Anne-Marie is founder and CEO of Bramble Berry Soapmaking Supplies, Bellingham, WA.
She teaches soapmaking classes and does television programs in her local
area. She has been a guest speaker at the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild
convention and was the Bath Care Products judge at last year's ADGA
convention as well as a workshop presenter. See below for Anne-Marie's
Blog from the 2008 ADGA Convention.
Marie Gale is owner of Chandler's Soaps and Forsoapmakers.com in Broadbent, OR.
She is the President and Webmaster of the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild,
Inc., which is a national organization for the individuals manufacturing
bath care products by hand.
2008 Bath Products Photo Gallery
Marie Gale, one of the soap judges
with permission) http://soap-queen.blogspot.com/search?q=ADGA)
Greetings from Goat Land:
from sunny California where
Marie Gale (President of
The Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild) and I are
judging the *best*
Goat Milk Soap in America. That's Marie Gale (see pic above) with
just a fraction of the soap that we'll be evaluating for color,
creativity, hardness, lather and more. We evaluated about 60 bars this
morning just on subjective things like fragrance and looks.
This afternoon, we'll be starting to lather up with all of them after we
tongue test every single one of the for excess lye. That's sure to be a
hoot! Expect a full write up this evening or tomorrow morning of our fun
and soapy day.
On Thursday, I'll be teaching Cold Process I & II, Lotion Making 101 and
Marketing for Small Business. If you're near
Park, California and would like to come, check out the
American Dairy Goats Association Website for
We're off to go lick 80 bars of soap now ... yummy!
Licking the Lye
There's a special place in hell reserved for travelers who do not
turn off their 4:45 a.m. alarm when vacating a room but instead, leave it
for the next unwitting weary guests to be woken up to. Twice. My Mom is in
Rohnert Park with me at the American Dairy Goats Association Annual
Convention (courtesy of some last minute great Alaska Airline fares and my
book club's clever suggestion that she join me). We were startled out of a
deep slumber this morning with the blaring, fog-horn alarm of the previous
occupant of our room. Sadly, we only silenced it by hitting "snooze" and
had to go through the whole thing again 5 minutes later.
Despite our abrupt entry into the day, we were excited to work on
Goatsmilk Soap Judging with Marie Gale, the President of the Handcrafted
Soap Maker's Guild. My Mom was a trooper and sat in a small hotel room all
day with us (rather than enjoy the California sunshine). She was a great
set of extra hands to help with the intense soap judging process.
The Goatsmilk Soaps were judged on a variety of criteria - presentation,
smell, creativity, use of color, lather (size of bubbles, stability of
bubbles, color of lather), uniform hardness and texture, rinse-off
ability, feel of hands after soaping up and finally, the water absorption
test. Oh, and the lye test... like last year, we licked every single bar
of soap to see if there was any free flowing lye left. There were none
with excess sodium hydroxide (for which our tongues were thankful).
Evaluating 80 plus bars is no small job. We worked a full 8 hours today
and still have another 8 hours to go tomorrow.
Though less than 5% of the score, the water absorption test was by far the
most labor intensive. Here I am, (see above) screwing in a small eye hook
into a bar of soap. First, we cut a slice of soap off every bar of soap
entered into the competition. This cut soap had to weigh between 30 and 35
grams. We weighed the soap, screwed an eye hook into the soap, threaded
the eye hook into a piece of wire or skewer and then dunked the soap in
water for 2 hours. Then, we re-weighed those same bars of soap to see how
much water they took on. Above picture shows half of the soaps, all lined
up and waiting for the baptism of tepid tap water.
The theory behind the water absorption test is this:
Hard soap lasts in your shower longer. The consumer generally likes a good
value for their money and would prefer if the soap lasted longer than 2
days in their shower. By dunking the bar in water, we can determine how
much water the bar takes on and therefore, how soft or how hard the bar
is. And in theory, this corresponds directly to how long the soap will
last in the shower.
As you can see from the two photos above, these soaps are taking on a lot
of water. And by a lot, I mean, "literally dissolving in the water."
Some soap had LESS soap on the eye hook than before we started because the
soap absorbed water and sloughed off. One such bar; weighed less
than when we started and is about half "goo" (yes, "goo" is a technical
term). In theory, this soap would not last long under normal shower
The fascinating part about this test is that our subjective ideas about
lathering (size of bubbles, stability of lather) seems to correspond well
to the water absorption test. Too high of a soap superfat leads to softer
soap and too high of a superfat also leads to smaller bubbles and creamier
We won't know the winner until the big ceremony on Thursday night but I
feel very confident in saying that there were some *amazing* entries with
wonderful texture, smell and lather. Poor Marie Gale's hands (above) took
quite a beating with all of the washing, washing and more washing.
Thankfully, her hard-working hands will get a bit of a soaping respite.
