It happens every once in a while

Yes, I do mess up. I. Make. Mistakes. Occasionally. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be the “master of all I attempt” and all, but I do occasionally have a bad one.

Take for instance this hideously ugly batch of soap I made. The soap, while absolutely horrendous to look at, still functions as it should. It foams up nice, cleans well, and is mild to the skin.

I can think of a few reasons why my batch went awry. The first thing I thought was that I must be losing my touch.  I no longer make soap to sell, but I do still make it for my family to use. I usually make a big batch so it lasts for a while. Soapmaking is a science as well as an art. If you can follow a few basic directions, do some basic math you will do fine.  So no, it couldn’t be that I lost my touch!  Here is the order of events on that fateful day:

1. Measured and melted my oils:

2. Measured, mixed and cooled my lye water

3. Prepped my molds. Nothing much to do there since I use silicone molds which are the best invention since sliced bread.

4. Mixed the oils and lye when the proper temperature was reached (around 110 deg F)

5. Waited for the beloved ‘trace’, then scented my batch with ‘Bedtime Bath’ Fragrance Oil. So far so good.

6. Poured my soap into the prepped molds and popped them into the oven at 250 deg F.

7. (This is where things go screwy) I left home for about two hours and come back to find this:

WTH???  My soap rose like muffins and spilled over the sides! This. Was Not. Supposed. To. Happen.

8.  After stuffing as much as I could back into the molds with a spatula, this is what I end up with:  Bleccccchhhhhh!  Ugly Soap!!!  In addition to being ugly, my soap seems a little more oily than it should be. It still cleans, but I’m not happy about the extra oil.

Now, here are my hypotheses as to what went wrong. The problem could be any one or combination of these.

1.  My lye may be faulty. I’ve had this lye for years and some of the crystals have banded together to form bigger clumps, making them hard to dissolve sometimes.  The lye also seems to leave a film on the water, which is not supposed to happen. I don’t think lye goes bad but it’s possible.

2. My scale may be faulty.  It may not be weighing right. I normally leave 4% extra fat as a buffer to keep the soap very mild. I may actually be leaving more than 4% if my scale is off.

3. The oven oven temp may have been too high for this batch, causing the soap to get too hot and rise out of the pan. This might have also caused some of the oils to separate from the lye causing the extra oiliness. This I strongly suspect is the biggest culprit. I will try it again at 150 deg F.

Whatever the reason we are now bathing with some sweet smelling, very mild, very ugly soap here at the AfroMartha household.

I hope to have pictures of pretty soap soon!

Raucous Dinner Parties, Oh how I miss you! And other musings…

Oh how I miss entertaining!  Especially after having recently returned from Norfolk, Virginia, our previous hometown and site of our parties of old. Formal dinner parties have never been our style in the AfroMartha household.  We love just having a random group of people over, add some good food, some off-the-beaten-path music, and Voila! you’ve got a night of interesting conversation and a great time had by all.  Man, our get-togethers used to last till 2, 3, and sometimes 4 in the morning.

Ever since we moved to the Midwest, though, we have not been able to make those same kind of connections. I’m sure part of the blame has to lie with us, but boy it’s been tough! Maybe it’s because we’re a little old to be starting over. After all, those connections we had in VA were made mostly when we were young and childless. Out here in the Midwest it just seems that most of the folks we encounter already have their own social networks and aren’t interested in adding new people. When someone does happen to come by, we tend to hold them hostage long past when they intended to leave.  Hmmm…I wonder if that’s why they don’t come more often?

It’s not that we haven’t made any friends at all. I made one good friend and several acquaintances. Poor Mr. AfroMartha has made mostly out-of-town acquaintances due to his traveling for Capoeira.  This has to be tough for him because he’s such a social butterfly. We haven’t made any ‘couple’ friends, and definitely no ‘raucous dinner party’ type friends. Most of the people we meet generally tend to not be interested in doing out-the-ordinary things, like Brazilian music, or Afrobeat, or long evenings of stimulating philosophical discussions. Salt of the earth people though.

Well, I miss it.  I crave it.  Even my cooking has gone downhill since I have no one to entertain. I don’t bake like I used to or try new dishes like I used to.
I must find some people.  I know they are out there…they have to be. I resolve to extend myself and really go out of my way to meet some people. Got suggestions? Let’s hear it!

On a brighter Note…

Today was a very productive day. Operation Purge and Declutter had a banner day. I finally got rid of my stash of bottles and jars from my Taiwosoaps days.  I had tried to sell them on Ebay and Craigslist, but got nowhere.  The thought crossed my mind to just drop them off at Goodwill or even the recycling plant.  That just made me sad because I wanted them to go to someone who would use them.  Who better than a fellow soapmaker?! A quick google search turned up Tanya Brown of Living Simply Soaps less than 5 miles from me! She was so happy to receive my offerings that she gave me a few bars of her absolutely delectable soaps.  Good thing too, because we were running out of soap and I was thinking of making some with the rest of my stash.  Now I can wait a couple of weeks.  Check out her store, you won’t be disappointed! It felt great to bless someone with supplies in the same way I was blessed when I first started out oh-so-long ago. In return, I get a clearer cleaner space in my home.

