Live simply. Use Soap.
For me, making handmade soap is a creative pursuit that satisfies my desire for simple, practical beauty. A bar of soap is functional. It cleans. It serves the every day necessity of personal cleanliness. Yet it can also serve in providing a pleasant sensory experience of touch and smell. Not taste. You don't want to taste soap. Even if it does look good enough to eat.
After ten years of making soap, I still enjoy the endless possibilities of combining color, fragrance, ingredients, and texture in different ways to create a bar of soap that is unique from every other bar of soap, even one that comes from the same batch. I like the prospect of serendipity - the act of finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it - because not every batch of soap behaves itself in the making. Sometimes a batch decides to deviate from the original plan. But that's okay. I like soap with personality. It can go ahead and express itself, but I know that in the end it gets the job done. Even when things go exactly as planned, there is often an unexpected pleasant surprise in the design of the finished soap.
Every soap has a story that is only known by the soap maker. A batch of soap is made for many reasons. It may be for an upcoming event - a baby shower or a wedding, a craft show or arts market, a fund raiser or charity auction. Sometimes it's to try a new swirling or layering technique, a different colorant or additive, a particular fragrance oil. When a soap really misbehaves, it can be rebatched - melted down and remolded - kinda like a make over. That's something else I like about making soap - that it's flexible enough to change. After a little bit of fuss, eventually it gets the job done. It cleans, and it smells good while it's at it.
I am a member of the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild, a non-profit trade association serving the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry. Last year I tested and received Basic Soapmaking Certification. At the guild conference next month, May 2019, I plan to test and receive Advanced Soapmaking Certification. As part of that process, I had to make a basic soap from scratch. This entailed doing all the formula calculations by hand, getting safety documentation of all the ingredients, and submitting information on the soap making process. Such a far cry from the inexactness of making soap in times past! As I wrote in an earlier post, "For the pioneers, making soap was a hot, exhausting process involving wood ashes from their cooking fires and animal fats from their livestock or leftover cooking grease. It was an imprecise process at best but did result in a functional soft soap that was good for cleaning clothes but rather harsh for cleaning skin." Instead of dealing with all that mess, the basic simple bar of soap (pictured below) I made in the comfort of my kitchen is gentle and beautiful without added color or fragrance.
Every soap maker adds a heaping tablespoon of their own personality and experience into the soap they make. I enjoy the differences. The market for handmade soap is huge because everyone benefits from using handmade soap. My soap isn't necessarily better than soap made by another soap maker. It's just different. And that's okay. Well made soap does what it's made to do. It cleans. It looks good and feels good. I like that.
When I look back at the first soap I made, I am pleased with how much I have learned and am satisfied that making soap still brings me pleasure. When others enjoy using handmade soap from The Lathered Lamb, I am happy. They are happy. And clean. What a simple pleasure! To be happy and clean. So if you haven't used one of my happily made soaps yet, get yourself a bar soon. We'll both be happy.
Thanks for stopping by!
Live simply. Use Soap.
On a windy March morning during Spring Break, my husband and I decided to drive out to a site that I'd heard about but had never visited - Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island north of Jacksonville, Florida. Even now, the plantation seems remote and secluded. I can only imagine what it must have been like over 200 years ago. The main house was built just a few years before 1800 and is the oldest surviving plantation house in the state of Florida. Since 1991, it has been part of the National Parks Service. At one time the plantation was 1000 acres; today the park encompasses 60 acres.
The plantation was bought by Zephaniah Kingsley in 1814 and eventually grew sea island cotton, citrus, corn, beans, potatoes, and sugarcane. He owned several plantations in the greater Jacksonville area, including Laurel Grove plantation at Doctors Lake, not far from where I live, which he purchased in 1803. Kingsley was a London born slave trader who eventually possessed over 32,000 acres in northeast Florida, including four major plantation properties and 200 slaves. In 1806, he bought a 13 year old slave girl, Anta Majigeen Ndiaye, from West Africa and married her. Renamed Anna Kingsley, she was Zephaniah's capable and trustworthy wife who over the years ran his plantations while he was away on shipping business.
In 1811, he freed Anna and their three children. They would have one more child together. He and his wife lived in Laurel Grove until 1813, prior to moving to Fort George Island. Some sixty years later in 1877, the town of Orange Park was established on Laurel Grove plantation land, but that's another story.
