I've never made a soap using these colors before and honestly, it surpassed my expectations.  I simply love these colors!

So, there you have it, a couple of examples of inspiration brought to the soap making table. What I'm continuing to learn as a soap maker is that inspiration IS truly limitless and can be found...everywhere!  In addition, and always important to remember is that inspiration lies completely in the mind's eye of the beholder. We are all unique, and so too are our inspirations.  Here's to going forth and being inspired!