Saturday, October 29, 2016

Reinventing Myself

There isn't a way to reinvent myself without blips, wrinkles or road bumps.  Of course it will take time and energy and a lot of hard work to unravel put myself together mindfully...thoughtfully.  There isn't an easy 5 step program that can tell me what to do to be successful or happy. Time and a lot of insightful self discovery can mean one thing;  that growth is inevitable if I keep my eyes open.

I've learned a lot over the past 9 years writing this blog. I know I haven't been present here much for a few years.  Life. That's really it.  Life happened and my need to write and connect dissipated, and my need for it came in ebbs and flows.

A little about my life;  I grew up in Brooklyn, New York to a family that was broken before I was even born.  My youngest memories are filled with magic among the fog of tension that existed at home.  Oh I felt the bad deeply, but I found my own kind of magic, whether it stemmed from coping with misery or if I was just a creative little girl, stuck in a sad cycle.  I had amazing friendships as a young girl in Brooklyn.  Wonderful memories fill my head with thoughts of friends (some lost, some gone forever) and our intimate times together.  Every summer, I visited my grandparents in the mountains of North Carolina.  That's where most of my childhood magic happened.  I had freedom to explore the creeks, forests, pastures and gravel windy roads, play in wonderment and create my own fantasies and realities.  The trips to the local library in my grandmother's convertible Camaro, top down, wind through our hair was one of my fondest memories.  And the smell of the library and the sound of the crinkly plastic covers on all the books brought me great  comfort.

My mind often runs off to Black Mountain and the wholesome, plentiful times I experienced every August.  And so.  And so, I sit here, 40 years later, wishing to tap into some of the good and magical moments spattered through my life, and especially in the mountains, so that I can gain some inspiration.  If I am to reinvent my person, which I am already knee deep into, which direction do I go?

I immediately think that I must tap into my creativity because great knowledge has emerged from doing my art.  I have dabbled in printmaking, ceramics, photography and making soap.  I don't make soap anymore since starting my new company. I just don't have the time to get back in the groove.

Okay, that has to be bull.  I AM a very busy woman.  I run a company.... wear 500 hats at least, and my home life is busy, but I realize that if something is important to me, I have to make time for it.  It's true for everyone.  I can browse Facebook, Instagram, YouTube....for fun, inspiration and to fill my void... but the reality is that if I took a portion of that time looking at what OTHERS do, and I used it to invest in MY work/art/moving on.....then I will FEEL good.  At least better.  "Good" may take time to sit right there on my shoulder, but it feels like the right step.  The first step.

Here goes.

The first thing I have to do is get my eyes checked.  Hit 45 years old and stopped being able to focus on anything.  Got glasses and now, a year later, I can't see the details of anything anymore.  Not only is that frustrating when taking photographs, but downright impossible to feel good doing it if I can't see clearly.  That is my Step One!

Step Two:  Write in this blog more.

Step Three:  Crack open my stone walls and TRUST there is still wonderment and innocence inside and set it FREE.

Step Four:  Evaluate

Step Five:  Unknown at this time...

Let me say something about something:

  1. I have never claimed to be a writer.
  2. I am Grammatical Error Queen.  I own that title, so try not to evaluate my errors.  You will become tired and bored.  I type what I think and I rarely look back or edit.  I write from the hip.  Is that a term?  I do that.
  3. I do not assume anyone sees the value in what I say.  This isn't to say I don't care.  I do.  But this blog starts here.  With me.  So you will have to decide whether to take me or leave me.  In my journey to be the best me I can be, I really understand I will never please everyone all the time.  It helps to focus more on goals when I realized that notion.  Common sense makes the thought available, but it is much harder to implement.  Easy to see.    Not to do.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Soap Dough Art Through The Eyes of Bee Iyata... she took my hand and led me

