Soaps of Summer

Today is one of those rare days when the streets are empty and the city is quiet.  Most establishments are closed for the next two days in observance of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and a lot of people are either at the beach or out of town.  My husband and I are just staying home.  We love the peace and quiet.  It’s also a good time for me to make soap and take photos!

Here in the Philippines, we only have 2 seasons: wet and dry. March to early June is considered our summer, usually the driest and hottest months. But these days the weather is so unpredictable. It’s hot, yet it rains  intermittently, with storm warnings.

While many of you in the temperate regions are happy to step out of the cold of winter and make soaps to welcome the blooms of spring, I’ve jumped seasons and went straight to summer.

Presenting my summer soap collection:

1. Sea Bubbles – a fresh and airy scent with a hint of floral and fruity notes.  This is my first time to use ball embeds and to have this kind of height and dimension, and top surface design.  I would have preferred a better arrangement for the balls, but it was hard to control where they moved as I was pouring the soap batter. I only had a few balls so this is a tiny batch of 6 bars.  I am having a hard time parting with them.

Sea Bubbles - a fresh and airy scent with a touch of floral and fruity notes.

Sea Bubbles

2. Summer Breeze – light, breezy, fresh scent with apple and melon notes. Both men and women love this fresh and fruity fragrance.


Summer Breeze

Summer Breeze

3.  Sea Sparkle – I think the embeds almost look sparkly against the blue, or I’d like to think so. This is a feminine scent with lilac, lavender and a hint of musk.

Sea Sparkle

Sea Sparkle

4. Berries and Violets – juicy smell of berries, apples, and oranges with a touch of violet.

Berries and Violets

Berries and Violets

Of all the soaps I’ve ever made, I love the colors of this collection the best. But it wasn’t without failure.  The ball embeds in Sea Bubbles? The yellow was from a batch that slightly overheated and had a wrinkly surface, and the pink was from a batch that traced too fast. The embeds in Sea Sparkle was from a batch that somewhat riced and had colors that looked anaemic. Just like the weather, soap making is not always predictable. :)

Soaps of Summer: The Collection

Soaps of Summer: The Collection






Kaolin Soap Collection

Alexandra, my friend who invited me to join her and her group on a field trip to Jingdezhen last February, asked me if I could make a soap collection inspired by our trip. She suggested  Jiangxi Orange for which Jingdezhen is famous for (aside from porcelain), and Green Tea. Naturally, the soaps must contain kaolin clay - a key ingredient in porcelain and a wonderful soap additive.

Kaolin Collection 1

Front to Back: Green Tea, Jiangxi Orange, and Blue Jeans

The first soap I made was Green Tea. For the entire formula of 1,500 grams of oils, I used 20 grams or 2 Tbsp of kaolin clay, and 5 grams of titanium dioxide.  I mixed these into a paste with some of the yogurt I used in the recipe, maintaining my lye concentration at 37%.  The result was a very hard bar of soap! It was a bit brittle, but not crumbly.

Kaolin Collection, Green Tea

Green Tea

I made a lovely Taiwan Swirl for the top, but I was so disappointed to find traces of pink.  I loved the celadon-ish green (1/4 tsp green chrome oxide to 1000 grams of soap batter containing kaolin and TD) and the pattern from the drop swirl. To salvage the soap, I chopped off the tops.  I wish I had taken photos of the mysterious pink, but by the time I was going to take photos a few days later, all traces of pink had disappeared.

Kaolin Collection, cut tops

Pretty tops cut off. They originally had pinkish stains but disappeared after a few days.

Has anyone experienced getting pink from out of nowhere on the surface of their soap? I used my standard recipe and tried-and-tested fragrances. I am wondering if it was my yogurt that was quite sour? I got more pink appearances on a remake batch of Citrus Berry I made the following day. Same thing happened – it disappeared after a few days.

Next, I made Jiangxi Orange. The colour of my first try came out peachy. I made another batch, and this time it came out reddish-orange – not what I imagined – but I was happy with the way it looked.  I mixed 18 grams of kaolin and 5 grams of TD with extra water.  I mixed the kaolin and TD paste into a little more than half of the soap batter.  With the extra water, this batch was not as extra hard as the Green Tea.

Kaolin Collection Jiangxi Orange

Jiangxi Orange

Even though my friend asked for only 2 kinds of kaolin soap, I made a third one that is supposed to be a Ming blue. I mixed 3/4 tsp ultramarine blue and 1/16 tsp black oxide into 900 grams of soap batter. It is scented with Yuzu, Vetyver, Black Tea and Tangerine – a fresh, sporty, and masculine blend. Everything about this soap screams Blue Jeans. Sorry, it ain’t a Ming.


