Check Out the Winners of the Sculpted Layers Challenge!

The technique for the June Challenge Club is called Sculpted Layers. It was created by Claudia Carpenter of Om Nom Soap blog, one of our very own members! She used the technique to create her grand prize winning masterpiece for the Winter Wonderland challenge in February, and was gracious to teach it to us this month and share all her tips and tricks. The possibilities are truly endless with this technique, and the creativity that showed up in the entries is astounding! All of our top three winners took turns in first place throughout the course of the voting (I was the only one who could see this), and many others displayed beautiful design and skill as well.

Huge thanks to our sponsor, Alex Kelly of Custom Soap Stamps – who does so much more than just stamps! Please check out his etsy store to see all he has to offer, from tools to displays to molds – all of it made with high quality durable acrylic or silicone. In addition to the following prize winners, Alex also provided a 10% off coupon code to everyone who submitted an entry this month! Thanks so much, Alex!

Our grand prize winner, by just ONE vote is Helene Glemet of Chez Helene from Quebec, Canada! Helene just joined the Challenge Club last month, and has shown herself to be an excellent designer and soapmaker. Her soap, “Howling Wolf” is a simple, yet stunning design:

Howling Wolf by Chez Helene

Howling Wolf by Chez Helene

Helene wins a $150 gift certificate from Custom Soap Stamps – congratulations!! Click on the photo to see how she made her soap!

Second place goes to Debi Olsen in Fort Collins, Colorado! Debi is a master at complex, detailed soap design. She also utilized the allowance for small non-soap embellishments to decoupage the vines and cat tails on her soap to make it look surprisingly similar to her inspiration photo, and thus gave us her “Blue Moon” soap:

Blue Moon soap by Debi Olsen

Blue Moon soap by Debi Olsen

Her soap has won a $75 gift certificate from Custom Soap Stamps – yay, Debi! If you click on the photo, you can read her extensive blog post on how she made this soap.

In third place we have Vera Lede from Kazakhstan. Vera also has an eye for detail and bold, beautiful design in her soapmaking. She really pushed the envelope with a total of 12 sculpted layers in her “Morning in a Mountain Valley” soap!

Morning in a Mountain Valley by Vera Lede

Morning in a Mountain Valley by Vera Lede

Congratulations to Vera for earning a $50 gift certificate from Custom Soap Stamps! Click on the photo to read her blog post and see photos of her process, as well as another soap she made with this technique.

Our Sponsor’s Choice winner is Marie Zimmerly in Winterville, North Carolina! Marie is fairly new to the Club, and this her first time winning a prize. This is what Alex says about her “Almost Argyle” soap: “I really liked the crisp pattern separation and the fade from dark to light. The surface of the bars are nice and shiny, which adds that clean look (no pun intended). The dark edges leading in to the first pattern also helps define the contrast in colors. Lastly, it reminds me of the fancy argyle socks that I wore back in my corporate America days. Something like that allows the consumer to relate to the design of the bar.”

Almost Argyle soap by Marie Zimmerly

Almost Argyle soap by Marie Zimmerly

Marie’s prize is a custom soap stamp from Alex – congratulations! Clicking on the photo of her soap will take you to her blog post with lots of great details on how she made it!

What’s that? You want to see the rest of the entries? Take a look at them HERE.

Registration will open for the next three months of challenges on Monday (June 27)! Here are the techniques we will be tackling next:

JULY – Pipe divider swirl, sponsored by Nature’s Garden!

This technique was created by Tania of Soapish. She is excited to see what everyone creates for the challenge! Here’s the soap I made for the video tutorial:

Mango Papaya soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Mango Papaya soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

AUGUST – Dancing funnel, created and taught by Tatsiana Serko of Creative Soap by Steso. This will be a divided challenge between natural and synthetic entries. Majestic Mountain Sage will sponsor the natural category, and Rustic Escentuals will sponsor the synthetic category.

Here is the soap Tatsiana created for the tutorial:

Dancing Funnel soap by Creative Soap by Steso

Dancing Funnel soap by Creative Soap by Steso

SEPTEMBER – Piping soap, another divided challenge between newbies and experienced entries. Bath Alchemy Lab will sponsor the newbie category and Nurture Soap will sponsor the experienced category.

I have my equipment ready for this challenge, but nothing to show you just yet. This has been a hot technique lately, so I know it will be a fun one!

If you have signed up for Challenge Club notifications, you will receive one on Monday, June 27, as soon as registration opens. If you haven’t signed up yet, be sure to do it now!

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Teardrop Technique Challenge Winners!

The Teardrop Technique is a soap design that creates a “teardrop” of layered soap down the middle of the bar. It’s absolutely stunning when it’s done right. In fact, we had 286 members this month who were excited to figure out how it’s done. Together we learned that the Teardrop Technique is deceptively difficult! A few people were able to get theirs just beautifully on the first try (I wasn’t one of them!), but quite a few struggled with this one. It’s a technique that was first demonstrated by Sweetly Sweetly Sweetly on Facebook, and then picked up by Sergio Masala on YouTube which is where I first saw it. Our winners created some really amazing soaps and I can’t wait to share them with you! But first, I must give a big shout-out to our sponsors this month.

Mad Oils is our main sponsor. They are an up-and-coming supplier known for their amazing micas and fragrances, but they carry a wide variety of other soapmaking supplies as well. They have contributed large gift certificates to each of our top three winners, as well as a Sponsor’s Choice prize. Thank you, Mad Oils!! Amanda Aaron of The Lovin Soap Studio is also donating free e-books to each of our winners – and she has a wide variety to choose from! Thank you, Amanda!!