Bee Iyata of Sorcery Soap has touched me yet again with her eerie insight.  I first noticed Bee’s work over a year ago… images of her colorful and expressive enchanting creatures.
Perhaps it was my deep love for my childhood book, The Velveteen Rabbit and the magical and emotional presence I felt when reading it.  Bee Iyata unknowingly touched my inner child and sparked wonder and excitement every time I saw her images.
Bee’s Soap Dough book “The Enchanted Book of Peculiar Ideas and Soap Potions” contains recipes and tool suggestions so you can create 3D images to adhere or insert into your soap. That is probably why you are reading it.  But let me tell you that those things, the tools of her trade, are only a tiny aspect of the enchanted book’s contents.  Bee writes in depth about inner presence, the state of mind and guides the reader to find their Muse.  Pure wisdom exudes from the very pages to gently bring us to the very place as an artist before we set out on the path of trying to hand mold soap.
She clearly is one of the most thoughtful, patient and insightful artists of our time.  I would recommend this book to any artist of any medium…a book that can offer structure and gentle guidance to help free our minds and encourage walking with the Fairies and magic that our inner art can possess.
Your creativity may be frozen in a state of sheer fear.  Bee can help you break that barrier and set it free.  Let her hold your hand through the Magical Forest.

You can order her EBOOK by hitting the BUY NOW button below. 

Buy Now

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pull Up Your Chair ToThe Black Bomb Bar

I think I have a little fascination with black bath bombs.  Why would one want to bathe in black or dark water of any kind.... then I started thinking that activated charcoal water with other skin loving ingredients could feel GREAT!  And why not?  Who's taking notes or giving one hoot about having to clean lightly after a bath.  I, for one, would love to try them.  I think the photo below of someone actually IN a bath after the bomb fizzed away is alluring and I now want a hot bath filled with black water.  Bring it on!

I chose a few "makers" and their bombs from Etsy and ... well .... you could call it BLACK BOMB PORN.

Black Bath Bombs?!?!  BBB: Bodacious Black Beauties.
Tick Tick Bloom.  A creative duo making the biggest bath bombs I have ever seen.  Their photographs are on point and the size of the bombs are beyond my fantastically wildest dreams.
Best friends and biz partners... band together for a colorful bomb business.  They grabbed MY attention and you should check them out!  They sell on Etsy and there BIG BOMB is $20.00, but I bet it's worth it.  Too steep for my current budget, but they are on my list of things to buy!  :)


Others I saw also made me want to sell my soul in order to get a hold of them..... Such as these.... yum...

Universe Bath Bomb by Kiyi Kiyi is another eye catcher!

CrystalMaeCreations has a bath bomb offered has a regal, dark, goth appeal to it.

SouthernBelleSoap has a bunch with different sparkly glitters to go with all there black bomb offerings!


I love the photography in the next one, a bunch!!  Love the rustic wood table with the naked hand holding the bomb.   Nice product shot!!  This one is Black Gothic by ParadiseSkinClub:

Now I will grab one of these, although hard to choose.... I will have a black bath soon, I tell ya!

xoxo Joanna

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Cuppa Jo Challenge Winners

The Cuppa Jo Soap Challenge had three beautiful entries and three beautiful winners! The Challenge was described in the previous post, but here is an excerpt:

Since I've moved into my new place, I often wake up before sunset, take my fresh coffee and walk, in my pajamas and slippers, to the Intercoastal Waterway/Lake Worth Lagoon, which is only one block from my new place.  I love the salty breeze that wafts into my face and through my short hair..... while I listen to the small waves slapping against the concrete ledge I sit on.   Within minutes, the black sky turns twilight blue and from the horizon, emerges orange and pink colors.

It has been a new experience living near the water and enjoying the sunrises I get to witness when I sit out there and ponder life's curves, dips and surprises.
This one may be hard because I'd really like you to tap into your creative mind and try not to be too literal in your interpretations  (if you CAN).

I want all of you to design and interpret in your own way, my morning cup of coffee at the Lagoon.

