The Making of a Manor Hall Soap Bar - Rainy Day Sunrise
Welcome to the journey of Art House style Rainy Day Sunrise, from concept all the way to sinkside. Sit back, relax and take a peek at how natural soap gets made at The Manor.
This is how it begins. The above pic shows my worksheet, which contains my "artist's rendering" together with some of the key ingredients, such as infused olive oil, and turmeric, which you can just barely see behind the sheet. The pot on the extreme left is the essential oil blend of lemon, may chang and rosemary.
My collection of tools for the job, white spatulas and barbecue skewers. Believe it or not, every one of these will probably get used for the one bar.
This is me standing at my workbench. I'm never out of these pink and black boots while I'm working. Or the striped socks. I usually push my toes under the bottom of the bench. Don't ask me why... it's a comfort thing.
Jug of lye meet pan of melted oils. They call it the "cold process" or "cold kettle" method of soapmaking, but these components are usually around 120 degrees Fahrenheit when they're added together. Soapmakers have their own favorite temperature, depending on their recipe. For me, I liked around 120 degrees for the classic soap bar batches. Because I want to be able to play more with the soap, the Art House bars are being soaped at just under 100. Although it gives me some extra time to work, this method still results in a nice hard, long-lasting bar of soap.
I've used a stick blender to get it to a light trace. Trace is the stage where the mixture leave a "trace" on the side of the pan. The consistency of a trace is often described as being like mayonnaise. I don't want mine like mayonnaise for the Art House style because I want to be able to get artistic with the soap and I don't want it setting up fast on me. I'm pouring off the creamy white soap into a jug which I'll be using later on when I start layering.
Here, you can see the very light trace on the side of the pan. I'm mixing in some turmeric to give the soap a nice light yellow cast. I've added it to small amount of olive oil to help it blend into the soap easier.
I've poured off a jug of the colored soap and I'm reserving it to use later when I start painting with it. Although this looks bright orange, the color will fade as the soap cures and hopefully it's going to leave me with a pale yellow.
This is the rest of the soap in the pot and this will be the main body of the batch. I'm pouring it into the mold and as you can see, I've got another inch in the mold to play with.
I've now got a smaller jug and I'm splitting it in half and setting both aside. This is still a thin trace. I need it thin like this so I can play later.
Here we have the main body of the soap sitting in the mold. I helped the trace thicken a little bit by stick blending the turmeric when I added it to the pan. The main body has sat for about ten minutes while it thickened even more. To the right is the jug of creamy white soap I reserved at the very beginning before I added the color. This too has thickened.
At this point I made a snap decision against the dark orange stripe I originally intended for the bar, and went straight to the next layer. My Art House soaps develop as they go along, often into something I could have never put on paper. My original drawing serves as just a guide to keep the creativity reigned in, yet allowing my mind to run free.
Here I am carefully pouring the white soap on top of the main body, over the back of a spatula spoon. I have the spoon very low to stop the white from sinking into the orange. This is a really fun stage and I love it.
I'm working around the sides of the mold here until eventually I end up in the center. I'm trying to keep it level without being perfect about it. It's really like pouring cream on top of black coffee, but on a bigger scale. I always loved doing that as a kid.
For this next stage I'm using the great complicated tool otherwise known as a barbecue skewer. I'm pushing it through the soap, dragging a little of the white through the orange, in a straight line. I'm hoping this will give a nice "trickle" effect inside the cut soap.
Now it's feeling good! Evidence. I can see that it's worked. If there's orange being dragged out at the end of every line, that means I've pushed a little of the white down.
I've not even started to play yet, and already my excitement levels are up.
Now I'm going back to one of the two jugs that contain the reserved color from the pan that held the main body of the soap. I'm gonna add some more turmeric to it. I'm looking for a deeper color to contrast with the color of the main body pour-off in the other jug. I really like this shot, by the way. It's a true action shot of me stirring like crazy with a stainless steel teaspoon.
