Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Nothing to see here...

I'm sorry. It's Easter break, I'm home for 3 weeks, I have no new soap, I wrote a review before I left and then left my notebook on my desk back in London.


Until then, I have a new blog to neglect! It's a craft blog called Rumade. Go have a looky. That will hopefully be updated quite regularly during this break. Hooray.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Molton Brown- Moisture-rich Aloe & Karité Ultrabar

So here's a confession: before I used this soap, I had never shaved my armpits in my life. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a dirty hippy (okay, I'm totally a dirty hippy), I've just always had a fear of dragging a razor across my flesh and would rather burn the stuff off with poisonous chemicals or rip it out with hot wax. But this soap bar was a shaving bar, so I felt I had to have a go at shaving with it. Armed with my disposable razor from the supermarket, I dived in.

Molton Brown are known for their soaps, just not the solid ones (they only produce 2- this one and an exfoliating one). Their handwash is a good gauge of the quality of the restaurant you're in. I've had the pleasure of using their liquid body-wash before too and loved it, so I hoped that their solid stuff would be just as good. My brother got me this for Christmas; I actually wanted the other bar because I don't shave, but hey, you don't look fancy soap in the mouth.

Price- £12.50 for a 250gr bar. It's a bit of a luxury price, but you get a good sized bar for your money.

First Look- the packaging on this bar was awesome- I just broke the sticker seal on the back and it opened up like a cardboard butterfly. The bar was a milk chocolate brown with Molton Brown embossed on it.

Dry Feel- it was a very strong block, almost wooden. Despite the shea butter content, the bar didn't feel oily at all or melt on my fingertips.

Smell- incredibly mature and musky, the sandalwood here was much nicer than the Howling Pig stuff. The soap base was present as well as a hint of the shea butter and overall the smell was relaxing but invigorating. A little masculine, but in a naughty, sexy way, it clung very heavily to the skin, but I didn't mind because it just made me feel rich all day.

Shaving- now, I'm a lady who doesn't shave. And this is shave soap. As much as I wish my facial hair was illustrious enough to shave, it isn't, so I had to resort to shaving various other sections of my body. The soap forms a great shaving lather when dampened and rubbed directly on the fuzz patch, and I felt little to no irritation while I hacked away. I somehow escaped my first real encounter with a razor without any cuts, so this soap passes the shave test with flying colours.

As a body soap- the soap performed well in the shower too, lathering up well without melting too fast. I get the feeling that a bar would last a long time even if you were using it twice a day in the shower. My skin was left feeling supple and recharged afterwards, without feeling artificially pumped up.
As a hand soap- this is not a hand soap! Why would you waste this on your hands unless it was the only soap in the world?
As a face soap- obviously, this soap was designed for use on men's faces as a shave soap for use in the shower (so you can hack away at your fuzz face and wash your gross pits at the same time). It did leave my soft delicate lady face a little tight but not dry, almost like an instant facelift.

Overall- this soap worked excellent for shaving and that's exactly what I'm going to keep it for. The scent is sexy, and I do like it on my body, but I don't really want to waste it. If you are a guy looking for a better alternative to shaving foam that comes in a can and runs out in a week, then you need this bar. Hell, even if you're not looking, you need this bar. This bar will get you laid. End of story.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

My new idol: Meekyoung Shin

Those of you who bothered to read the tiny "about me" paragraph at the side of this page would have noticed that I am a ceramic design student. So, naturally, something like this is of interest to me:

Ghost series- blue (2010)

I mean, come on, they're beautiful! Those curves, that high shine finish, the flawless proportion! But what makes them more amazing is this: all of those vases are made out of SOAP.

And so was this:

Crouching Aphrodite (2002)

Meekyoung Shin is a 43 year old artist from Korea, who started sculpting in soap 15 years ago  when she came to Slade School of Fine Art in London. She creates some of her pieces by making a mould of an original ceramic piece and then casting soap, and others by carving out of large chunks of the stuff.

There is a collection of her work, labelled "Translation" currently showing at the Haunch of Venison Gallery, until the 2nd of April and admission is free, so I'll post some trip photos if I get a chance to go.