Kaolin Collection, Blue Jeans

Blue Jeans

I find that at my usage rate of 2 tsp kaolin per 500 grams of oils or 1.33% of my oil weight, the soap’s lather is very fine, but noticeably less. It would make a nice and gentle shaving soap, but personally, I prefer a sudsier bath soap.

For more on kaolin clay, Maya of Infusions Blog and Gordana of Moj Sapun have written about their experiences with it.


1st Soap Anniversary & Giveaway Winner

SoapJam 1st Bday

Don’t you love my 2-tiered chocolate birthday cake?  A big thank you to my friend,  Bry O. – talented, albeit sardonic graphic designer and comic writer - for picking out this cake for me and making it extra special with the lettering.  I am also very grateful to him for helping me with my logo, sticker, and soap wrapper. :)

It’s hard to believe it has been a year since I made my first soap. I remember how nervous and excited I was. The soap didn’t turn out so well, but taking that first step made me realise that soap making wasn’t as scary or difficult as I thought it would be.  It is, however, very challenging and highly addicting!

I wish I had saved a bar of my first soap, but the entire batch, along with many others, went into the donation box last November. By then, it had shrunken quite a bit.  I did keep a few pieces from the succeeding batches. I removed them from the drawer last week and took this photo:

Top (L-R): Gregory Lee White's Basic Soap, Aloe Vera, Anne Watson's Basic Soap Middle: "Ambitious" Soap, Beer and Egg  Bottom: Green Velvet, Charcoal & Oatmeal

Top (L-R): Gregory Lee White’s Master Batch Basic Soap, Aloe Vera, Anne L. Watson’s Basic Soap (70% Olive Oil, 30% Coconut Oil)
Middle: “Ambitious” Soap (charcoal and turmeric), Beer and Egg
Bottom: Green Velvet (it was greenish for a few days), Charcoal & Oatmeal

My “Ambitious” soap had the most notable change. The off-white portion used to be orange from the turmeric. Since it was wrapped with paper, I wouldn’t know when the colour started to fade. Click here to see how it looked a year ago, and to know why I called it Ambitious Soap.

The only bar that developed the dreaded orange spot, or DOS, was the aloe vera soap. Out of the 4 bars that I kept, it appeared only on one.

The beer and egg soap shrunk the most. I wrote the recipe here. As you can see, the liquid content was really high. My first few batches were at around 28% lye concentration.  As I understood soap making more, I moved it up to 33%.  These days I normally soap at 35-37% lye concentration.


And now, for the winner of the giveaway…….

The custom soap stamp goes to Maja of Diva Soap!

I wrote the name of every participant on a piece of paper and noted whether it came from my blog or Facebook. Maja had an entry in each, and it was her Facebook entry that got picked.  In this case, having the highest probability worked in her favor.

Congratulations, Maja! Please email me your logo at info at soapjam dot com.

To all of you, thanks a million for reading and leaving comments. My soaping adventure would have been a shade less fun if it weren’t for your company. :)




Custom Stamp Giveaway: Share a Soaping Tip or Trick

Since getting my stamp last month, I still haven’t mastered the precise way of stamping soaps – sometimes I hammer too hard, or too lightly, or lopsidedly. But one thing for sure is that I love stamping soaps and the resulting look. To celebrate my first soap anniversary this April 3, I thought I’d share the joy by giving away an acrylic stamp with your own logo or design. All soap makers from anywhere in the world are welcome to join!

All you need to do is share your favorite soaping tip or trick in the comments section, or on Facebook  (would be awesome, too, if you “like” SoapJam :) ).  If you have already written a post or tutorial about it, a link would be highly appreciated.  If you share a soaping tip or trick here, and another one on Facebook, it will count as 2 entries.  The idea is to provide a resource for soap makers – a kind of pay-it-forward.

Cut-off will be on April 2, 9 PM Philippine time, and the winner will be announced the following day.  I will need a pdf file of your logo or artwork to have your custom stamp made. If you are not yet ready with your logo, we can wait.  The stamp I will be sending is going to be the acrylic portion only, without a handle.  It works fine without a handle, but if you wish, you can buy a generic wooden handle and glue it to the stamp.

Soap Stamp

Here is one of my latest soap creations with a thicker stamp.  It’s a soothing fragrance combination of lavender, honey, and almond. I mixed ultramarine blue and african violet pigment to get the lavender colour. The original mixture came out greyish, so I had to hastily mix more ultramarine blue with oil to add to the soap batter.  The swirls of this batch reminds me of an earlier soap I made called Lavender Mist. But of course I like this better because of the stamp. ;)

Lavender Almond

Lavender Almond

For my own contribution, here’s a link to a tutorial I made on Lye Masterbatching.

Thank you for reading and for your participation! Wishing you a happy and bubbly week! :)







Inspiring Soap Maker: Jennifer Young (Part 2 of 2)

Here’s the second half of my interview with Jennifer Young of Naturalmente Mediterraneo and Jenora Soaps.  In case you missed the first part (questions 1-5) of the interview, you may find it here.

