This is a continuation, in photos, of the post I wrote about my trip to Jingdezhen, China.
Village Life in Gaoling
This is a continuation, in photos, of the post I wrote about my trip to Jingdezhen, China.
Village Life in Gaoling
Upon my friend’s invitation, I joined a field trip organised by the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, to Jingdezhen, China, last February 20-24. I had never heard of this city before, but apparently, it is considered the porcelain capital of China, with a rich history in ceramics production dating back at least 1700 years ago.
It’s undeniably a ceramic city, as you will see…
I have a fondness for ceramics, but my knowledge is paltry at best. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to be in the company of people with a keen appreciation and in-depth knowledge of oriental ceramics. For our guide, we had a brilliant young archaeologist and scholar who took us to the museums, markets, pottery studios, historical sites, and even her apartment – where she keeps a good collection of porcelain shards from the different dynasties. I was quite the ignorant at the start of the trip. I still am, but a wee bit less, and a lot more appreciative of the history of porcelain.
Since I started making soap, I have always made it a point to find something soapy whenever I travel. I didn’t find handmade soap, nor did I discover new ingredients like I did during my trip to Taiwan, but I was thrilled to learn that kaolin clay, a common additive in soap making, had its origin in Jingdezhen! It is more trivia than anything, but finding some kind of soap connection got me excited.
Kaolin: History and Importance
Kaolin (White): Uses in Soap and Skin-Care
What is your experience with kaolin clay? Do you have other uses for it?
I tried to look for kaolin clay so I could say I have kaolin from the original source. But the truth is, after centuries of mining, the kaolin clay in Gaoling – considered to be the finest -has been depleted. In its stead are mountains of discarded coarse kaolin – the leftover stuff after the clay has been washed and sifted. Now covered with vegetation, the mountains were once gleaming white. Kaolin is still mined elsewhere in China. I wanted to buy anyhow, but it’s sold by wholesale only – by tons (!), according to May, our wonderful archaeologist guide. The United States, particularly the state of Georgia, is currently the largest kaolin producer in the world.
I had no kaolin, but I did find something else, though:
I bought the above items from a street vendor. I think the design of the bamboo tea strainers would be good for dusting mica on soap, and the wooden stick (does anyone know what it is for?) would be worth a try in making swirls.
When I was in City Super in Hong Kong, I couldn’t resist this Hello Kitty silicone mold, which, as you guessed, won’t be for muffins:
So, I did come home with a few things for my soapy obsession. If one looks hard enough, one will always finds. 😺
Update: Maya just made an excellent follow-up post on using white kaolin in soap and its effects. Please head over to Infusions to read about it in detail.
(Whoopsie! I just corrected my spelling. I originally wrote Sneek Peak!!!)
From the very start, I’ve always wanted a custom soap stamp. I think it adds that extra touch to the look of the soap, and is a great way for branding and personalising.
Not withstanding the lack of a logo, I had a generic stamp made. These were some of my earlier soaps (they looked so rough!):
I used my “handmade” stamp for only a few months. This year, I had two new stamps made with my logo. One is for my all-natural line (will post about that in the future), and featured below, is the general all-around stamp.
The first few batches I stamped didn’t produce very clean impressions.
Then I remembered Modern Soapmaking’s tutorial wherein Kenna stamped her soaps immediately after cutting, and used a rubber mallet to whack the stamp. I didn’t think the mallet would make a big difference, but it did the trick! I only had a metal mallet, though. Thankfully, nothing happened to the stamp, even with its flimsy makeshift wooden handle.
Would you like to have your own custom soap stamp? 😀
My first soap anniversary is coming up this April 3 and I feel like celebrating! I’ve got two activities lined up: 1) an interview with an inspiring and talented soaper, and 2) a custom soap stamp give-away (open to soapers from all over the world!)
If you’re not yet following this blog, I’d like to invite you to follow through e-mail or Facebook, so you don’t miss a thing. Stay tuned! 😀
A week ago, as I was doing my routine blog surfing, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Oksana Mylchik of My Soap Factories had nominated SoapJam for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you so much, Oksana! I am honored and humbled to have my blog considered for this award. It’s like getting an early gift for my upcoming first soap anniversary, this April 3. 🎉
Congratulations to all the other wonderful bloggers who were also nominated by Oksana. To find out who they are, head over to Oksana’s blog!