First and second place in this contest were about as close as I’ve ever seen – considering we had 95 entries and the top two were separated by just two votes! Either of these two ladies could have easily been our grand prize winner, but we can only have one. So congratulations goes to Holly Shelton of Kapia Mera Soap Co in Tennessee for her magnificent Lemon Mint Teardrop Soap!

Lemon Mint Teardrop Soap by Kapia Mera Soap Co.

Lemon Mint Teardrop Soap by Kapia Mera Soap Co.

Holly is a long-time Challenge Club member and has taken grand prize one other time, just a few months ago! She is known for her abilities to use a wide variety of natural colorants in cold process soap to create really beautiful designs like this one. Holly wins a $100 gift certificate from Mad Oils and an e-book from Lovin Soap Studio! (Click on the photo to see Holly’s video of the making of her soap.)

So who was the fierce contender for second place? None other than the very talented Maria Antonova in Russia with her beautifully crafted soap that she refers to as “The Source of Life”:

The Source of Life Teardrop Soap by Maria Antonova

The Source of Life Teardrop Soap by Maria Antonova

Maria was extremely persistent with this technique, making over five batches to get to this one. She has been a participant in the Challenge Club several times previously, but this is the first time she has placed, and it is well-deserved! Maria wins a $75 gift certificate from Mad Oils and an e-book from Lovin Soap Studio! Click on the photo of her soap to see how she made it, as well as four other batches.

Third place goes to another member who is no stranger to the Challenge Club. Congratulations to Sonya Mulholland in the UK for her simply elegant Raspberry Tangerine Teardrop Soap:

Raspberry Tangerine Teardrop Soap by Sonya Mulholland

Raspberry Tangerine Teardrop Soap by Sonya Mulholland

Sonya was a grand prize winner in the international category of our Spin Swirl challenge a little over a year ago, and now she’s back for more! She’s an accountant by day and a self-confessed soapaholic by night. Sonya wins a $50 gift certificate from Mad Oils, plus an e-book from Lovin Soap Studio. Congratulations, Sonya!! Click on the photo of her soap to see her blog post on how she made it, plus two other teardrop soaps for the challenge and the lessons learned.

The Sponsor’s Choice prize goes to Claire Edmund of Saponista’s Artisan Soap also in the UK! Claire was determined to achieve the beautiful, yet sometimes elusive teardrop in her soap. Her goal was to create a really long stem on her drop, which she created rather perfectly:

Thin-Stem Teardrop Soap by Saponista

Thin-Stem Teardrop Soap by Saponista

Congratulations to Claire for winning a $25 gift certificate from Mad Oils, plus an e-book from Lovin Soap Studio! If you click on the photo of her soap, you’ll see her SIX other attempts.

If you’d like to see the rest of the entries for this challenge, please visit them HERE.

We will be taking a short break before the June Challenge registration opens. Our technique is called Sculpted Layers, and it was designed by Challenge Club member, Claudia Carpenter. She will be our guest teacher for this technique and will be demonstrating how she created these soaps for the video tutorial:

Soaps made with the Sculpted Layers technique by Claudia Carpenter

Soaps made with the Sculpted Layers technique by Claudia Carpenter

Claudia has put together some great information about the technique for me and without seeing the videos yet, my daughter and I created this soap which we will also share with you inside the Club:

Eye Soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Eye Soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Our sponsor for June is Custom Soap Stamps. It’s way more than just stamps though – be sure to check out all the great equipment available to soapmakers!

If you have signed up for Challenge Club notifications, you will receive one on Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day in the U.S.) as soon as registration opens. If you haven’t signed up yet, be sure to do it now!

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It’s All About Location! (Challenge Winners Announced)

For the month of April, we did a theme challenge to take a short break from the advanced techniques. I asked members to create a soap that represents the place where they live or have lived in the past that is special to them. The only perimeters were that the final soap should be made in a log or slab mold. Small embellishments were allowed that were not made of cold process soap, including but not limited to, melt & pour or hot processed embeds, etc. As you can imagine, the creativity has shown up in spades with this challenge, and I’m so grateful to our sponsor TKB Trading for their generous prizes and support!

The well-deserved grand prize goes to Debi Olsen in Fort Collin, Colorado! Debi has been participating diligently in the Challenge Club since last September and took 3rd place in the Circling Taiwan Swirl challenge. This month she created a beautiful scenic landscape soap to reflect the majestic state of Colorado where she was born and raised and still lives to this day:

Colorado Sunset soap by Debi Olsen

Colorado Sunset soap by Debi Olsen

Curious about how she made it? I know I was! Visit her new blog and read all about her process by clicking on the photo. Congratulations, Debi, on your $100 gift certificate from TKB!

Coming in a strong second place is Lisa Maw of Lisa’s Natural Herbal Creations in Ogden, Utah. While Lisa has been participating in the challenges for just a few months now, her artistry is evident in all of her soaps! Here is her Arches Soap, an amazing tribute to the great state of Utah where she was born and raised:

Arches Soap by Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations

Arches Soap by Lisa’s Natural Herbal Creations

Lisa molded the arches in the soap by hand! Click on the photo to found out how! Lisa wins a $75 gift certificate from TKB – congratulations!!

Third place for the second month in a row goes to Brittany Warwick of Baabbly Soap in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As Brittany explained in her blog post, Wisconsin is known for cows, cheese, beer, and snow, so she decided to “create a soap that was a landscape of a farm with a cute little cow in the forefront of the soap.” It certainly is cute!

Wisconsin Cow Soap by Baabbly Soap

Wisconsin Cow Soap by Baabbly Soap

Congratulations, Brittany! You’ve won a $50 gift certificate from TKB! Yes, you can also click on the photo of her soap to see her process which includes several advanced embeds!