If I were to participate in this challenge, I'd start of with a layer of soap mixed with sea clay or mud with superfine coffee grounds (this would represent the concrete ledge I sit on). I'd then make an orange to pink ombre technique.  But that's just me.

"Okay, here is my interpretation of Jo drinking her coffee in her new place. (a little background first - this has ocean critters, but smells of grapefruit, coconut and tropical goodness)...

As Joanna walks out onto the terrace of her new place with cup in hand, and looks out to the sand, ocean and sea, and smells the crispness of the citrus, coconut that is Florida (ha, don't know just guessing here that that's what FL smells like) she sees all the critters of the sea. Dolphins, sea turtles, sea horses, and tropical fish rising to the top of the ocean to greet her for the sunrise, while just under the crashing waves there is turmoil in the sea, but the sandy bottom is calm. Mixed in with the creatures, there are a few shells because they have to get stirred up and taken to the beach somehow, right? 

And as she is most every morning at sunrise -- she is at peace...

And as she is most every morning at sunrise -- she is at peace...


"At the Intercoastal Cafe and Reflection Center we strive to cleanse our minds and enjoy each sip life has to offer. We manifest our intention to allow our souls to bubble forth with all the promise of a new day!

Goat milk salt bar with coffee grounds, scented with a blend of espresso and sea spray. Mad Oils micas: Tahitian Teal, Neon Orange, Neon Pink 

(note to self: double check which salt you pull off the shelf... Dead Sea Salt results in a gloopy mess and a need to start over...)"


"The smell brings you in, coffee, mocha, espresso, the grit, the bluster of the wind, the wake me up caffeine of it all in one bar, a coffee flavored world. Here is my soap Cafe Mocha, made with cocoa, brewed coffee, and coffee grounds" 


Thanks, you three, for participating!  Because there is a lack of entries for the last couple of Soap Challenges, there is really no way I can continue doing them right now, while I am so busy at Mad Oils. So....I would love some participation regarding photo tutorials made for this blog or a blog post on ingredients or processes....etc. Hit me up jo@madoils(dot)com.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cuppa Jo Sunrise Challenge

I have been neglecting the challenges for WAY TOO LONG.  I have to offer my sincere apology for the major delay in fun.  Mad Oils has exploded and not only are we understaffed, but between seasonal colds and unforeseen employee childcare issues, we have had quite a time keeping up with the floods of orders (which we love!  Thanks to all our loyal customers!)  So having been a bit overwhelmed at work and tirelessly navigating my personal life and continuing to improve on myself....I have been a very bad blogger, and I am sorry.... :(

So I challenge you up, baby!

Since I've moved into my new place, I often wake up before sunset, take my fresh coffee and walk, in my pajamas and slippers, to the Intercoastal Waterway/Lake Worth Lagoon, which is only one block from my new place.  I love the salty breeze that wafts into my face and through my short hair..... while I listen to the small waves slapping against the concrete ledge I sit on.  Within minutes, the black sky turns twilight blue and from the horizon, emerges orange and pink colors.

It has been a new experience living near the water and enjoying the sunrises I get to witness when I sit out there and ponder life's curves, dips and surprises.

This one may be hard because I'd really like you to tap into your creative mind and try not to be too literal in your interpretations  (if you CAN).

I want all of you to design and interpret in your own way, my morning cup of coffee at the Lagoon.

If I were to participate in this challenge, I'd start of with a layer of soap mixed with sea clay or mud with superfine coffee grounds (this would represent the concrete ledge I sit on). I'd then make an orange to pink ombre technique.  Ombre is a gradual GRADIENT change from one color to the next.....

{You can see the tutorial that was posted here on The Soap Bar Blog in 2012.  The tutorial was written by Emily Shieh of Shieh Design Studios.}

I think I would take  some dark mica and mix into a cup of soap batter and pour it in blips and plops from high up, so it reaches close to the bottom of the first layer.  One of those bloops would represent me, a figure.  In the photo below shows some designs from the soap I "blooped".