(Copied from versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com)
If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.
MY 15 NOMINEES: 👑
4. Diva Soap
12. Moj Sapun
13. Oil and Butter
15. The Soap Mine
7 THINGS ABOUT ME: 😇
Coincidentally, I had just decided to write 40 Things About Me🌻.
Last May 2, 2013, I emailed Jennifer of Jenora Soaps to let her know I admired her work and to ask her some questions. I was so excited to receive her immediate reply. She wanted to be posted on my progress and asked if I had a blog. Umm, no. But that gave me the push I needed, and so my first post was published on May 11.
I used my blog to document my new hobby on soap making. I didn’t know anything about blogging and I was just in my own little world. I visited a lot of blogs, but it never occurred to me to leave comments. After a few lonesome months all by myself, I read somewhere about the importance of leaving comments. And so I did. It felt good to interact and slowly become a part of the soaping community. My blog was no longer just about soap, without feelings. It started to be a little bit of an extension of myself.
Please don’t worry, SoapJam will still be primarily about soap! But I would also like to share a little bit about food, travel, discoveries, DIY, and things that catch my attention – subjects I think most of us share common interests in.
I am a very private person and prefer to remain in the background or anonymous. But after being here for nearly a year and enjoying your company, I thought it would be nice if you knew a little bit about me. It would be an honour if our awesome little community also got to know a little bit about you.
So let me start the ball rolling…
1. My name is Silvia, but friends and family call me Bunny – a nickname my late father gave me when I was small.
2. I live with my husband and 2 dogs, Thor – a pug, and Chewie – a shi-tzu, in Cebu City, Philippines.
3. I am crazy about Chewie. Please don’t judge me for playing favorites.
4. I’m addicted to making soap (isn’t it obvious?)
5. I love blogging and the people I meet here.
6. I hoard tea towels and kitchen towels.
7. I have a thing for pure linen, especially vintage.
8. I love porcelain, china, and glass.
9. I love cookware, kitchen gadgets, tools and equipments. A lot of them are useful for making soap, too.
10. I love cute/small containers.
11. I love carbs in all forms, and cheese, from mild to stinky.
12. Comfort food for me is a bowl of hot noodle soup (wonton noodle, pho, ramen, etc.)
13. I was a vegan for 5 months in 2011, after reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Christmas came and the ham did me in. I now eat anything but I wouldn’t mind going vegetarian again.
14. I have struggled with procrastination my whole life. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.
15. I think I have ADHD. It’s so hard to focus on one thing, unless it becomes an obsession.
16. My memory is bad. My college roommate and I think it’s because of all the disposable aluminum pans we used back then. Her memory is also bad.
17. I am tech-challenged, but I will learn if I really really have to. I will hang on to my antiquated phone and computer as long as I can.
18. I am considered anti-social in the world of social media. Not wanting to be completely irrelevant, I am trying to change this. I used FB for a few months and didn’t open it for over 4 years until last year.
19. I have been running 2 small cafes the past 15 years.
20. My passion for cooking and baking has been overshadowed by soap making.
21. I am guilty of neglecting my work. I should fire myself already.
22. I love the people I work with. When they’re not giving me a headache.
23. My family is fruity and nutty, but I love them anyway.
24. I love my husband and his family. It’s far from perfect, but I am happy to be married to him and to have in-laws from heaven.
25. I don’t have many friends, but the few I have, I treasure.
26. My friends are scattered all over the world. I would like to be better at keeping in touch. FB seems to be the answer, but I still need to learn to embrace it.
27. I enjoy walking and letting my mind wander.
28. I like quiet.
29. I love staying at home. Maybe a little too much. Luckily my husband likes staying home too.
30. I admire Anne Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry. I think she’s a genius and Superwoman.
31. I would like to be as crafty as Martha Stewart. I also wouldn’t mind to be as wealthy as she is. But honestly I wouldn’t know what to do with all that money.
32. I would like to learn how to sew, make pottery, write calligraphy, etch wood, do all sorts of paper craft, study about herbs and natural medicine, and learn how to become a perfumer or a nose.