The Sponsor’s Choice prize goes to Tatsiana Serko of Creative Soap by Steso, who is originally from Belarus and created a beautiful soap to reflect her heritage. Kaila Westerman, owner of TKB Trading, explained her choice this way: “I had the following criteria: Color Harmony. As a colorist, how a product looks at first glance, and how the colors speak to me is an immediate ‘first pass’.” She also took into consideration the level of difficulty, quality of execution and creative thinking with regard to addressing the theme. Tatsiana’s soap, From Belarus with love, certainly fits within all of these criteria:

From Belarus with love by Creative Soap by Steso

From Belarus with love by Creative Soap by Steso

Tatsiana wins a $25 gift certificate from TKB – congratulations!!

Curious about the rest of the entries? Find them all HERE.

Next month we will be doing the Teardrop Technique! Here is a soap from my practice batch that I’m hoping to duplicate for the tutorial:

Teardrop Soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Teardrop Soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

It’s made with almost all Mad Oils micas – our main sponsor for the challenge! I love how the colors turned out! Lovin Soap Studio will be contributing a free ebook to all the winners as well.

Registration for the May challenge will open this Monday, April 25! Are you signed up for the Challenge Club notifications?

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Making of Sunflower Soap

I was so excited to be among several recipients of the new Spring Fever Fragrance Collection* from Bramble Berry!
fragrance-collection
I started by making some embeds scented with the Blueberry Jam fragrance, which is absolutely heavenly!! It is by far the best blueberry fragrance I’ve ever used, and smells fantastic in the soap as well.

Then I decided to make a soap scented with the Sunflower fragrance. The notes on this fragrance say that there could be some mild acceleration and discoloration to a light tan, so keeping this in mind, I decided to do a layered soap and create a golden yellow lower half to mimic the petals of the sunflower (the state flower of Kansas where I’m from, by the way!), and mix up browns and black as well as some uncolored soap to mimic the deep brown center of the flower.

I was thinking that a nice, dark brown line between the layers would set them off nicely, so I decided to use cocoa powder for this. The golden yellow is a mix of two teaspoons of Yellow Lip Safe Mica and a half teaspoon of Racing Stripe Orange Mica from Bramble Berry with some olive oil. I used cocoa powder mixed with olive oil for the two different browns, and activated charcoal mixed with olive oil for the black.

Paper cup with dry cocoa powder and a piece of nylon knee highs secured with a rubberband, golden yellow mica mix, cocoa powder mix, and activated charcoal mix.

Paper cup with dry cocoa powder and a piece of nylon knee highs secured with a rubberband, golden yellow mica mix, cocoa powder mix, and activated charcoal mix.

I mixed the oils and lye solution when they were around 85 degrees – a little cooler than my usual 90 degrees. I used my regular recipe for the oils (48 total ounces of oils) and kept the lye solution at 2:1 water to lye. I used the stick blender just until I felt the soap batter was emulsified, then poured off half and colored it with most of the golden yellow mica mix and added half of the fragrance. I actually needed to stick blend it a bit longer to get it to set up enough to hold the other half of the soap and be able to create a texture between the layers.

Golden yellow soap mix

Golden yellow soap mix

I had an idea to use a plastic fork to create some texture:

Texturizing the soap

Texturizing the soap

Then I started sprinkling the cocoa powder over the top of the soap. Only, the cocoa powder was too caked up and didn’t really want to come through the nylon cover. This method works great with tiny particles of dry mica; however, it wasn’t so successful with the cocoa powder. Increasing the force of the shaking of my cocoa powder cup only managed to loosen the nylon cover and I ended up dumping a fair amount of cocoa powder in one section of the soap!

Oops!!

Oops!!

I realized a better method of dispersing the cocoa powder was to use a micro-sieve, tapping it over the top of the soap:

Micro-sieve method

Micro-sieve method

After this, I divided the rest of the soap batter into four equal parts and colored them with the activated charcoal and cocoa powder, leaving one cup uncolored but adding 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds for a bit of texture, then adding the remaining fragrance, divided into each of the four cups:

Four cups of soap for the top

Four cups of soap for the top

My original idea was to swirl these together in one pot and then pour, but the soap was still really runny at this point, so I started by pouring a thin layer of the uncolored soap to offset the dark cocoa powder line:

Thin layer of uncolored soap

Thin layer of uncolored soap

Then I just started pouring thin drop swirls of each color in circular motions until all the soap was in the mold:

Drop swirled soap

Drop swirled soap

Finally, I used a skewer to swirl the top in two different sections:

Swirled top

Swirled top

Even using rubbing alcohol spray on top of the soap, it developed some really bad ash. You can see the comparison between the ashy soap and the one I planed:

Comparison of soap tops: unplaned vs planed.

Comparison of soap tops: unplaned vs planed.

There were only two bars of soap that were adversely affected by the cocoa powder dump. I will cut them up into smaller pieces to be used as samples:

Too much cocoa powder!

Too much cocoa powder!

The rest of the soaps turned out beautifully! Here are some that have been all cleaned up:

Sunflower soaps by Great Cakes Soapworks

Sunflower soaps by Great Cakes Soapworks

I will plan to have these available for purchase at Greatcakessoapworks.com on May 6.

*All links to Bramble Berry products are affiliate links which simply means a small portion of your purchase comes back to me at no added cost to you.

Rimmed Soap Challenge Winners!

Talk about a challenge…the rimmed soap technique was definitely one of the more challenging techniques that the Soap Challenge Club has ever done! Huge thanks to Tatsiana Serko for teaching us this advanced technique so that everyone had a chance at success. All of the soaps had to be made in a round mold, and there are some really stunning results! Shout out to our sponsors this month also: Rustic Escentuals sponsored the U.S. category and Voyageur Soap and Candle Co. (in Canada) sponsored the International category with some amazing prizes!