Tomorrow, we're going to evaluate lotions, liquid soaps, tally up the
results of the water absorption test and start another (smaller) round of
evaluations for the commercial soap brands that entered the "Best in Show
- Goatsmilk Soap" competition.
Lotion Testing 'Til Your Skin Peels
That's right, my skin
literally peeled off today from all the lotion testing. Here I am (pic
above), testing the trillionth lotion on my skin. We tested four at a time
(hand, hand, arm, arm) and then had to go wash, wait for 15 minutes and do
the entire process all over again.
But, after all of that testing, we have winners in the Liquid Soap
category, Lotion category and Soap categories *and* a Best in Show from
all the categories. I am positively brimming with excitement to learn who
the winners are. I know their entry numbers but not their names or
companies. There were some stupendously great entries this year. Want to
enter your soap, lotion or liquid soap next year? You can find details on
ADGA website here.
My Mom and I finished the day in Healdsburg, California where we went to
Powells (a huge candy store). We both bought
more candy than should be legal in a day. You'd think the town would have
a law about serving chocolate to women clearly not in need of any ...
We were lucky enough that the proprieter of
Headlesburg Soap Company, Jen, was available to
have dinner with. Her company makes soap with real wine in it and she runs
an adorable retail shop (review
here). She was a delight to hang out with - so
much that dinner went almost three hours - and my Mom wants to adopt her.
Tomorrow, I teach Lotions I, CP I and II and Marketing 101. The evening
holds and even better time though - tasting all the best of cheeses along
with wine pairings. I am going eat light all day to ensure my tummy can
hold all the goodness of the evening.
Teaching All Day
teaching all day (that's me above, looking oh-so-sophisticated and all
goggled-up for this morning's Goatsmilk 101 class with an overflowing 40
students). Debbie from SoapyLove has a fun ghoulish recipe to share with
you later today. Look for her fun, kid-friendly recipe in a few hours.
Today was a
long day - an intense day with back-to-back classes. I taught Goatsmilk
Soapmaking 101, Goatsmilk Lotionmaking 101, Cold Process Soapmaking 201
and Beginning Marketing. All in all, I made four batches of soap and two
batches of lotion - all while talking like a highly caffeinated,
speed-ridden ("speed", as in the
slang for the drug) hyperactive person.
Every single class was overfilled with standing room only. Many of the
classes had up to 25% people sign up the day-of the class, leading to some
shortages and quick recipe changes. It was a challenge to stay on top of
it all. After seven straight hours of talking, I am exhausted with a
scratchy voice and sore throat ... but there is no rest for the weary when
you're at a Dairy Goat Convention. These farmers know how to party.
Cheese Heaven & Best Soap Winners
There was an open
bar party Thursday night with cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese,
cheese ... and well, you get the picture. Hundreds and hundreds of cheeses
made from small micro-business dairies. I had not one but TWO entire HUGE
heaping plates of cheese. And then, I took tupperware full of cheese back
to the hotel room (shhhhhhh). Seriously, there was that much cheese. This
is like the Cheese Mecca of the world (want to come next year? It's in
Buffalo, New York. Head to www.adga.org to find out more. They need a soap
judge and a soap teacher. Think you're qualified? Email me
to be put into the running for the position). Notice my first plate on the
left has fruits and vegetables on it. By the 2nd plate, I had given up on
all pretense of pretending I was doing anything but shoveling the cheese
straight into my mouth, with nary a cracker or fruit break in sight.
Here are me and my Mom (picture above), hanging out at the reception. We
had a great time, laughing and enjoying the entire atmosphere. It was our
first Mother/Daughter week and we enjoyed it to the fullest.
The soap shown above is the runner up soap that literally won 2nd best in
the entire bath and body products competition. I bought this very soap for
$45. That's right - $45 entire dollars for ONE bar of soap (that yes, I
could probably make myself).
But, amazingly, this was not the most expensive bar sold this evening. The
auction proceeds went to a good cause - next year's bath & body
competition costs. Two bars of soap at the auction went for $150 EACH. The
winner paid $300 for two bars of soap. Now that is some good soap!
Do you want soap like this? Above is Caroline Lawson, a proud Bramble Berry
customer and the owner of TLC Farm Soaps. Her soap went for $150 per bar
at the auction. You can buy it for the bargain price of $5 per bar here.
Caroline won the entire Bath and Body competition in 2007 and was my Mom's
favorite soap for this 2008 competition. TLC Farms won for Best Soap
(Fragrance Oil) as well as several other awards for soaps and lotions this
My Mom and I travel back to Washington state today. We have enjoyed
sleeping in today (for sure!) after our busy and full workweek. It's been
a delightful time for both of us to be here. I'm thankful to be given the
opportunity to teach so many new soap and lotion makers the science, art,
and joy of making handmade toiletries.