It started with a trip to Coop Coco. I had arranged to get two hours to myself from a pretty intense nursing schedule: I only had about two hours between feeds, because baby wasn’t doing the bottle, and an hour of that would go to the commute. Under the circumstances, (and not because I don’t love being with my little one) I relished an hour on the bus to myself. When I opened the door a bell chimed, as if announcing my arrival to this soap-makers’ mecca. Shelves upon shelves of soaping goodies and an hour to look at it all! Of course, this wasn’t my first time at Coop Coco, but it had been so long since I had been able to do anything for myself. By myself. And as a time-strapped mother these moments are all the more sweet for it. I think I must have picked up every single box and bottle. But my favourite place in any herbal or soap & candle store is the essential oil shelf. Oh how I sniffed, and read, and smelled again, and pondered… Why is there no more Siberian Pine? Where is all the Frankincense? Will they let me buy the tester? In the end choose about 5 or 6 essential oils, and would have gotten more if they weren’t so low on supplies (I suspect a pre-Christmas rush). Of course, the one thing I couldn’t smell was the rose otto because it’s behind a glass case. I’ve been pining for rose otto since forever, but alas, it is worth more than gold and therefore not a realistic soaping ingredient. But there in a section I don’t usually peruse, I saw Victorian Rose. I studied Victorian lit once upon a time, so right away the name conjured up images of Goblin Market and the beautiful, luminescent tapestries by William Morris. I looked at the label and it said “origin: botanical,” and “100% natural.” I never use fragrance oils in my soaps, because one of the main reasons I started making my own cosmetics was to get away from synthetics. I am not against lab-made products (isn’t a distillery a kind of lab?) but I feel that with EOs you have the chance to further enhance the quality – and add therapeutic qualities – to your artisanal soap. We are inundated by strong synthetic fragrances every day of our lives, so when I smell a soap delicately scented with EOs I find this further sets it apart from industrially-made products. Of course, I’m sure there are some quality stuff out there, and can’t say I’m not tempted from time to time. But Coop coco assured me that this was no fragrance oil, but an essence. So I bought it and an almond essence while I was at it.
When I got home, I started thinking about the soap design I would make and looked up some of William Morris’ tapestries online. I knew I wanted something darkly romantic – like a Gothic rose – and decided to use a madder root infusion I had been brewing for a few weeks. On Wikipedia I found out that “Morris rejected the chemical aniline dyes which were then predominant, instead emphasising (sic) the revival of organic dyes, such as indigo for blue, walnut shells and roots for brown, and cochineal,kermes, and madder for red.” A kindred spirit perhaps? I love when things come full circle! These are some of Morris’ designs that inspired me:
I decided to color the whole soap batter with madder, by putting it in the lye solution and then using my madder maceration, titanium dioxide, and activated charcoal to get the detail tones of darker red, pink and black tones.
I paired the Victorian Rose aromatic essence with some Geranium bourbon essential oil to cut the sweetness and make the scent a bit more “raw” and less romantic. I wanted it to smell like a wild rose with thorns, not a hot-house valentine. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pour it, but had made sure to use a slow moving recipe. I considered trying for some type of Ebru design, or marbling, another art form that was popular during the Victorian era, mostly as a way to decorate book covers (due to advances in printing, books were now being printed at unprecedented speed). I happen to have a book from the early 1800s with some rather nice marbling in red, black and blue and although it was inspiring to look at in the end I opted for a drop swirl. Here I am dropping the last of the soap batter into my mold.
I overworked the top, so it came out a bit muddied.
The next day, I was so excited to cut my soap. Excited like a kid on Christmas. In fact, it was right around Christmas. The top was even more disappointing dry: the black blended with the other colors and turned it all greyish. This was the result from me not being able to put the chopstick down. But after the first cut I quickly forgot about the top. These images are stills from the cutting video. On the bar on the left I see the outline of an opening rose. What do you see?
The colors and tints came out just as I had imagined and although there was a fair amount of blending going on, the black stayed relatively intact, creating the outlines and shading detail you often see in tapestry design.
All in all, Victorian Rose turned out exactly as I wanted it to, even better:) I can’t say that very often. This is what I love about making soap – you never quite know what you’re going to get -and to me, it holds more promise than a bud about to open 😉
Thank you for stopping by ❤