Even though we only had 16 entries in the International category, there were some very serious contenders!! The top three were all within four votes of one another. I know you are anxious to see the results, so here are the winners in the International category:

Congratulations goes to our grand prize winner: Anastasia Krasilnikova in Czech Republic with her beautiful Damask Rimmed soap, made with an impression mat:

Damask Rimmed Soap by Anastasia

Damask Rimmed Soap by Anastasia

You will definitely want to click on her photo to see her blog post about the many different rimmed soaps she made before she fell in love with this one for the challenge. Anastasia has been making soap for just seven months now, although you would never know it! She wins a $100 gift certificate from Voyageur!

In a close second place is Carolyn Newton of Siennalily Soaps in Spain. This is her third time winning a prize in the Challenge Club. Congratulations, Carolyn, on your gorgeous rimmed soap, inspired by an Egyptian design:

Tutankhamun Rimmed Soap by Siennalily Soaps

Tutankhamun Rimmed Soap by Siennalily Soaps

Click the photo to see Carolyn’s inspiration and how she made her soap – also with an impression mat! Carolyn wins a $75 gift certificate from Voyageur!

Just one vote behind Carolyn is Lisa Norris of Kangaroo Apple Studio in Australia in third place! Lisa has managed to place in the top 3 NINE times now – usually with her signature rainbow design! Her Star Rainbow rimmed soap is just stunning:

Star Rainbow Rimmed Soap by Kangaroo Apple Soap Studio

Star Rainbow Rimmed Soap by Kangaroo Apple Soap Studio

Check out her post on Facebook by clicking the photo above to see Lisa’s process in making her soap with star rainbow embeds! Lisa wins a $50 gift certificate from Voyageur!

Finally, the Sponsor’s Choice prize goes to Melanie Maddock of Sweet Escape in New Zealand for her gorgeous May Chang Rimmed Soap made with neon swirls and raspberry seeds. This is Melanie’s first prize since she has been participating in the Club – congratulations!! Tammy Evans from Voyageur said this: “We awarded the Sponsor’s Choice prize to May Chang Swirl because we loved the duality of the speckled middle with the brightly coloured retro style swirled rim. The vibrant colour choice combined with the precision of the rim around the inner circle made the bar look not only fresh and fun but also very polished and professional.”

May Chang Rimmed Soap by Sweet Escape

May Chang Rimmed Soap by Sweet Escape

Melanie wins a $25 gift certificate from Voyageur!

In the U.S. category, the competition was also pretty stiff, although Holly Shelton of Kapia Mera Soap Co. came away as the clear grand prize winner! Congratulations!! Holly has placed second twice, but she wins the grand prize this month for her simply elegant black and white rimmed soap:

Charcoal and Clay Rimmed Soap by Kapia Mera Soap Co.

Charcoal and Clay Rimmed Soap by Kapia Mera Soap Co.

On her blog post, Holly shares her recipe as well as a video of her process, so be sure to click through! She wins a $100 gift certificate, plus 6 1-oz. fragrances & 6 mica samples from Rustic Escentuals!

Second place goes to a brand new Challenge Club member: Ann Kruschke in Ohio who is celebrating her one-year soapiversary!! She made her rimmed soap look like a watercolor version of a watermelon:

Summertime Rimmed Soap by Ann Kruschke

Summertime Rimmed Soap by Ann Kruschke

Isn’t it amazing? Click on the photo to see her blog post that includes her recipe and process. Ann wins a $75 gift certificate, plus 6 1-oz. fragrances & 6 mica samples from Rustic Escentuals!

In third place – by only one vote! – is Brittany Warwick in Wisconsin for her fabulous Japanese Cherry Blossom rimmed soap:

Japanese Cherry Blossom Rimmed Soap by Brittany Warwick

Japanese Cherry Blossom Rimmed Soap by Brittany Warwick

Brittany won the Sponsor’s Choice prize for the Embracing Opposites challenge last July, but this is her first voted win, and it’s well deserved!! Click on the photo to see her blog post with all the details about her soap. Brittany wins a $50 gift certificate, plus 6 1-oz. fragrances & 6 mica samples from Rustic Escentuals!

We have a Sponsor’s Choice winner from Rustic Escentuals as well: Congrats to Bonnie Howard of The Village Soapsmith in North Carolina for her Black Raspberry Vanilla Rimmed Soap! Amy Coker says, “This soap is not only beautifully done by the challenge set forth, but it’s beautifully done in the attention to detail. This soap maker has taken a common scent and crafted the soap to be completely unique by their color choices and swirls as applied to the challenge. The colors chosen perfectly complement the scent’s notes. The rim swirls look like they were carefully and artfully done. Lastly, the swirling in the center with more complementary colors tie the soap together. Attention to detail = very well done.”

Black Raspberry Vanilla Rimmed Soap by The Village Soapsmith

Black Raspberry Vanilla Rimmed Soap by The Village Soapsmith

Click on Bonnie’s soap photo to read more about her soap on her blog! Bonnie wins a $25 gift certificate, plus 6 1-oz. fragrances & 6 mica samples from Rustic Escentuals!

To see the rest of the entries for the Rimmed Soap Challenge, be sure to click HERE.

And now it’s time to announce the next three months of challenges….no divided categories for these – they are all one big challenge each month!

For April, we are doing a location theme challenge! I happen to be a Kansas girl, so what does everyone seem to reference when they hear Kansas? The Wizard of Oz! Here’s the soap I made for the tutorial:

Wizard of Oz soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Wizard of Oz soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

What’s special about where you live? Our sponsor for the Location Theme Challenge is TKB Trading.