33. I love paper. I used to collect stationery and barter single sheets with my elementary classmates.
34. I would like to learn graphic design, but since I am not very good with computers, I will just let someone else do it.
35. I enjoy photography.
36. My favorite attire, or what I call my uniform, is a t-shirt, pair of jeans, and ballet flats.
37. My favorite accessories are a pair of earrings and a scarf.
38. My favorite scents are Arancia and Mirto, both by Aqua di Parma. I also like Eau Ressourcante by Clarins, and I have very fond childhood memories of Tartine et Chocolat, and Love Baby Soft.
39. I am too lazy to fix my hair and blow dry it, so I opted to cut it short instead of tying it in a bun or pony tail all the time.
40. My husband stumbled upon this ad campaign. I never tire of it and I am in love with the music and choreography.
Whew, I got carried away. I didn’t think it would reach forty. :)
Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I hope you linger around, and if we haven’t met yet, I would love to make your acquaintance. :)
Below the title of every post is a button that says “Leave a Reply” or “Reply”. Wordpress requires that you leave your name and email address (won’t be shown) before you can write your comment. It is a bit inconvenient but you have to fill up the required fields only once. You won’t need to with your future comments.
Last month, while I was going through Time magazine, I came across an article about the release of the 2 former members of the Russian punk protest group, Pussy Riot. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who both spent 21 months in prison for charges of hooliganism, have been in the media spotlight for a while, but I never really followed their story. However, at that moment I was reading the news, I had a sudden hit of inspiration. It was so clear in my head – I was going to make soap called Color Riot, and it was going to be just that: an explosion of colors.
It was my first time to have the name of the soap come first before the fragrance and the design. I usually decide on the fragrance first, then the look. The name comes much much later because I usually have a hard time coming up with one. What about you? What kind of conceptualisation process do you go through?
If you haven’t noticed, I tend to be a bit restrained with my use of colors. Aside from titanium dioxide, I normally use just one or two other colors, and more often than not, they’re on the sedate side. It has only been the last few months that I started to achieve better color saturation and contrast. (Click here , here, and here to see my earlier color-challenged soaps.) Color Riot is thus quite a departure from my usual look. It is bold and loud. So not me. But I love it!
I really liked the ease and outcome of the drop swirl technique in Desert Dune, so I decided to do the same for Color Riot. For the first time ever, I used 5 colors: white (titanium dioxide), periwinkle blue, raging raspberry, neon yellow, and neon green. It is scented with Mango Pomegranate – a fun, tart, and fruity smell.
I made Color Riot last Jan. 26. I looked at it almost everyday and didn’t notice any bleeding of colors until I steamed it the other day. It had very light soda ash, mostly just on the two end pieces. I normally would leave it as is, but because of its name, I wanted the colors to really pop. Has anyone experienced this after steaming?
Aside from Color Riot, I made one other neon-colored soap last year. When I saw the colors in the cut soap, I hated it! I thought it was gaudy. After a while, I thought it was fun and learned to like it. Fragrance used was patchouli raspberry, which I renamed Happy Hippie. I later found out that Lush had a product with the same name. I will have to think of another name should I do a remake. The colors used in this soap are similar to those in Color Riot, but I don’t remember now if the colors bled. If it did, I didn’t notice.
Have I mentioned that I have such an awesome mother-in-law? Because she is such a great human being, people are naturally drawn to her, and my friends wish she was their mom, even though they love their own mothers. She is the kind of person who celebrates every possible occasion with a gift. Last month, she already ordered ahead for Valentine’s her favorite chrysanthemum-shaped soap, and a black and white one that’s scented with grapefruit and neroli.
I still don’t have the proper packaging for plastic-wrapped soaps, so I had to make-do with what I could find. I wanted the flower-shaped soaps to rest on paper doily, but I couldn’t find small ones. I also didn’t want to use wrapping paper because it’s too thin, and I couldn’t find thick paper with a nice print. I did find, though, this lovely baking cup:
I had to stretch out the cups to flatten them, and using a mason jar ring as a guide, I cut-out circles with a paper cutter. When my friend saw my labor-intensive process, he said that there is a cutter specifically for round shapes. I had no idea! Anyway, i just had to cut 30 pieces, but I did look for that cutter the following day. Sadly, it’s not available in our local stores.