The main house is only open for tours on the weekend, but we walked through the kitchen house and peeked in the windows of the house. The kitchen house was probably added during the 1820s and has floors made of tabby, a concrete like building material made by burning oyster shells to create lime, and mixing it with sand, water, ash, and oyster shell fragments. Over time, the roughness of the tabby became smoother as it was walked on. I imagine it would be quite uncomfortable to walk on without shoes! In the above picture, the kitchen house is connected to the main house by a covered walkway. Anna and her children lived on the second floor of the kitchen house.
The Kingsley family lived on Fort George for 25 years. An unusual aspect of the Kingsley household was that it was polygamous. Kingsley had children with three other slave women who were treated as co-wives and later granted their freedom, but Anna was the matriarch of the family. He was proud of his multiracial family and believed that society should be modeled after the Spanish three-tier system of white landowners, slaves, and freed blacks.
There were 60 slaves that worked the plantation on Fort George Island. Besides farming, Kingsley trained his slaves in carpentry, blacksmithing, and cotton ginning. They labored under a task system where each slave had a quota of work to be accomplished. When they finished their tasks, they were free to do as they pleased, usually tending their individual gardens, fishing, and even selling their produce. It seems that Kingsley was a more lenient slave holder than some. Thirty two slave cabins were constructed out of tabby and were arranged in a semicircular arc within view of the main house, an arrangement that was unique among the plantations of that era. Each cabin had two rooms, one with a fireplace, and a sleeping loft. Today, these remains are some of the best examples of the use of tabby as a construction material.
Because of increasingly restrictive racial laws leading up to the Civil War, Zephaniah Kingsley sold his plantation and moved with his family and slaves to Haiti in 1839. The plantation on Fort George Island changed ownership several times until 1955 when the Florida Park Service acquired most of Fort George Island, including the plantation grounds and called it Kingsley Plantation State Historic Site.
Today the plantation grounds are forested where fields and gardens were once cultivated. Ancient oak trees draped in Spanish moss keep watch over the remains of the slave cabins. Scattered wild flowers add to the quiet dignity of the area. They whisper of the people who lived, labored, and loved here long ago.
We enjoyed our visit to Kingsley Plantation and learned more about the people whose influence still lingers here, in the area where we live.
Thanks for stopping by!
Recently I updated the About section of my Facebook page, so this is a good time to include some of that info here.
My name is Debbie Lamb and I make soap. This is my story.
There was a time when I didn’t even know there was such a thing as handmade soap anymore. I thought the days of soap making from scratch was confined to that period of time when early settlers of the United States had to make do with what they had, or when hardy pioneers forged paths across the country in search of a new piece of land to call home. Who made soap from scratch in these modern times?
But in my search to find a better way to care for my curly wavy hair and my aging skin, I began to learn that handmade soap did indeed exist and that it is a superior option to the sulfate laden detergent based body bars and shampoos that are readily available. So after reading all I could find about soap making in 2009, the little available online and in books, I gathered all the necessary supplies, overcame my fear of using lye, and made a simple batch of cold process soap. I was hooked. And after using my soap, my skin was no longer dry and itchy. So I joined the ranks of soap makers who link the past with the present and offer a better future for safe, gentle body care around the globe. Who knew that something as ordinary as soap could be extraordinary?
For the pioneers, making soap was a hot, exhausting process involving wood ashes from their cooking fires and animal fats from their livestock or leftover cooking grease. It was an imprecise process at best but did result in a functional soft soap that was good for cleaning clothes but rather harsh for cleaning skin. Today soap making is both an art and a science. Ready made lye is available in convenient pellet or flake form. Vegetable oils, animal fats like lard and tallow, and exotic butters like shea and cocoa are easy to find. A myriad of formulas can be formulated with online soap calculators to ensure the bar isn't harsh from too much lye. Micas, oxides, clays, and other colorants are used to add beauty to each bar, and an ever growing library of techniques is evidence of just how artistic soap making can be.
Since I first made that simple batch of soap in 2009, hundreds of bars of soap made in my kitchen have been used and enjoyed. Today handmade luxury soap from The Lathered Lamb is still being made in small batches from scratch with good for your skin ingredients like shea or cocoa butter, goat milk, and silk. I formulate each batch of soap to gently clean the skin while delighting the senses with wonderful fragrance, beautiful design, and silky lather. My handmade soaps embody my commitment to create an extraordinary everyday product that is a wholesome combination of natural beauty, simplicity, and usefulness. My motto is: Live Simply. Use Soap.
Experience the simple pleasure of using handmade soap from a Lamb who makes soap! See what's new in my little shop and get yourself a bar today. You'll be delighted you did.
~Debbie, a Lamb who makes soap