In May, we will tackle the tear drop technique, like this one by Sergio Masala:

Lacrimosa by Sergio Masala

Lacrimosa by Sergio Masala

Our sponsors are Mad Oils and Lovin Soap Studio.

In June, Claudia Carpenter of Om Nom Soap will be our guest teacher to show us how to create Sculpted Layers like she did for her Winter Wonderland soap:

Winter Wonderland soap by Claudia Carpenter

Winter Wonderland soap by Claudia Carpenter

Our sponsor is Custom Soap Stamps.

You will have the option to register for all three months or April only starting this Monday, March 28. Sign up to be notified when registration opens AND the tutorial for the Rimmed Soaps becomes available if you haven’t already:

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Winter Wonderland Winners

For the month of February, we did a theme challenge called “Winter Wonderland”. The only requirement was to have an element of snow in all cold-process soap. Small non-soap embellishments were allowed, and the challenge was also divided between all-natural and synthetic entries. In order to be considered for the all-natural category, the soap must have been made with all-natural ingredients – no fragrance oils, micas, oxides or dyes, and all ingredients had to be listed. We are so grateful to our sponsors this month! Brambleberry sponsored the all-natural category, and Nurture Soap sponsored the synthetic category. I was very pleased to see close to the same number of entries in each category!

Let’s start with the synthetic category. Claudia Carpenter of Om Nom Soap in California completely knocked our socks off with her winning entry! She’s a long-time member and supporter of the Challenge Club and is the creative genius behind the Challenge Club logo and stamps for our winners. For this challenge she created a 3D design in her Winter Wonderland soap:

Winter Wonderland soap by Om Nom Soap

Winter Wonderland soap by Om Nom Soap

I know you’ll want to click on the photo to see how she did it, and even then you’ll be left scratching your head! Congratulations, Claudia, on your grand prize which is a $100 gift certificate from Nurture Soap!

In second place, we have another beautiful soap. Congratulations goes to Ami Johnson from Idaho who just participated in the challenge for the first time last month! Her cardinal design is fantastic with all the piped branches, berries, and of course the cardinal:

Winter Cardinal soap by Ami Johnson

Winter Cardinal soap by Ami Johnson

(Click on the photo to see a larger version.) Ami wins a $75 gift certificate from Nurture Soap!

Third place in the synthetic category goes to Jessaca Redd in Texas for her adorable chickadee soap! Jessaca used an impression mat to create a wood pattern on the bottom of her soap, then embedded the chickadees in the snowy white background.

Chickadee in Snow soap by In a State of Namaste

Chickadee in Snow soap by Jessaca Redd

Jessaca wins a $50 gift certificate from Nurture Soap – congrats! Click on the photo to see how she made the soap.

Finally, the Sponsor’s Choice prize goes to Pooja Nidgudkar of Blue Nectar Soaps in California for her Icicle soap! Carrie Thornsbury, owner of Nurture Soap says, “I really like how the colors came together in this soap, and how the icicles were embedded to lend a unique visual effect. It kind of reminds me of a Van Gogh painting!”

Icicle soap by Blue Nectar Soaps

Icicle soap by Blue Nectar Soaps

Congratulations, Pooja! She wins a $25 gift certificate from Nurture Soap, and you can click on the photo to learn more about how she made the soap.

Competition in the all-natural category was pretty tight. I’m pleased to announce that the grand prize goes to Penny Simmons in Arkansas for her Snowy Winter’s Night soap! Penny has been participating with the Challenge Club for quite some time now and this is her first time as a winner! Here’s her stunning soap:

Snowy Winter's Night by Penny Simmons

Snowy Winter’s Night by Penny Simmons

Congrats to you, Penny! She has won a $100 gift certificate, plus Anne-Marie Faiola’s new book, Pure Soapmaking*, from Brambleberry! Click on the photo to see how Penny made her soap.

In second place, Holly Shelton of Kapia Mera Soap Co in Tennessee was just three votes behind Penny with her Winter Landscape soap. Holly has been a long-standing member of the Club also and this is her second time with a second place win! Her soap is multi-layered with multiple design elements that all came together to create one amazing soap:

Winter Landscape Soap by Kapia Mera Soap Co

Winter Landscape Soap by Kapia Mera Soap Co

Holly wins a $75 gift certificate, plus the Pure Soapmaking book from Brambleberry! Way to go, Holly! Be mesmerized by the video she created of the making of her soap by clicking on the photo.

In third place is the cutest little polar bear soap you’ve ever seen by Diana Ruzic of Organza Soaps in Ohio. Diana is another long-time member of the Club who is placing for her first time ever! Check out her sweet soap:

Polar Bear soap by Organza Soaps

Polar Bear soap by Organza Soaps

Congrats to Diana for winning a $50 gift certificate, plus the Pure Soapmaking book from Brambleberry! Click on the photo to see her blog post on how she made her soap.

And….the Sponsor’s Choice prize goes to Hayley McHendry of Soap Lore in New Jersey for her Bird and Winter Aspens soap. This was Hayley’s first challenge, and hopefully the first of many more! Amber Strawn from Brambleberry says, “We loved the creative combination of techniques. Looking at it we couldn’t even figure out how she did it at first – which is really impressive given how many soaps we’ve made/seen here at Bramble Berry!”

Birds and Winter Aspens soap by Soap Lore

Birds and Winter Aspens soap by Soap Lore

Hayley wins a $25 gift certificate, plus the Pure Soapmaking book from Brambleberry! Excellent work, Hayley! If you’re as curious as to how she made the soap as Amber was, be sure to click on the photo to see her process.

You can see the rest of the beautiful Winter Wonderland soaps HERE. There are so many different designs and techniques represented – so impressive!!