After dropping the containers of, I got to work on the pile of children’s clothes that needed to be taken to Goodwill.  I got those sorted and dropped off as well!

Phew, all that decluttering got me so wiped, I decided to take a quick nap.  Well, the joke was on me, because guess what I came down to after my nap?  I left the 3 musketeers to make some art to occupy themselves, and this is what happened:

Good thing I had thought to put down the plastic table cloth on the table, and aprons on each of them… The little one, aka Prince Ruckus used so much paint I couldn’t pull off his paper without tearing it. Very nice work they did though, I must say.

This one’s my personal favorite though… it’s Fire!

And here’s The Princess with her “Well, I didn’t do it” Stance.

At least the cleanup was easy. They had fun and it bought me a few winks. Plus they didn’t burn the house down, which is always good a good thing.

Fabric Printing

I have been practicing printing on fabric using screenprinting, block printing, stamping, and stenciling.  I am itching to get some products out there onto my (currently empty) Etsy store.  For now I will content myself with practicing honing my craft. (Note: I don’t have pictures of my block prints here)

These prints I did on repurposed fabrics. I am really fascinated with the idea of printing on repurposed/recycled fabrics, which are  abundant. I detest waste. I feel like objects have more than one life in them and I try to use what had been previously cast aside as being no longer worthy. In the following prints I’ve used fabrics that would otherwise be destined for the landfill.  It was a great feeling to know that I got a little more use out of them.

The picture above shows my attempt at printing ‘ribbons’.  I printed these using block stamps of my own designs that I cut by hand out of self-adhesive craft foam, I then mount the shape onto a piece of clear acrylic.  (Side note: The acrylic blocks are sold in craft stores with the rubber stamping materials.  Buy those if you like paying a lot of money for your things.  I prefer to go the the glass/plexiglass section of home depot or lowes, as asking them to sell me their discards.  I got a bunch for about $2, which I cut down to size using the plexiglass knife.) These ribbons were printed onto a deconstructed twin fitted sheet I was kind of tired of. I ripped it into strips about 2 inches wide.

The image above shows a design I drew and cut out onto plain ol’ contact paper.  I used the contact paper as my stencil by sticking it onto the screen. I do this method for short run printing or when I’m just itching to print and don’t want to burn a screen. The fabric comes from a cut up pair of linen pants that Mr. AfroMartha didn’t want anymore.

I love doing repeat/allover patterns just as much as single placement patterns but they can be tricky when using the the screen printing method!  The pattern above is my first attempt at a repeat.  I had a hard time lining up  my design on the fabric. I am going back to the drawing board to master registration before I burn any more screens.  The fabric comes from an ikea curtain I purchased from the thrift store.  The fabric is really nice and sturdy, and I wish I’d gotten both panels instead of one.

The ribbons again… The pink and red ribbon was hand-stamped.  The fabric was some random piece of fabric I had around and decided to dye to try out the packet of iDye. The dye took pretty well, and I thought it was a nice backdrop for the stamping.  My daughter begged me to dye her white sundress pink, which I did along with this fabric. It looks smashing and she loves the dress even more now, but I can’t wait to add some designs to the bottom of it.  Of course I will post once it’s completed. Stay tuned…

Renegade Craft Fair…plus all the traveling!

The AfroMartha household has been so busy adding mileage to our vehicles that I have been seriously lacking in my posts.  Sorry!

Lotta, Me, my Daughter Yejide

As I mentioned in my last post oh-so-long-ago, I went to Renegade Brooklyn.  And what a wonderful time it was! I got to meet other artists/crafters and indulge my love of all things creative.  And yes, I met Lotta!  She was so gracious and approachable.  My daughter and I got to stencil a tote bag at her workshop and I got to pick her brain a little… it was quite busy at her station but she still took time out to make each person feel welcomed.  She even autographed our tote!  Check out picture on left.

I am now ever more resolved in my decision to pursue screen printing/printmaking.  I love the instant gratification and the permanence of what you create with this medium. Had I taken a serigraphy course in college I would have been hooked sooner.  Better late than never.

I am working on a new product line while perfecting my technique.  In the meantime I also discovered another designer, Jenny Sauer of Three Sheets 2 the Wind.  Her work is simply marvelous, and it’s exactly what I hope to be doing (and better) someday!  I was so excited that she lives/works in the Cincinnati area. I had visions of somehow working my way into apprenticing under her.  I was so excited that I commited the faux pas of comparing her to another artist. OUCH.  I meant it in the most sincere and complimentary way, but I realized too late that it’s never a good idea to compare one person’s work to another. I tried to clean up my comment with a comment, but it’s already out there.  You can’t take it back. Well, I guess I blew that.

Oh, finally I picked up my own copies of Meg Mateo Ilasco’s “Craft, INC” and “Craft, INC Business Planner.” Awesome.  A must have for anyone who has wondered where to even begin to organize the different facets of having a creative business. I hope to work through the workbook successfully before venturing back out to the business side of things.

And now, I get ready to get back on the road again!