I think I may have found another face for the favourite artist wall! Credit to the Evening Standard for introducing me to her work.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Howling Pig Smelly Soap- Sandalwood

I had this soap reviewed weeks ago, I swear! Then I left my camera at my parents' house 20 miles away and didn't get it back until lunchtime today and felt I couldn't post a post without the pics :(

This was, yet again, a Seattle soap I got as a present back in November. Despite being called Smelly Soap, it wasn't stinking out my underwear drawer when I stumbled upon it, so I'd pretty much forgotten about it.

Price- $5.00 for 4.5oz which is about £2.80 for 130gr. You can buy it from the Howling Pig website.

First Look- the bar was a shimmering rusty copper colour, which reminded me a lot of a metallic crayon I used to have. It was packaged in plastic with a paper label while the bar itself was embossed with the company's pig logo. Now, I'm not big on pigs. They're alright. I think I'm still a bit traumatised from my gap year when I raised and butchered one. Pig PTSD.

Dry Feel- surprisingly heavy, but melted in my hand and was fairly easy to dent.

Smell- dry the smell was underwhelming, I expected it to stink. The sandlewood was layered over a soapy base and while it avoided smelling too hippy-ish (despite the patchouli), I felt it was a very masculine scent that wasn't really relaxing or invigorating. It clung to me for a fairly long time after my shower.

As a body soap- as I thought it would, it melted fairly easily, producing a light silky foam which made it very difficult to keep hold of! The foam built up over time on bare skin, and afterwards my skin felt fairly balanced if a little dry.
As a hand soap- this is what I'm using it as full time now. I didn't really get on with the scent, but I like it as a bathroom hand soap and feel it would be good in the kitchen too.
As a face soap- fairly drying, felt a little harsh.

Overall- I'd like to try this soap in other scents (the ginger lilly sounds like it was made for me), because in general I liked this soap, just not the scent. The soap base itself felt very cleansing after a workout and I think would work great as a summer soap to shed off the sweat and city pollution at the end of the day. However, this sandalwood scent was just not right for me; it felt too masculine. It's welcome to stay in my bathroom and look after my hands.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Earthly Delights- Black Amber & Lavender Soap

Okay, so here's the deal. If you notice any typos or grammatical errors in this post, I am sorry. I am beyond exhausted right now from making stupid stuff in that stupid studio, coming home and painting junk, trying to keep up some semblance of a social life and learning how to cartwheel properly. The bags under my eyes could probably hold a couple of chihuahuas each (but that would make me pretty ill because I'm allergic to dogs). So, before I hit the keyboard with my head and fall asleep, here is your soap review for the week.

This was one of the soaps my guest brought with him back in November, and I've been avoiding it ever since. See, I sort of have a prejudice against lavender. It makes me think of old ladies and horrible sachet things shaped like rag dolls that make your clothes smell like old ladies and next thing you know you've changed your name to Murial and you're running a church fête. But I like amber. I don't know about black amber (according to wikipedia, it's actually a type of jet), but amber is my favourite gemstone (despite being old tree and not really a stone).

Price- $6 for 5oz so about £3.80 for 140gr. It is available to buy somewhere in Seattle (most likely Pike Place market) and through the Earthly Delights Etsy Store.

First Look- all the packaging on this bar was paper. Me gusta. Underneath was an unassuming, unmarked cream bar. Modest soap indeed.

Dry Feel- strong and hard, it felt substantial and weighty. The surface wasn't oily but melted with some friction.

Apologies for the abominable snowman on a ski slope style pic.

Smell- the scent was rich a multi-layered, starting with a floral lavender sweep and then melting away into a sophisticated musk. There was no cheap soap smell, but instead a creamy base (I guess that was the goat milk) that bound the whole scent together and made it very soothing. The smell also clung to my skin pretty thick afterwards.

As a body soap- I have to say, this soap produced the best lather I have ever seen on bare skin. It was literally like a gentle coating of cappuccino foam. It didn't melt away too fast or feel greasy and left my skin feeling nourished and looked after. Gorgeous on sore muscles after a workout.
As a hand soap- would make a great bathroom hand soap, and the strong scent could help to remove onion odours in the kitchen (but this soap is waaay too nice to keep by the kitchen sink!)
As a face soap- very balanced. Even on my cheeks my skin felt fine. It did burn a little around my nose, but that's because it's sore because of the cold so everything's been making it burn anyway.