If you have any questions about the soap business, please don’t hesitate to ask Jennifer. Not only is she passionate about what she does, but she is also passionate about inspiring people. :)

6.  What are your most saleable products?

50 to 60% of what we sell is soap. They all sell pretty well.  Maybe our 3 best selling soaps are Orange Poppyseed (Exfoliating), Andaluz (Gentle) and Green Clay (for oilier skin).  If a soap doesn’t sell well, we cut it from the line, like for example our Aloe Vera soap was our slowest seller (I believe that is because it is very common, there are already so many on the market) so we cut it, but as it has a fresh, minty essential oil blend, we will bring it back seasonally for the summer. As for moisturizers, our Oliva hand and body cream sells well, as well as our Rosehip cream for the face.  Our best selling scrub is Orange poppyseed and our Moisturizing Serums are relatively new but selling well.  It often depends on the venue and the time of the year.  I keep a very detailed record of every product that sells, where and when it sells and we analyze the data at the end of each month.

7.  Personal favourites?

Our Goat Milk soap – I adore the scent, a blend of patchouli and geranium essential oils. I love the creamy lather.

Lavender Rosemary Moisturizing Salve – I use this every night before bed on my hands, legs and feet. It is soothing, moisturizing and so comforting.

Our new Oasis Moisturizing Facial Serum with Rosehip & jojoba oils among others… I love the neroli in the essential oil blend.

8. What is your favourite soap additive? Essential oil?

Soap additive – Essential oils.  I am passionate about essential oils.  I love researching them, experimenting with them and blending.

Essential oil – I have so many favourites and this also changes.  Lavender is probably my all time favourite, I adore Patchouli and Bergamot.  I also love Sweet Orange and Vetiver.

9.  Soaping tips or tricks you wish you knew early on?

I have loved the whole process of discovery and learning and would not want to have speeded that up.  So I don’t think there is anything that I wish I knew early on.  I continue to research, learn and discover things. At one point, I ruined an entire batch (100 bars) of our most expensive soap because the lye hadn’t mixed in properly. But in the end, I am glad it happened because it meant we changed the production process and now we always strain the lye mix when pouring into the oils.  Most of the time, I find that something great is learned from our mistakes.

10.  What advice would you give to soapers thinking of turning their hobby into a business?

-   It is possible to make a living from soap making.  However, it may mean re-defining what “making a living” means to you and reducing your lifestyle.

-   You may wish to consider selling other products as well.  For us, unfortunately soap, the product I most love making, is the product with the lowest profit margins.  So we introduced other natural skin care products as well.

-   It is very important to know how to run a business.  Numbers, pricing, organization & prioritizing are keys.  Selling is as important for the business as making good soap, so if you want to enjoy running a soap making business, you had better enjoy selling or employ someone who does!

-   Don’t waste any negative energy on the competition. Focus more on your own products uniqueness and identity. What makes your product different from others?

-   Patience is important.  If you have a good product, the clients and sales will come, but it may take time.  If you want it to happen quicker, you need to bring them in.  Opening a shop or a website does not mean that people will somehow find you, you need to do a lot of work to bring them there, from advertising to markets to fairs, social networking.

Naturalmente M 2

At the store front.

Naturalmente Mediterraneo JRY in Shop

Jen with her beautifully packaged soaps.

Thank you so much for this interview, Jen!  May your success continue to grow, and may you always be a source of joy and inspiration to many. :)


Inspiring Soap Maker: Jennifer Young (Part 1 of 2)

Drumroll, please…….

As promised, presenting to you the brilliant, dynamic, and lovely Jennifer Young: owner, manager, and chief creator of natural soaps and beauty products of the highly successful Naturalmente Mediterraneo, and author of the blog, Jenora Soaps.

[Thank you so much, Jen, for saying yes to this interview! :-) ]

In just a short span of time, Jennifer was able to successfully make the leap from hobby soap making to full time business.  From making 3-bar batches, she now makes 100-bar batches! Some weeks she makes 1000 bars! Wow, right? And on top of that, she has a whole range of skin care products.

I hope this interview with Jennifer serves as an inspiration to you, as she has been to me.  If you have questions for her, please leave them in the comments section, and she will answer you within a week of this posting.