Believe it or not, after a minute or two of stirring feverishly, this is the color I end up with. It's going straight into another one of those complicated tools, otherwise known as a squeezy ketchup bottle. Love the way it actually looks like ketchup, wouldn't you say?
And here is the partner to the ketchup bottle. Yes, it's the mustard bottle. And what have we got sitting on the wax covered countertop? That's right, a drop from the pour of the jug containing the reserved main body soap. At the moment, it would appear that one is a bright red ketchup color, and the other reflects the color of the mustard bottle. Don't be fooled... these colors will have changed dramatically in less than 24 hours. In soapmaking, we refer to this as "color morphing".
Okay... this is more like it. This is what I've waited for. And if you think you've waited, believe me when I say the less than 15 minutes it took me to get to this stage from the first trace felt like 15 days. I'm getting jiggy with the ketchup, and it's feeling good.
Now I'm getting jiggy with the mustard, and it's feeling even better.
And here's the long shot. Oh, I'm loving it now!
And I bet you thought I'd finished! If you look at the spatula spoon, you'll see a totally different color. It's the creamy colored soap that I decided to leave a little bit in the bottom of the poured off white colored soap jug. You see, when I changed my mind about the colored line, what I didn't tell you was that in making the snap decision to abandon the idea, it was because I'd decided to drizzle the top with white. In my head, the vision of my original drawing suddenly changed. I considered that a darker orange line would fight with a white drizzle. Take note of the four cheese pizza sitting in the mold, and remember what I said about "morphing".
36 hours later... and here's what I've got when I've turned it out of its wooden box. Suddenly not looking like a four cheese pizza anymore. And look at the main body. Not exactly the same bright orange that it was when it first hit the bottom of the mold. But hey... have you noticed the work of my trusty bamboo skewer?
Okay, so here's the great slab of soap. Since unmolding, it has sat on the prep shelf for a further 24 hours. This time varies from soapmaker to soapmaker, but I find that a further 24 hours gives me a drier product to work with. In the photo, you can clearly see the end result of the bamboo skewer. I'm pondering. Maybe when I make this batch the next time, I might swap the finery of the skewer for the handle of wooden spoon. I think I'd have preferred a good blaze of white rather than the delicate streaking the soap has now revealed.
Time to break out another one of my complicated tools... otherwise known as a guitar wire. I'm slicing the slab of soap into logs. The mold I'm using at the moment yields four from each batch, which is three twangs of the guitar wire.
The beautiful moment of the long awaited cut. It's the first peek inside, and I'm well pleased. You can see that the orange main body has given way to a golden yellow. It will morph a little more yet. I'm absolutely thrilled with the white I layered on top. Looking at it, I think I was right ditching the orange line. This bar is Rainy Day Sunrise and the rain flows freely from the skies above. For me, an orange line would have created a hardness when I really wanted to portray free flowing without restraint.
The row of freshly cut logs. The mold I'm using at the moment yields four from each batch. I really do like the white line sitting underneath the ripples that I painted on top. It is rather like water with its gentle wave of movement.
With each log standing upright on the workbench, I like to shave the corners off the long sides of the top. This is called "bevelling". Bevelling is used in many different ways by soapmakers. Some will shave their bars along four sides. Some will shave their bars along every edge they can see. For my Art House Soaps, I just like to create a little roof on top of them. Angled like a wooden picture frame, it's the finishing touch for the canvas I've been working on.
Now comes the feeling of the adrenaline rush that you get when riding the steep hill of a rollercoaster. I'm just getting to the top of it and as I push the blade down to make the first slice of soap, I'm finally gonna get to see what it really looks like inside. I know the barbecue skewer worked and I also know that the lines were fine ones, but has every line I drew worked? Did the skewer go far enough down every time I used it? Fingers crossed as the roller coaster peaks the crest and heads for the descent.
Oh yes, full tummy turnover! The canvas is hung on the wall. It looks good close up, and with a few steps back I'm happy with what I've painted. It's an Art House Soap. It's Rainy Day Sunrise and it's finally complete.