Monthly Archives: April 2015

Deep Deep Tradition

Well, I haven’t been blogging lately because it has been an intense few months, creatively. I have been very busy while not blogging.  An incredibly generous client – can’t mention by name yet but hopefully soon I can acknowledge the inspiration – encouraged me to work with colour. I set my own rules, of course, only natural colours, indigenous first, and as far as possible things that could be produced from my garden without any carbon miles. Looked deep into the stuff of life, namely chlorophyll, having long conversations with it persuading it not to turn brown with time.  The worst part of course being that one has to wait for weeks or months before you really know whether your colours stay fast. So a slow process. At one point I was fermenting indigo, and going slowly insane when I discovered that indigo has been fermented since  Babylonian times because, people, my indigo would not ferment.  This was the more embarrassing since indigo dying is an ancient tradition everywhere from Mali to Japan. I could not have it said that the Khoesan were behind, but there, when I finally produced a respectable result the fermentation smelt so bad I could not possibly use it in soap. Picture me tearing my hair out and swearing to become a history teacher and stay away from all this soap stuff. It was hard! In the end I cheated and ordered some from Brambleberry – at which point of course my South African indigo started fermenting nicely. The ancient Murphy’s law as applied to dyes….

Well, here are some of the results.

hennasweet orange

I liked the idea of a HENNA INDIGO AND WAXBERRY shampoo bar, scented with lavender, mint and lots of rosemary for hair and scalp health. This bar brings together great herbal traditions from all over the world grounding them right here in the Cape. These are all well established dyes, so no worries about their safety or staying power.  I don’t dye my hair, but it seems as if this bar will make your dye job last longer and intensify your hair colour.  I like henna for its conditioning qualities, nothing will give your hair new bounce like henna and waxberry. I made this bar with some soap plant to increase rinsability (is that a word?) coconut, palm (supplied by an RSPO member, people!), , olive and pumpkin seed oil. This last is my latest craze. I just love the way it sinks into the skin, moisturizing all the way. Pumpkin seed oil is said to be rich in vitamin E, zinc, omega 3- and 6- fatty acids as well as antioxidants, all of which contributes to helping your skin withstand stress better and regenerate faster. Zinc is also something they put in sunscreen, so here is a natural way to get it.

Making soap means I have to wash my hair every day so I am getting pretty choosy about what I put into my shampoo bars. This one is my best so far, it leaves my hair conditioned and feeling silky soft. Most soap makers will tell you that 25 % pumpkin seed oil is much too much of a good thing, making for much too rich a soap, but I find in a shampoo bar it is just right.  It works beautifully for black, brown and red hair.

I am curious if there are people interested in a shampoo bar for blondes? Would love to make one so please comment and let me know!

And in the middle of the photo is my new look SHEA BUTTER CITRUS bar. You know, I have so many times met women from West Africa thinking they were in their thirties only to discover they were multiple grandmothers. Well, now I suspect Shea Butter is their secret. A friend from Nigeria turned me on to this oil and now it is my extra special luxury oil.  It’s got vitamins A and E, phytosterols and allantoin and has been called the skin superfood. Allantoin is a substance also found in comfrey and ag-dae-geneesbossie, the famous wound healing herbs from Europe and the Cape respectively. Allantoin speeds up the rate of tissue regeneration which is why shea butter has been considered a healing oil.Best of all, shea butter is a wild harvested oil so you only get organic. I have started to get interested in oils which cannot be grown with petrochemicals (coconut is another one) although only some of them get certified. But a great way to build a bridge from the natural to organic market by using more such oils!


Because a large proportion of Shea butter oils are unsaponifiable (refuse to combine with lye to make soap), it means you cannot make a harsh soap with Shea Butter. Combine it with my base oils and pumpkin seed oil and you have an ultra-nourishing  soap that just goes on and on. I especially love the contrast between the gentle bar and the fresh lemongrass, rosemary and organic orange scent.  Just the bar to use if you are preparing for a night out because it will invigorate your skin and temper at the same time as it refreshes and moisturizes.


I had great fun working on the colours with this one, the combination of waxberry brown, indigo green and red palm oil just gives me pleasure every time. I found that Shea butter tends to absorb a lot of dye so my first versions were a bit washed out. The photo is batch two. Now that I know what I am doing I did a 100 % organic batch that will be ready next month. Watch this space!