Our next challenge is coming up soon! For March, Tatsiana Serko of Creative Soap by Steso is our guest teacher once again as we learn how to make Rimmed Soaps! This is an advanced technique, but she has broken down the steps and provided a recipe and technique that should help us all be successful! Here’s the soap she created for the tutorial:

Rimmed Soap by Creative Soap by Steso

Rimmed Soap by Creative Soap by Steso

We will divide the challenge between U.S. and international participants to give more opportunities for prizes. Rustic Escentuals is the sponsor for the U.S. challenge and Voyageur Soap & Candle Co. is the sponsor for the International challenge. Registration opens this Monday, February 29th for those who wish to join and learn! If you haven’t signed up to receive notifications yet, here’s where to go:

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*affiliate link

Soaping with Anne-Marie

I was so excited to receive a signed copy of Anne-Marie Faiola’s new book Pure Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin Care Soaps along with a full kit to make the Annatto-Yarrow soap!

kit

The book is so comprehensive, as it includes information about the soapmaking process, choosing equipment and molds, how to use herbs and other natural additives, choosing scents and designing recipes – PLUS 32 recipes ranging from simple to stunning. The Annatto-Yarrow soap is in the “Pure Beauty” category, but I think it also fits “Colorful & Creative”! This was a multiple-day, multiple-step project that included several firsts for me including these ingredients:
1. Yarrow powder
2. Pomace olive oil
3. Chia seed oil
4. Rosemary & bergamot essential oil blend

And these techniques:
1. Adding spirulina to lye water
2. Cutting embeds with a cheese slicer
3. Infusing annatto with a heat sealable tea bag and double boiler
4. Pouring soap in an “S” curve in the mold

Here’s a photo of the photo of Anne-Marie’s version:

book-photo

The first step was to create the embeds with spirulina as the color. I’ve used spirulina in the past. It’s seaweed, and it smells like seaweed. This recipe calls for bergamot essential oil with this part of the soap, and I felt that it blended well with the spirulina scent. I’m sure the seaweed scent will fade over time.

The last time I used spirulina to color my soap, it stayed green for about 48 hours after I cut it, and then turned brown. This time the recipe called for a LOT more spirulina and it was added directly to the lye water instead of added at trace. (The yarrow powder was added to the lye water as well.)

green-lye-water

I’m guessing the pomace olive oil worked well with this part of the soap since it has a somewhat greenish tint. I’ve heard that pomace can speed trace a bit, but I didn’t really notice if it did. The soap looked really dark green when I poured it in the mold:

green-soap-ITM

Anne-Marie recommended a cheese slicer to create the “grass blade” embeds. I went to Walmart to see what I could find, and my choices were 1. a super cheap, flimsy one (I could tell the wire wasn’t taut enough to cut the soap), and 2. one that appeared more sturdy, except someone had broken the handle off in the package! And I mean ONE. It was the last one left! So I went to the register and asked the cashier if I could get a discount. He said he doesn’t really do that, but I assured him that I really needed it and was going to buy it anyway, so he ended up giving me a deal after all! Good thing you can still use a cheese slicer without a full handle, but it does take a bit of practice to maneuver it through a thin piece of soap, and I think I need more practice!

embeds

For the main part of the soap, I needed an annatto infusion. Anne-Marie spells out how to create a cold infusion and a hot infusion, and I didn’t have time for the cold one, so I created a double boiler with the annatto seeds inside a heat sealable tea bag with the olive oil. Except the recipe called for one ounce of olive oil and I couldn’t see creating such a small amount, so I used two.

annatto-infusion

Once the annatto infusion was done, I was ready to make the rest of the soap. This is where a small amount of chia seed oil was added. It has a very pleasant aroma! This is the part of the soap that was scented with equal parts rosemary and bergamot which I really love! Half the batch was colored with the annatto, and the other half had poppy seeds, and yes, the spirulina discolored the mold – oops! (photo #1). I poured each color alternately in an “S” curve in the mold (photo #2). I really like how this randomized the pattern in the cut soap, as you’ll see later. I should have stopped when I reached the fill level of photo #3, but I kept going… By the time I pushed the embeds in the soap, it was overflowing just a bit (see #4):

pouring-process

And here it is with dried calendula petals on top:

soap-in-mold

I finally unmolded and cut the soap this afternoon. The calendula petals were pulled through by my wire cutter, and I had to break off the “edges” that had overflowed, but overall, I think it turned out pretty great! I love how many different colors and textures are achieved by this technique. Unfortunately, the spirulina is already turning brown, but I can’t smell it at all, so that’s good. This was a FUN soap to make, and well worth the time and effort!

final-soap

Winners Announcement: Circling Taiwan Swirl Challenge

The January Challenge was to make the Circling Taiwan Swirl. The guidelines to make the soap were very strict – in other words, there weren’t many variables to play with and get creative, and yet there are still so many different outcomes! Members were asked to provide a photo of two soaps from the end of their loaf in a mirror image to show the lotus flower pattern this technique is known for. (Some had trimmed their ends which made them appear to be middle pieces, but I verified the entries to make sure they were end pieces.) We divided the challenge into two categories: newbie and experienced. After taking a survey of our members in November I determined that about half had been making soap for less than two years, and the other half for two years or more, so that’s how I divided it. There’s incredible talent in both categories!

Our sponsor for the newbie category is Bath Alchemy Lab. Erica Pence is an excellent soap teacher and has several online classes for beginners on up. She also has some really great resources on her website that will be great for newbies! As a second time sponsor, we are very grateful to Erica for her generous prizes!

