Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shaving Brushes…TMI?

My dad has always lathered up for a shave using a puck of traditional shaving soap in a mug and a shaving brush. I remember the sound of the tap, tap, tap as the edge of the mug came in contact with the brush handle as it went ‘round and ‘round to build up more foamy lather. My husband has also become a convert to traditional shaving or “wet shaving”, as it’s often called. He likes the morning ritual of it, as well as the fact that it’s natural and much less wasteful than shaving foam from a can.

I have spent the last several years learning as much as I can about how to make a great shaving soap (more to come on that soon). I also wanted to be able to offer my customers great shaving accessories to go along with the soap, so I’ve also been learning lots about shaving brushes. Here’s some of what I’ve found out…

There are basically three types of shaving brushes: synthetic bristle, boar bristle (often just called “bristle brushes”), and those made from badger hair. Synthetic and boar bristle brushes are the less expensive options. Synthetic brushes have the advantage of not being made from an animal, but they lack the flexibility and lather-building capabilities of bristle or natural hair brushes, primarily because they are not capable of holding a sufficient amount of water to build a good lather.

Boar bristle brushes have a much firmer knot than badger hair brushes. This is not necessarily a bad thing. For some types of shaving soaps, a much firmer brush is an advantage in building robust lather, and so might be preferable. The bristles on a boar brush have the disadvantage of breaking somewhat easily, but do offer much better moisture control than synthetic brushes, for a low cost.

A badger hair brush is the softest and therefore most comfortable on the face. With the proper lather-building technique, a fine rich foam can be achieved. Badger hair brushes come in 5 different grades based on the part of the badger’s body where the hair comes from. Badger hair brushes can range in price from $30 to upwards of $600. The price difference is due in part to the availability of each grade. For example, “pure” badger grade hair covers approximately 60% of the animal and its abundance lowers the price. Performance is also a factor. “Silvertip” grade hair comes from the area around the badger’s neck and is the longest, softest and best for holding water and building a moist lather. It’s also insanely expensive.

I have chosen to carry shaving brushes that I think are best in terms of both price and performance. In addition to my lower priced boar bristle brushes, I now carry “mixed” badger hair brushes that I believe are the greatest combination of softness, moist lather-building capability, and price. My badger hair brushes come from China, where wild badgers are a good source of income (and apparently food) for many rural Chinese. The world’s supply of badger hair for art, shaving and cosmetic brushes all comes from 6 different species of Eurasian badgers. Chinese Meles meles badgers are apparently so abundant and such a threat to crops in farming areas that the Chinese government issues hunting licenses to help keep the population under control.

This is all just a bit of background for those of you trying to make a shaving brush decision for yourself or as a gift for a future wet shaving convert. I hope it all helps to inform! Happy shaving!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Costumes at Taproot Theater

We had another great 4-H adventure this week, this time with a visit to the Taproot Theater in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood. Since it's the costume time of year, we decided to see how real-life sewing and carpentry skills can be put to use in a creative way. We were led on a GREAT tour by Sarah, the friendly and charismatic costume shop manager and resident designer. We were there, almost to the day, one year after the theater sustained major fire and water damage caused by an arsonist on the loose in the neighborhood. He has since been locked behind bars, but the consequences for the theater and many of the surrounding businesses were severe. Luckily, for the neighborhood (and for our club), Taproot was able to rebuild and come back from the ashes.

During our tour, we visited the set for the current show Wedding Belles, which ends this week. We peeked in on the set construction room, which was filled with all sorts of fun carpentry and power tools. We also saw the Green Room and where the actors meet to read through scripts and prepare for the plays, and the make-up room where the actors get ready to go on stage.

But the main focus of our time at Taproot was the costuming department. We were eager to see some sewing in action, and were not disappointed.

They were busy getting ready for the holiday season show Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol. Here is some of what we saw:

We are planning to go back and see a matinee of the show when it opens at the end of November. We urge everyone to take in a production if you get the chance!! We're so lucky to have a great neighborhood theater like this to take advantage of for shows and as a creative resource for our community. Thanks Taproot!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Winner Winner Winner

And the WINNER (chosen by a random number generator) is #2 L who wrote:

I can't pick either, and this will peg my age:
Say Anything
Sixteen Candles
Sleepless in Seattle

Hey! All start with S, as do Skruben and Seattle Sundries! Creepy. Maybe that means I am destined to win? :)

I guess you were destined to win! Yay!

