Over at Great Cakes Soapworks, Amy Warden has thrown out a weekly challenge. Each week presents a new technique for cold process soapmaking. The first week’s was the “tiger stripe” technique, which resulted for me in “Kathakali Dance.”
This week’s challenge is what’s called an “elemental swirl.” It involves splitting the formula into four colors, swirling two of the colors into one pot and the other two into another pot, and separating the two swirled pots into the mold separated by a dividing line.
It’s nuts. It will make your lab look like it exploded and it requires you to work faster than the guy trying to sell you OxyClean on late-night cable.
So I did it. I had a vague idea of a St. Croix beach, where the sand slides into the sea, reef lines calm the closest waters into gentler greens and blues, and the sky and clouds touch the ocean out on the horizon. I used my go-to shea butter recipe, assembled the colorants — ultramarine blue and violet, the stargazer flower stamen colorant, a bit of apricot Labcolor, some crushed chamomile flowers, a bit of titanium dioxide, and some purple and blue micas for the dividing line between the two sets of swirled colors. (Of course I had to clean the kitchen about three times before this, because somehow we create more dirty dishes than the 49ers cafeteria on a daily basis.)
The key to this technique is (well, actually there are enough “keys” to suit a janitor’s belt) but the KEY is DON’T BREAK THE LINE. There are a number of ways and materials to make the Line, but I used the foot of a new pair of nylon stockings stretched over a ramekin full of the mixed blue and purple micas. I experimented with “poofing out” the micas through this primitive device and in the fog that resulted ended up looking like part of the Blue Man Group.
Micas are basically colored dust and boy do they act like it. A half hour of cleanup later I determined that gently tapping the bottom of the ramekin would distribute the mica evenly in a (sort of) contained area. The next trick is to slide the following layer ever so gently atop the mica line. Of course, I had to do two mica lines instead of one, because I am that kind of idiot.
Frantic mixing, panicking, and pouring later, I ended up with something I didn’t quite expect, but pleased me all the same because I knew exactly what to call it. For those not in the know, the “Painkiller” is a pretty powerful rum-based mixed drink that’ll sneak up on you worse than the next Twilight movie. It’s the official drink of the British Virgin Islands and the unofficial drink of all the others.
If you’d like to see other phenomenal examples of the Elemental Swirl technique, check out the challenge page here.
Before “CBAAFP,” I’d finally decided to make a lavender soap. A lot of people like lavender, but I’ve never been a big fan — until I met a little varietal called “Thumbelina.” Thumbelina is a dwarf lavender that produces a fragrance so rich and deep that it bears almost no resemblance to the powdery, headachy, acrid lavender scent you run across way too often. I knew that would be the kind of lavender I wanted, and finally found it in a Hungarian lavender essential oil “fixed” with a touch of patchouli.
It smells exactly as I hoped — very much lavender, but full and complex. It was colored with a purple mica, touched with blue (much like the combination for the Line in the CBAAFP). I’ll be making it again.
With “CBAAFP” and “Night Lavender,” I’ve come down to the last of my oil and butter supplies, which is what I intended to do. I have a new soapmaking program that not only records formulas, costs, and batch production, but also controls inventory. Trying to make sense of what I had would have only made things more difficult, so I thought I’d draw everything down as close to zero as I could before starting up in a “serious” fashion.
Now’s the time I take final inventory on colorants and fragrances, make up the order list for oils, butters, and other necessaries, get the inventory program up and running, and finally get Blue Yonder Botanicals off the ground. I think a few Painkillers are in order.