Majestic Mountain Sage is our sponsor for the experienced category. They have been a huge supporter of the Challenge Club since it started! They offer a wide variety of soapmaking supplies that will make any soapmaker happy to shop! HUGE thanks to Tina Howard and her staff for their generous prizes as well – you’ll see how much they were stretched this time around…

Let’s start with the winners in the newbie category – Congratulations goes to our grand prize winner, Carolyn Newton of Siennalily Soaps in Spain! Carolyn has been a faithful member of the Club since she started last July. She has won Sponsor’s Choice prize, but this is her first voted win! Her soap, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came away with 63 votes. Check out the gorgeous sparkling colors and beautiful lotus flower:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Siennalily Soaps

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Siennalily Soaps

Carolyn wins a free online class from Bath Alchemy Lab! Click on the photo of her soap to see her blog post and read more about how she made it.

Second place goes to Vivian Sullivan of Selah Artisan Soaps in North Carolina! Vivian has been a participant two other times, but this is her first win. She gained 52 votes for her beautiful soap called Lotus Dawn, a gorgeous display of the Circling Taiwan Swirl technique with perfectly contrasting colors:

Lotus Dawn by Selah Artisan Soaps

Lotus Dawn by Selah Artisan Soaps

Vivian wins a $75 gift certificate from Bath Alchemy Lab – congratulations!!

In third place with 46 votes, we have Debi Olsen from Colorado! Debi has been a hardworking member of the Club since September, moving her way up the ranks to a prize-winning position for the first time this month. Congratulations, Debi! Her soap is Bergamot & White Tea with a beautiful Spring palette of colors, and fabulous swirls:

Bergamot & White Tea soap by Debi Olsen

Bergamot & White Tea soap by Debi Olsen

Debi has won a $50 gift certificate from Bath Alchemy Lab! Be sure to click on her photo to see her Pinterest board with more info about this soap and others she made with this technique.

Finally, Bath Alchemy Lab has chosen Sumalee Duncan of Gusto Aroma in Australia to receive the Sponsor’s Choice prize! Congratulations, Sumalee! She has been a faithful member of the Challenge Club as well, and this is her first time winning a prize. Erica says, “I like the colors A LOT and her design is very different than the rest.” She’s right! Check out her beautiful soap:

Black Amber & Lavender soap by Gusto Aroma

Black Amber & Lavender soap by Gusto Aroma

Sumalee wins a $25 gift certificate from Bath Alchemy Lab! Click on her photo to see her Facebook album with more photos and information about her soap.

And now for the experienced category…this was a tight race, people!!

The grand prize goes to Janie Hadsel of Lucky Duck Soap and Spa, LLC in Colorado – a recent re-location for her from South Carolina! Congratulations, Janie – I hope this helps you settle into your new space! Janie received 59 votes for her Lavender Citrus soap which is a perfect example of this technique, with its clean line swirls and beautiful color palette:

Lavender Citrus soap by Lucky Duck Soap and Spa, LLC

Lavender Citrus soap by Lucky Duck Soap and Spa, LLC

Janie wins a $100 gift certificate from Majestic Mountain Sage! Click on the photo for more info and photos from Janie’s blog post.

And here is where our contest got really tight…the following three members all tied for second place with 44 votes each:

Congratulaions to Tia Giesemann of That Green Stuff in Australia, Tatiana Serko of Creative Soap By Steso in California, and Odette Handley of Riverlea Soaps in South Africa!! Each of these ladies has won a $75 gift certificate from Majestic Mountain Sage!

Let’s start with Tia’s soap. This is Tia’s first time competing in the Challenge Club, and her soap is called Carnivale for its “bright popping colors”. She did an amazing job, don’t you think?

Carnivale soap by That Green Stuff

Carnivale soap by That Green Stuff

Click on the photo to see more photos and her other attempts at this technique.

Next we have Tatiana’s soap. Tatiana is a seasoned member of the Challenge Club and it’s no surprise that she has created yet another masterpiece. The colors are inspired by a photo of a life preserver with a blue rope on a golden yellow background. You’ll have to click on the photo to check it out:

Circling Taiwan Swirl soap by Tatiana Serko

Circling Taiwan Swirl soap by Tatiana Serko

And now for Odette’s soap. Odette has been a faithful member of the Challenge Club as well, even sponsoring one of our challenges! Her Circling Taiwan Swirl soap has a fantastic lotus pattern and charming color palette:

Circling Taiwan Swirl soap by Riverlea Soap

Circling Taiwan Swirl soap by Riverlea Soap

In third place we have Jennifer Watters from Arizona! This is Jennifer’s first time participating and she received 34 votes for her elegant Twilight Blossom soap. The richness of the black center of the soap is highlighted by pink & white swirl and surrounded by a deep blue:

Twilight Blossom soap by Jennifer Watters

Twilight Blossom soap by Jennifer Watters

Finally, Majestic Mountain Sage has chosen Jolene Sing of Scent & Sensibility in Canada to receive their Sponsor’s Choice prize, a $25 gift certificate. Tina chose this soap because as she says, “The shower/bath is a spiritual time for me and I am not drawn to the ultra bold color.” Congratulations to Jolene for all her hard work paying off! Her Peacock soap has the most lovely wispy swirls:

Peacock soap by Scent & Sensibility

Peacock soap by Scent & Sensibility

Such amazing talent – and you haven’t even seen all the entries yet! Be sure to check them out HERE.

Next month we are doing a theme challenge called Winter Wonderland! You won’t want to miss it! The challenge will be divided in two categories once again – this time natural vs. synthetic. Only one entry per member – choose one or the other. Soaps entered in the natural category must be made with all natural ingredients, including colors and scents. Those in the synthetic category may use synthetic colors and/or scents. The sponsor for the natural category will be Brambleberry, and for the synthetic category will be Nurture Soap.