So I suppose even if I did a tutorial, everyone's soap design would end up being unique because of the haphazard way of the plop/bloop "technique".

So there you go.  Challenge has been assigned.  Please post your final creations on our Facebook Group, Soap Challenge Gallery.  PLEASE tag your post with #cuppajosunrise

Challenge starts now and all soap entries (entries are posted photos) are due by April 9th!  The grand prize winner will receive Mad Oils Micas ~ FOUR Mad Oils mica samples of your choice!

Good luck and soap on!


Monday, November 30, 2015

Inspiration For Today

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. 

- Jimi Hendrix

Monday, November 16, 2015

Local Yocal Ingredients - Special Soaps Using Special Ingredients

Using local ingredients adds a holistic approach when making handmade soap.  Not only does it feel great to use your own soap in the shower when you're supporting your local businesses or using ingredients from your own garden.  When someone purchases your soap with local ingredients, it adds an element that many who seek the pure, the handmade, love to see special ingredients added to a soap.  Why?  Perhaps it stops a piece of their vacation in time, like if you added sand to your soap and sold it where people typically come to escape the ice storms up north.  Then when they take it back home and use it, it brings them back to the town they loved so much and brings them a sense of relaxation.  I know when I visit an area that is new for me, I love to see local artisan's work, especially when they incorporate their immediate environment's elements.

We had a challenge called LocalYocals and it challenged all the soap makers to incorporate a local ingredients into their soap.  I thought it would keep people thinking about ingredients and how simple one local ingredient could transform a regular soap into a gem.

We had some great entries with unique ingredients!  Here are some to give you an idea of what YOU can do to spark it  up.

Curtis Hayden used multiple ingredients from his area in Charleston, South Carolina:

Basic Beach by Curtis Hayden

"This soap features a cold pressed juice from my local juice shop Huriyali which gets the majority of its produce from local farms. The juice is their "Aloe-Ha" juice consisting of raw unpasteurized coconut water, raw local honey, and much more! I don't see how I could get more local than that! But then I figured out a way to get even more local, I used sand from one of the local beaches I go to all the time on the bottom of the soap!! Scented with 3 different scents and made with a lot of love! The juice shop is actually featuring this soap in their store and the pictures I am featuring of the soap were taken at their store!"

Bhakti Iyata lives in Phoenix, Arizona and used her local ingredients:

Desert Flower Soap by Bhakti Iyata 

"Desert Flower Soap, made with Prickly Pear Cactus Extract (Prickly Pear Products, LLC Mesa, Arizona) and scented with Cactus Flower FO. Hand molded flowering cactus and little hummingbirds on top."

Leanne Timm-Chevallier lives in Southwest France and used THREE local ingredients!
Soap by Leanne Timm-Chevallier
 "Love this challenge ! For the Local Ingredient challenge, I used local organic french green lentils from a farmer down the road here in SW France.... I also used local Duck Fat.  Makes a nice scrubby soap. Colour is Chlorophyll powder."

There were so many good entries......great soaps, but I can only choose a few to feature.  Thank you everyone, for trying out new ingredients!  It always feels like you all take these challenges to heart and that makes me happy.  :D

We will be taking a break from Challenges until well after the holidays, but I'll be back with some beautiful pictures as I spot them.  So keep it real and send me pictures anytime!  Maybe YOU will be featured in my Soap Porn!  Send pics of YOUR soaps to me at  Leave your name, email, where you live and if you'd like to share, ingredients you used.   Have a great Thanksgiving holiday and stay clean!

xox Joanna

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Local Ingredients...

Years back, I was asked by the local glossy magazine, Palm Beach Illustrated (PBI), to create a soap that would represent this area (Palm Beach county). Their 60th anniversary issue was being put together and they wanted a local soap maker to design something just for them.