I will have to search where I can find 3.5″ doilies or printed paper boards that I can use as a base for soaps like the ones below. Please let me know if you have a source to share! The cut-outs are not perfectly round but I’m quite happy with the way these turned out.
The black and white soaps were much simpler to package. I just used red gross-grain ribbon. I think it would have been cuter if I had a fancier-shaped hang tag for Valentine’s. I totally missed the opportunity to buy the Silhouette Cameo at a discount last December. It would be really nice to have it, but, well, I can live without it. :-)
I’ve noticed that many soap makers, including myself, also enjoy cooking and baking. I will confess though that these days I think more about soap than I do about food.
More than 3 years ago, I got hooked on making bread. It all started when I stumbled upon this NY Times recipe, which, at that time, I found revolutionary. After I made my first loaf, a new passion was born. I became really serious about it and even made my own starter from scratch, and went on to making bread the traditional way. For more than a year, I baked bread almost everyday, but I eventually stopped because my family and I felt we were eating way too much carbs.
Ever since Natalia casually mentioned here about her new obsession for homemade bread, I started to miss it. I finally got around to making it again when my French friend stayed with us last month. She loved it and had it for breakfast everyday. Even though she’s not really into baking, it looks like this no-knead technique is going to change all that.
Most of you are probably proficient bakers already, but for those who are daunted by the idea of making bread, or who are very busy, or simply lazy, I encourage you to try this. It won’t take much of your time, and I guarantee you’ll be so pleased with yourself and grinning from ear to ear after you see this artisan-looking bread coming out of your oven.
I’ve made many variations but my favourites are the ones with muesli and chia seeds.
One day I will learn how to take videos, but for now, I’m only limited to pictures. Luckily, there are plenty of Youtube videos on how to make no-knead bread. Click here to see the one by cookbook author and NY Times journalist, Mark Bittman.
I’ve tweaked the original recipe and I’ve also increased it by 50%. One loaf is good for 4 to 5 persons.
NO KNEAD BREAD RECIPE
450 grams water
12 grams salt
scant 1/2 tsp instant dried yeast
600 grams bread flour
75 grams muesli + 75 grams water
25 grams chia seeds + 75 grams water
1. In a large bowl or container (allow space for the dough to triple in size), pour in the water and dissolve the salt in it.
2. Add and dissolve the yeast ( to avoid killing the yeast, never put salt and yeast in direct contact with each other )
3. If you’re making plain bread, skip this and go to the next step. If you’re adding muesli or chia seeds, add it now into the water mixture, including the additional water. Stir and let it sit for about 5 minutes to allow it to absorb water.
4. Add the bread flour into the water mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula just until there’s no more trace of dry flour. If you wish, you can finish mixing with your hand.
5. Cover the bowl or container. Let it sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours, but I usually just let it sit for 8-12 hours.
6. When the dough is ready (it would have tripled in volume and have big holes), place a large cast iron dutch oven with its lid on in the oven (If the knob is not metal, wrap it with aluminum foil). Crank up your oven to its highest setting, usually 500˚F or 250˚C.
7. While the oven is pre-heating, place a sheet of baking paper on one side of the table. Sprinkle flour over it.
8. Oil your hands and work surface with olive oil. Dump the dough on the oiled surface. Stretch 2 opposite sides of the dough and fold in towards the center. Turn the dough 45˚ and do the same for the other ends. Turn over the dough and transfer to the floured paper. Cover with a large inverted bowl.
9. When the oven has reached the right temperature, carefully remove the hot dutch oven. Remove the lid. Holding on to the paper, transfer the dough into the dutch oven. Cover and return to the oven.
10. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid, lower the temperature to 200˚C or 400˚F, and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
For better understanding, the water is 75% of the flour weight, and salt at 2%. I find that the higher water percentage of the original recipe is a bit too gummy for my taste. When adding muesli/oats or chia seeds, extra water is needed to compensate for their absorbent nature.
If you don’t own a cast iron pot, no worries! Place the dough on a regular baking sheet and liberally spray the surface of the dough with water before it goes into the oven. After 10-15 minutes, making sure you are wearing oven mitts because the steam can burn, spray the dough again in the oven. The water will help keep the crust thin and crisp.
Warning: making no-knead bread can start a new addiction!