Here’s the soap I made for the video tutorial with all natural ingredients:

Winter Wonderland soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Winter Wonderland soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Registration will open Monday, February 1st for this challenge. If you would like to be notified, please sign up here:

notify-me

Impression Mat Challenge Winners

We are closing out the Soap Challenge Club this year with the Impression Mats challenge. Personally, I had no idea how much fun this challenge would be! Members were asked to make soap with an impression mat that they either purchased or made themselves. These mats are usually used for the cake and candy industry, but they sure create some beautiful options for soap as well! The idea was to use the impression mat in the bottom of the soap mold, then flip the soap over so that the bottom becomes the beautiful top created by the impression mat.

Brambleberry was our sponsor this month, and they graciously gave all our members a coupon code to get 25% off their pourable silicone kit for those who wanted to play. Their prizes for our winners are pretty incredible too!

Check out our winners:

Our grand prize winner is none other than Tatiana Serko of Creative Soap by Steso in California! She was our teacher last month, so it’s no surprise that she created this beautiful Baroque soap:

Baroque soap by Tatiana

Baroque soap by Tatiana

Tatiana wins a $100 gift certificate from Brambleberry! Be sure to click on the photo to see how she created her soap.

Second place goes to Yvonne Pedersen in Norway! She made this beautiful and creative Oriental Triangle soap by adapting a log mold and using her impression mat in the bottom point. You can see her process if you click on the photo:

Oriental Triangle soap by Yvonne

Oriental Triangle soap by Yvonne

Yvonne’s prize is a $75 gift certificate from Brambleberry!

In third place we have Sara Golding of Sunflower State Soap in Kansas! Sara’s soap is called Garden-ia Butterflies. She was able to create several different looks by testing out two different techniques in her one batch of soap. You’ll want to click on the photo to read all about her process on her Facebook page:

Garden-ia Butterflies by Sunflower State Soap

Garden-ia Butterflies by Sunflower State Soap

Sara wins a $50 gift certificate from Brambleberry!

Finally, Brambleberry has chosen Sylvia Otypkia of Soaps by Sly to receive their Sponsor’s Choice prize! Sly created a beautiful rainbow of colors in the impression mat she scored from Hobby Lobby. She calls this Four Thieves, based on the essential oil blend used to scent the soap. Click on the photo to read all about her process and recipe on her blog:

Four Thieves Soap by Soaps by Sly

Four Thieves Soap by Soaps by Sly

Congratulations on your $25 gift certificate from Brambleberry, Sly!

You can check out the rest of the entries from our Impression Mat Challenge HERE. They are all impressive!!

We will take a short break for the holidays, then start up the 2016 Challenges on January 4th. You will have the option to register for January only, or the next three months of challenges.

For the January Challenge we will be doing Elaine Wright’s version of the Circling Taiwan Swirl. This technique creates several unique looks on the inside of the soap, including a lotus blossom shape:

Circling Taiwan Swirl by Great Cakes Soapworks

Circling Taiwan Swirl by Great Cakes Soapworks

As well as this beautiful swirl:

Inside piece of Circling Taiwan Swirl

Inside piece of Circling Taiwan Swirl

We’re going to try something new in January. There will be two different challenges – one for new soapmakers with under two years experience, and one for more experienced soapmakers with two or more years experience. Bath Alchemy Lab is sponsoring the challenge for the newbies with a free online class (up to $145 value) for the grand prize winner, $75 gift certificate for 2nd place, $50 gift certificate for 3rd place, and $25 gift certificate for Sponsor’s Choice. Majestic Mountain Sage is sponsoring the challenge for the experienced soapers with a $100 gift certificate for the grand prize, $75 gift certificate for 2nd place, $50 gift certificate for 3rd place, and $25 gift certificate for Sponsor’s Choice. Alex Kelly is also providing a coupon code for 15% off your purchase at his etsy store, Custom Soap Stamps, for everyone who enters a soap in either challenge that will be good through the end of February.

In February, we will have a theme challenge: Winter Wonderland. Details will come later, but members will be able to decide whether to enter a soap made with all-natural ingredients, or one with synthetic colors and fragrance. Brambleberry is sponsoring the all-natural challenge with gift certificate prizes, plus a copy of Anne-Marie’s new book, Pure Soapmaking, containing 32 original recipes for all-natural soaps. Nurture Soap is sponsoring the synthetic challenge with gift certificate prizes.

For March, Tatiana Serko will be back as our guest teacher, showing us how to create Rimmed Soaps. This challenge will be divided between U.S. and international participants. Rustic Escentuals will sponsor the U.S. challenge, and Voyageur Soap & Candle Co. in British Columbia, Canada will sponsor the international challenge.

If you haven’t signed up for notifications about the Challenge Club and tutorials, please do so here:

notify-me

Making Soap with Impression Mats

For the December Challenge Club, we have been making soap with impression mats. It has definitely been a challenge! I’ve made three soaps using this technique. For the first one, I tested out Lori Curry’s dry mica technique using a pre-made impression mat, and came up with this soap:

I call it Sweet & Spicy Potpourri soap because it has a warm apple spicy scent.

I call it Sweet & Spicy Potpourri soap because it has a warm apple spicy scent.

For the second soap, I filled in the vine and leaf design on a pre-made mat with some green soap, then did a pink gradient:

This one is scented with Sweet Pea & Rhubarb.  It smells divine!

This one is scented with Sweet Pea & Rhubarb. It smells divine!

Finally, I was able to successfully make my own impression mat with a vinyl lace place mat, and filled the lace impression with white soap, then made a layer of blue followed by a marbled dark coral. It turned out better than I could have imagined:

Lace soap, scented with a hibiscus fragrance.

Lace soap, scented with a hibiscus fragrance.

Here’s making video of this soap:

The tutorial is now available on my website!