Hrrrm.  What would feel good to me if I visited a local beach area for the first time?  Because my county snuggles the ocean, I decided that I'd collect ocean water to make my lye mixture with.  I would go to the beach with my empty water gallon jug, fighting the waves (no sand) until I past the swirling water.  Collecting ocean water from the edge of the breaking waves proves to be a sandy water collection.  Ask me how I know. I would hold the empty jug under the surface in order for it to fill: glub, glub, glub, glub. An empty water jug is harder to hold down than one would think.  Then I'd return to the beach with my gallon of ocean and fully drenched from toe to chest.

PBI ended up loving the way it came out and featured it in their magazine.  It DID look tropical and the ingredients I used were luscious. It included coconut milk, ocean water, shea butter and sea salt and it looked like an abstract ocean beach scene. 

People love the idea of handcrafted items made with local ingredients.  And the more "LOCAL AND COMMON" the ingredient, the more interesting it is that the soap almost becomes a celebrity on its own!

Now, I have never heard of potato soap, but if I lived in Idaho, I would love to buy a local soap made from Fingerlings, or Russets.  Wisconsin....cheese (maybe goat??), Florida?  Palm sugar, perhaps??... and so on.  Some of us have spent many hours looking for common ingredients that can make our soap unique and compelling, and it doesn't always have to be food!

I have used actual sand on my soap.  I dipped my freshly cut soap into a pan of white sand and sold it like a pumice soap, but the sand gets washed away after the first few washes.  People loved it!  Especially Northerners who miss the beach sand when they are cold and slushing through snow, sleet and the bitter cold in the middle of winter.

My friend, Charlene Simon, of Bathhouse Soapery, gave a presentation at the 2013 (?) Soap Guild Conference regarding additives.  She brought 20-30 cut up soaps made with different ingredients she had tried, including volcanic rock, which of course, made me want to go roll in that rock just thinking about it!  She emphasized the importance of incorporating local/regional "ingredients" that can uplift your soap from plain ol' soap into a classic art form.  It adds depth to an otherwise basic item.  (I'm not calling soap basic, but when people stand in front of a soap made with ground oatmeal, they may want to see that it's made from the local OAT farm in Wasau County.) 

Perhaps finding a local farmer, local winery or other business owner may be good for business.  Perhaps include them in your plans to make a local soap, tourists.  And you and the biz owner could benefit from it.  Equally!and discuss a possibly partnership of sorts.  I know there are soap makers that use their local winery to make wine soaps and the winery sells the soap at the winery!  Or a microbrewery, a sugar farm, even a diamond jewelry maker could grind up unsavory diamonds and you could use the diamond dust in your never knows if there could be a common thread that can be an uplifting hit to the local area, to you and to your business choice.

So for this challenge, I want you to take some time to think about your area and what may bring tourists there or what might be a surprising tidbit about your area that interests you and work that into your soap plans.  Then perhaps after you make soap with that ingredient and share with our group, you may even be able to approach your local business with your soap in hand and talk it out.  Expound on the idea and make it exciting.

Post your photos here on Facebook.  Use hashtag #localyocal so I can quickly find it.  Challenge ends on October 20th.  Then we shall talk a bit about Halloween!  Bwahahaha!

xoxo Joanna

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sweet Soap Porn Saturday

I have been taking photographs for my business' new website (not live yet), and also working on post production, editing each photograph carefully until the crop, light and color was just right for the photographs of Mad Oils' colorants.  As a mica supplier, it is incredibly important to make sure the colors I put up on the screen are identical to the colors we carryAll month I've been photographing micas, fragrance oils, poppy seeds,  (yes, Facebook viewers, most of you figured out that the "Who Am I?" photo I posted was indeed a gaggle of Spanish Blue Poppies.) 

