When soapmakers go on holiday we tend to bring along our own soap.
Firstly, we tend to have substantial stashes of soap at home and since we aren’t the kind of people to waste good stuff, it makes sense to make use of what we have.
Secondly, we tend to be particular in our soapy preferences and the prospect of possibly being stuck with some random, mass-produced product that we deem less than adequate just isn’t appealing.
Third: For soapmakers, taking a shower is never just taking a shower. For us a shower cubicle is a testing chamber where we scrutinize, evaluate, diss or approve the fruits of our efforts and hard work on a daily basis. Judging firmness, lather, creaminess, fragrance, drag, slip and afterfeel is second nature to us and an intrinsic part of our daily cleansing routine. Being able to test the performance of your own soap in a new environment is always interesting. A different climate will affect how the soap dries between uses, and how soft or hard the water is will also affect the performance and the afterfeel.
And then of course, bringing that little bit of home with you is always comforting. You might not have the pleasure of sleeping in your own bed, but after a long day of globetrotting you will at least be able to treat yourself to a nice shower with a soap well made from your favourite blend of ingredients and fragrances. Very soothing indeed.
For the avid soap photographer travelling on holiday means new and interesting backdrops for your soaps. Since I tend to drag my camera bag everywhere I go, I’ve learnt to always pack a bar of soap too, just in case the perfect photo opportunity happens to present itself.. I have the nicest smelling camera bag and I can attest that I’ve worked hard to turn the travelling ’soapfie’ into a genre of its own 🙂 This is perhaps my most significant soapfie to date:
It took a whole lot of bending backwards to get this shot of my Moonlight Mermaid in front of H C Andersen’s Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. The place was teeming with tourists like myself and it was a bit of a feat to avoid the frame being photobombed 🙂
When visiting friends I’ve also been known to unscrupulously make use of their beautiful homes for soap photography purposes:
Who said you can’t take soapy pics while doing sports? When in Finland I love to take my kayak for outings on the calm waters between forested islands in the Gulf of Pernå. Here with my Duck Pond Soap.
Then the rare treat. As soapmakers we take inspiration where we can; often in our home environment but sometimes much further away. I was recently glancing through books about Paris and came across the beautifully adorned interior of the Sainte-Chapelle chapel in the heart of Paris. The light and the colours inspired a soap that I made here in South Africa. To then have the opportunity, a few weeks later, to photograph the soap in the very environment that inspired it was very special.
Paris, of course, is full of wonders. Here’s my brine soap with the evening view from my quarters and the Eiffel Tower in the distance:
That same brine soap somehow also made its way to the Louvre where it made friends with the Medusa’s marble reptiles..
..and it got a chance to take a late evening bath in the magical summer light in the south of Finland.
While I was on holiday in Finland a year ago my cousin had milking goats on a neighbouring island. Fresh goat’s milk is not something I come across regularly so I decided not to let the opportunity pass. Hence I paddled over to the island with my little pail in the kayak, milked the goat (first time ever), paddled back with the milk, chilled it and made some very luxurious fresh goat’s milk soap.
I admit that I’ve had a lot of flak from goat milking specialists for my unorthodox and backward way of milking. My milking stance definitely needs improvement because it did feel ever so slightly uncomfortable. But the goat did not seem too unhappy about the procedure and so I hope not much harm was done. And the soap was divine!
Recently I was back in Finland again and this time I was dying to make use of the plantain that grows everywhere over there – and the comfrey that grows in my sister’s yard.
Both plantain (Plantago major) and comfrey (Symphytum asperum or caucasicum in this case) have long traditions as healing plants in many cultures and have been used to treat a long row of skin conditions including cuts, bruises, burns, insect bites etc.
Soap of course, is not a leave-on product and in all honesty I don’t know if any potentially beneficial herbal properties survive saponification, ie it’s hard to say if a soap made with these herbs will have any benefits aside from the general goodness of well-made artisan soap. But since the herbs grow right on my doorstep and are part of the environment where I grew up I decided to give them a try anyway.
When infusing herbs in oil for salves, balms and ointments it’s best to use dried plant matter. Microbes need water to live and multiply and by eliminating water content from your oil infusion you keep it cleaner. In a saponification process the high alkalinity makes swift business of microbes and so the dried plant matter rule is not as essential for oil infusions intended for soap. In this case my plantain leaves were crisp and dry after 12h in the dehydrator and my comfrey leaves well wilted when added to the olive oil.
First I gave the infusions a couple of hours of a hot water bath on the stove top and then they spent a few days in a hot, sunny window. By the time it came to soaping, both infusions, the comfrey in particular, had taken on a beautiful, deep green hue.
My sister-in-law had given me some very dainty little dark pink rose petals from a rose in her garden and very appropriately they went on top of this locally made and sourced holiday soap.
A week ago some of this soap, still in the process of curing, was bundled up and made its way 10.000km due south to Cape Town where it’s now continuing its cure on my curing rack. Since it’s high in olive oil it’s likely to benefit from a nice long cure. By the time we get to lovely summer over here at the southern tip of Africa, my Finnish soap with summer herbs will be ready for a proper test run. That’s what I call a nice soapy souvenir! 🙂
Something about those little rose petals reminds me of Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom at Petit Trianon in Versailles..
Finally a small innovation with regards to soap and travelling. A couple of months ago, as I was making the blue embeds for the Sainte-Chapelle soap above, I realized that those pretty little flat embeds where the perfect size for a one-wash soap. How about keeping a few of those in a pill-box that you can pack in your hand bag or toiletry bag and just take out one each time you need to take a shower or wash your hands on the go? They’re small, they weigh in at just about a gram each, but they’re just enough for one shower for one person and more than enough for one hand wash. A pretty perfect solution for using high quality bar soap without preservatives on the go – without wasting precious soap – or having to lug around a soap container with a wet, mushy bar inside. I think I’ll be making more of these 🙂