Ten minutes away from Blue Yonder lies Christiansted, one of the two major towns on St. Croix. It’s small; Wikipedia will tell you that in 2004 it had a population of about 3,000. The population might have grown (slightly) since then, but it remains an eminently walkable and very beautiful little town, arcing up from a brilliant blue harbor and wooden boardwalk with cobblestone streets and stone-floored pedestrian pathways that look like medieval cloister walks. Each building seems a pastel bleached by salt wind and rain, and heavy wooden doors built to withstand hurricanes conceal little shops containing extraordinary treasures. St. Croix is known for its jewelrymaking — you have to look hard to find the usual “Made in China” junk jewelry here — and the area around Christiansted’s “Company Street” is one of the places to find not only jewelry, but gorgeous handmade items from clothing to original art to woodworking and home decor.
Christiansted is a continuing inspiration.
Last year, I came home from a trip to the island with a picture that I wanted to reproduce, in color, in a soap.
I’d tried an enfleurage of the island’s official flower, the Ginger Thomas, while I was there. I thought I would use that as a starting point. While at first the brilliant yellow seemed to hold true in the soap, in a short time it had morphed a creamy white. Now this wasn’t at all what I was after, so I “remilled” it. I shredded the original soap, added new oils and a good shot of Morroccan red clay, and did what’s called an “in the pot swirl.” It turned out to be one of my testers’ favorite soaps.
I’ve made a lot of soaps since then, but Christiansted as a subject kept coming up. I had another picture that I kept referring to, the washed and textured pink of one of the cloister walks leading down to the harbor, and it would not leave me alone.
Helpless, I decided to try this year’s version of “Christiansted,” emphasizing the delicacy of the pink and the texture of the surfaces. I would use the same remilled technique as I had with the first version.
For Step One, I started with a coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter and castor oil formula. For scent, I used some essential oils I’d picked up in Kochi, India: lotus and jasmine, with a touch of patchouli to “fix” the scents. Once the soap had set up, I discovered that not only had the scent oils “poofed,” but they hadn’t even bothered to leave a forwarding address. So I had a free hand with fragrance on the remilled step.
Once the Step One soap was shredded and moistened with coconut milk, it was added to a new batch of coconut, olive, and castor oil as well as a healthy dose of mango seed butter, fragranced with my favorite “island” scent of salt air, fruit, and ginger blossom, and then colored with a swirl of ultramarine pink. Oh, and I added a couple tablespoons of St. Croix honey, dispersed in warm retained water, to the formula to increase lather and bubbliness.
Two or three of the pieces, not shown here, contain tiny droplets of pure St. Croix honey that reformed from dispersion during the curing process. I call those my “Sweet Honey in the Rock” surprise, and I covet them. Since then, I’ve learned how to avoid the phenomenon (it’s well known), but I’m still ridiculously pleased by its appearance in the “new Christiansted.” It’s nice to receive a surprise gift like that.
The new Christiansted is loaded with skin-loving oils and butters — both shea and mango seed — and has the fragrance of the tropics. It’s more than ready for use-testing, and I’ll report back on how it does.