One of my real passions, however, is photographing soaps.  It's my favorite subject matter and I realized that in 2007, when I started this blog reviewing soaps from around the world.  I do miss reviewing soaps, but at some point after a couple of years, there were a bunch of soap review blogs that popped up out of nowhere, so my soap reviews didn't seem necessary anymore.  Other bloggers were doing a great job reviewing soaps, and because I was getting increasingly busy, I turned the blog into my personal diary and for displaying soap.  I basically handed it over and begin something else:  SOAP PORN.  The only reason I ever started the blog was to expose talented unknown soap makers to the world through photos and positive reviews.  Giving the handcrafted soap world a place to reveal themselves was my goal and I think I was involved in something wonderful.

This weekend, I found fantastic soap blogs with better than dynamite photos of super-stunning soaps. Three women soap makers and bloggers. I share with you, the three artists that I think have incredible talent and need to be further exposed.

SOAPJAM, Philippines


I love everything about Soap Jam's soap, from the colors she puts together, to the designs she creates all the way to the stamp that's perfectly placedThe photography is also spot on!  Thank you, Sylvia, for being an inspiration and for sharing your beauties!  I am so happy I stumbled on you this weekend!



Infusions... I am breathless.  I wish her About page has more information so I could share that with you and also know myself, more about her background.


Jazz, who writes the Savons Fantasies blog, has a wide range of techniques she uses. I do love the different styles she attempts (and does well!) and it's wonderful to see one soaper try all of them.  Some soap makers can find their groove with one style and then find it hard to expand their horizons by trying new techniques because of their comfort zone.  It seems as if Jazz tries everything and does it with style!


This is one of the reasons I run Soap Challenges on Facebook (and here).  Expanding the way we think, look at things and reveal the artist within us all.

To wrap it up, I am sharing a photo from Soap Jam's blog of Sylvia and Maya together!  Sylvia on the left and Maya on the right:

I lift my coffee to you both and to Jazz!  Thank you, soapy ladies.

xoxo Joanna

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Origins Concept

August has always been a pivotal month in my life.  One, because I always dreaded school and two, because the weather would change from warm to cold and I was never able to handle the dreary dark, windy, cold days with great discomfort, both physically and emotionally.  

Now, living in Florida is no picnic for me 6 months out of the year.  I especially can't deal with weather like it has been for weeks.  Over 90° F and 90% humidity.  I am like a flower that wilts and shrivels in that heat/humidity combo, I assume it is because I have an auto immune disease and the heavy heat steals a bit of thunder.

I digress.

To the ORIGINS challenge!  It was a basic, back to its roots challenge and I am eager to see the results.  The challenge was to "...use a food in your soap and .....then photograph the soap at the place of the food ingredient's origin."    

Hence the name: Origins.  So I will pick the winner and 2 additional entries that I think deserve space here.... As mentioned in the challenge, the winner will receive a small, personal gift from me. 

The winner for this challenge is Helka Finn!  She posted many different ORIGINS photos and they were all excellent!  Here are three of my favorites of hers:

honey is the ingredient in this soap
water is the ingredient used in making this soap :0)

Lye originally came from ashes... a required ingredient to make soap

Helka attempted ingredients in two of these that aren't "additional" elements but elements nonetheless.  Not only were they brilliant concepts, but very well executed.  All three photographs were very beautiful, original and unique.  Thanks, Helka, for digging deep and taking on this challenge with great thought.  This is what I talk about when I say "dig deep".

Phuong Ly made beautiful soap with avocado and this picture was well lit, lit naturally and the colors are to die for!

ingredient: avocado        

Huy Nguyen used tomato as the ingredient
Beautiful camera work, Huy Nguyen!  I know it was very hard to choose a photo from all the pictures you took, but it gets easier to do once you get into doing it often, to not choose your favorites, but rather eliminate ones you don't like until you get to a number that feels reasonable.  Then you can more easily choose your favorite...  or just eliminate all the way through.  

Doing this is counter intuitive (especially with the "glass is half full not half empty" attitude and approach, but it tends to work for me.  Try it and feel the difference. 

You all did a wonderful job and in the future, I hope more of you take the challenge.  Love from here to there.  Peace!  xoJo

Helka, please send me an email with your address so I can send you the "Origins" challenge giftie!  :)