Overall- this soap was incredibly soothing for a tired, frazzled student. Not the soap to choose if you need to be up and out of the door. No, this is a soap for lazy romantic Sundays, for long bedtime baths, kids who need a little help calming down before bedtime, insomniacs, and those who just need some post workout bliss. Gorgeous.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Sometimes "natural" just means "nasty"

Was Christmas really almost a month ago? 2011 is nearly 1/12th of the way through. How terrifying. Anyway...

Back at Christmas time, I got a pouffle in my stocking. You know, a pouffle, a shower puff, one of those things they use in shower gel commercials that isn't a loofah or brush on a stick. The label attached to it proclaimed it was "simply natural" and made from "100% natural ramie" (just looked that up- ramie is apparently a plant in the nettle family that doesn't sting. The more you know!). Hooray, I thought, now I can make my shower time a million times more foamy and feel like I'm scrubbing my arse with a cloud!

That was not the case. The damn thing didn't foam up and instead just got wet and slimy and then clumped. I tried to wring it out and hung it up to dry, whereupon the edged darkened to a weird rusty shade that made it look like something found in an abandoned submarine.

I haven't used it again because every time I look at it I think how much mould could grow in those folds and decide to give it a miss. A good two weeks after I first used it, it still smells... iffy.

There is a reason pouffles (do you pronounce that poo-full or like soufflé?) are synthetic. If you want to lather up with something "natural", grab some cotton yarn, learn to knit and go hack out one of the millions of washcloth patterns that are on Ravelry.

In the meantime, I'm tempted to dunk this in clay, fire it in the kiln and see what results. It's got to be better than keeping this bedraggled thing in my bathroom.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Sandia Soap Company- Placitas Plum Tree

The holidays are long gone and the misery of January is here. Bah. Who says January has to be horrible? So my housing is run by crooks and we haven't had proper running hot water in our kitchen since the start of November? My (single temperature) shower still works, there's no excuse! Let a new year of soapy ramblings begin.

Sandia Soap is a company that make 18 varieties of bar soap in a warehouse somewhere in New Mexico entirely run by one man who considers himself an artist. Reading his passionate description of his business on his website, I'm inclined to agree with his label. I've never had plum soap before and this was a present from a forums secret Santa. 

Price- $6 for 6 ounces. In English that's ~£3.70 for 170gr. Not a bad price at all for a handmade soap.

First look- it's a dusky pink colour, rather like a good berry smoothie, with darker purple flecks in it. The contrasting parts reminded me of Stilton cheese, but I don't mean that in a bad way. Stilton is delicious. Mouldy, but delicious.

Dry Feel- with warm fingers, it was possible to gently melt the surface of the soap. Not soft, but springy, the feel was a little like vinyl. I cut off a piece to use for the review and it wasn't as easy to cut as I thought it would be. The cross section looked promising, with no bubbles. 

Smell- Plum Tree positively glows with scent; the rich essential oils in it take off and stick to the inside of your nose with vigour. The smell is fruity, yet spiced (it makes your nose tingle!) and evokes mulled wine without the sickly sugar hit that often accompanies. It was a little overwhelming when I first unleashed it from the jiffy bag it had come in with other presents, but when stored normally, it just gives off a gentle scent. The scent is noticeable and uplifting in the shower, and doesn't cling to skin. Very rich and natural.

As a body soap- oh my god, this soap melts beautifully; even on bare skin and without feeling greasy. It produced a good lather and became very slippery. Left the skin on my body feeling soft and cared for.
As a hand soap- this would be an excellent choice if you suffer from dry hands but end up washing them a lot over the course of a day. The strong scent also helped removed garlic stink from my fingers, but the soap's non-abrasive nature means you'll need to bring out a nail brush to get rid of really gross hand dirt.
As a face soap- a little tighter than I'd have liked on my cheeks, but no flaking or burning, so it gets a thumbs up from me.

Overall- Dear Santa, thank you for my soap. I don't know what I did to get on your nice list, but you made the right decision.
Now you- yes, you, everyone out there reading this. Go sort yourself out with a bushel of Placitas Plum Tree, to bestow spiced cheer upon your kin next winter, because $6 for a masterpiece from a true artist sure aint bad.