1.  Can you please share with us how Naturalmente Mediterraneo came to be?

I began soapmaking in October 2009 as relief from a stressful job. I had been toying with the idea of what I could do with all of the Aloe Vera plants I was looking after and it hit me one night in bed. I bolted upright suddenly thinking – SOAP – Could I make my own? I went downstairs and got on the internet to see if making soap at home was even possible and was amazed at what I found out.  I didn’t sleep that night and after reading many book reviews, I finally picked out and purchased a soapmaking book online. It felt so urgent that I paid more for the shipping than the book itself.  My first soaps were Castille soaps – with only olive oil as it was all I could find in the area… and it all grew from there as I researched and experimented.  I learned a lot about natural lifestyle growing up with my mother, who is stunning but has never dyed her hair, doesn’t use plastic or even Teflon. I was the kid at school with the “healthy” chocolate chip cookies with sunflower seeds in them. At first it was an obsessive hobby. I created my Jenora Soaps blog and made wonderful connections with like-minded people around the world, then starting Naturalmente Mediterraneo and expanding to moisturizing creams, scrubs, salves, lip balms, serums, and liquid soap with a focus on local, natural ingredients.  In July 2012, I opened our retail shop and studio where I continue to hand-make our products in line with 4 core values 1) Enjoy what I do  2) Use only natural ingredients, from this are whenever possible 3) Support the local community and economy and 4) Treat the environment well.

2.  How has owning and running your own business changed your life?

In my previous job, I had a lot of responsibility and stress and it was eating at me to the point when I got sick.  So how has that changed? My life quality has improved immensely.  Since the driving force behind this business was and still is my passion for the creation process, the ingredients, the products, this area and natural life-style, rather than money, I enjoy what I do every day, even during the moments when sales are low. I choose each day to do what I love.  With my own business, all of the choices are mine… and I remain ever conscious that core value number 1 is ENJOY WHAT I DO.  So although there are many routes I could have and still could take with the business that might bring in more money, I choose not to go down the routes that may lead me somewhere where I won’t enjoy what I am doing.

3.  What’s the most rewarding aspect of doing business?
A list:

-   The soapmaking process…. Soaping away on an early morning with music on.

-   Creating a new product, not only the finished product but the whole lead up to it, the research and experimenting, testers feedback and then finalizing and launching the product onto the market!

-   Repeat clients

-   Positive feedback (although negative feedback is just as important to me during the testing phase of a new product)

-   Opening the soap mould after making a new soap for the first time

-   Cutting soap

-   Sales

4.  What do you struggle with the most?

-     Administration work.  Paperwork can bog me down, especially here in Spain where red tape is incredible and health and safety require a TON of paperwork for each batch I make

-     Lack of support for small businesses here in Spain.  It is expensive to start and run your own business here.

5.  How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

- Fortunately this is something I have not had a problem with since the moment I started soap making.  It has been the most creative time in my life. I suppose paper work and admin, email etc. can get me down so I try to swap it up.  I begin each day making something.  It may be simply opening up the moulds, cutting and stamping soaps or it may be a full batch of something new.  Then I will allow myself 1 hour on the computer, then I head back to the production room, where I am happiest.

Jennifer's first soap.

First soap.

Naturalmente M 3

First market.

All-natural soaps.

Jennifer’s all-natural soaps.

I hope you enjoyed the interview and are feeling inspired. :-) Don’t miss the second half of it on March 21!

And please stay tuned for SoapJam’s First Soap Anniversary Giveaway:  your own customized soap stamp – open to all soap makers from anywhere in the world.  Contest commences on March 27, and winner will be announced on the anniversary day itself, April 3.  :-)

Drop Swirl Variation

I didn’t sign up for this month’s Soap Challenge Club even though the Drop Swirl is currently my favourite technique.  In between travelling, having house guests, and getting the flu, I knew I was not going to be able to make a new batch before the registration deadline.  But I’d like to share anyway the last Drop Swirl soap I made last Feb. 16. 

After dropping the coloured portions into the white base, I swirled it with a chopstick.  I don’t know if there is another name for this technique, but to me it is still a drop swirl.  Please let me know if there is a proper name for this.

It is scented with Neroli and Grapefruit, the same fragrance I used for January’s Taiwan Swirl challenge. The pink came out darker than I wanted it to be, but nonetheless, I’m pretty happy with the outcome.

Puppy love 2

Puppy Love 1

Puppy Love 3

Puppy Love 4

Puppy Love 5

Puppy Love 6

Puppy Love

Travel Snap Shots: Jingdezhen

This is a continuation, in photos, of the post I wrote about my trip to Jingdezhen, China.

Village Life in Gaoling

Plum blossom

Plum blossom

Gaoling Village: A river runs through it.

A river runs through the village.

China- village life 2

Drying cabbage.

China - village life 3

Drying fish.

China - Village life 4

Drying shoes.


China - Portrait Old Man

Every line has a story.

China - Portrait Old Woman

A charm that never fades.

China - portrait young and old

Through the generations.

Shards Market

China - Market, shards

Porcelain shards

China - Market, bowls

Bowls: antique or repro?

China - Market, jars

Porcelain pots

China - Market, jugs

Miniature jugs and vessels

China - market, mao

Chairman Mao memorabilia