Please contact me with your address and your choice of two soaps so that I can get them out in the mail to you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Couture Soaps

As I promised, here is a sneak peek at the custom soaps that I did for the Luly Yang Couture fashion event, which takes place this evening at the Seattle Aquarium. I think that they turned out quite nicely, if I do say so myself! It's hard to see from the photos, but the labels have a lovely iridescent shimmer to them, thanks to a little trick I have up my sleeve. What do you think?




Graphic image for labels created by Izzy Girl for the Luly Yang Couture Ocean event.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Sappy, Soapy Celebration

Twenty years ago this week I met my husband.

It was not love at first sight. As a matter of fact, neither one of us made a very good first impression on the other. We were both attending Glasgow University for our junior year of college and it was orientation week for new and foreign students. A student “mixer” was being held at the GU Union, a stately, 200 year old building with character and history. The large library and reading room had been converted into a beer bar for the evening. A space that was normally quiet and studious with its walls of books and large, red leather reading chairs had temporarily become abuzz with alcohol fueled conversation. I walked into the room with a bunch of Norwegian veterinary students I had befriended. There I saw my future mister sitting in one of those red leather chairs, holding two glasses of beer, wearing a fraternity baseball cap and t-shirt with a picture of drunk Bill the Cat, and in the company of a very loud American friend. If you could see me right now, you’d know that I have my fingers and thumb in the shape of an “L” on my forehead. I’m sure I shot daggers at him with my eyes. He thought I was a complete...ya know. We never spoke that first night, but I remembered him.

The next night there was a different event at the GU Union. This time it was a Céilidh, a traditional Scottish dance complete with fiddles, whistles and bodhráns. I grew up doing a bit of Scottish dancing because of that bagpiping thing I do, so this was not a new experience for me. It was, however, for most of the other foreign students in attendance. I couldn’t get anyone to try the dances with me, which I love (they’re a bit like square dances or Contra). The only person I could get to give it a try was that obnoxious guy from the night before. Turned out he was a pretty good dancer…and not nearly as obnoxious as he’d previously seemed from across the room. We danced and had a great evening. I also happened to have laryngitis and couldn’t really speak…not sure how much of a factor that was in us hitting it off. Hmmm.

Anyway, a few dances turned into dating, which turned into a trip to visit him and his family when he returned to the states a few months later, which turned into a long-distance relationship our last year of college, which turned into moving to Seattle together, which turned into marriage and three lovely children. It’s a good thing he was such a great dancer!

Because I feel that fate has been so generous to me, I am feeling generous in return. In celebration of twenty years and a friendship, partnership and love that has gotten better with time…I feel like giving away some soap! All you have to do to enter for a chance to win the give-away is comment on this post. My husband and I love watching movies together, so I thought it would be appropriate to have folks comment with their favorite romantic movie of all time. I couldn’t seem to narrow it down, so here are my top three:

#1 Across the Universe
#2 The English Patient
#3 An Officer and a Gentlemen

The winner will be chosen by a random number generator and will get TWO BARS of my soap in tins, varieties of your choosing. The winner will be announced on Monday, October 11th. Spread the word! I'm curious to see what everyone else's favorite romance flicks are!

Snail Sleds

We did a really fun project yesterday in 4-H that I wanted to tell you about. This was thanks to one of our more scientific club leaders, who organized a way for the kids to study the concept of proportionate strength. First, they all gave their predictions about how much weight they thought a snail would be able to's own weight, two times its own weight, four times, etc. Then, they made little paper "sleds" out of index cards with a string attached and taped them to the snail's shell. They put out little pieces of lettuce as an enticement for the snail to start moving, then began adding pennies to the sled. In the end, the strongest snail was able to pull over 60 times its own body weight. Amazing!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Children's Hospital & Luly Yang Couture

One of the many things that I enjoy about my role as a business owner is the opportunity to be involved in fundraising for local charities. I will be a sponsor at an event next week that raises money for Children’s Hospital here in Seattle. I am thrilled to report that I’ve only actually been to Children’s twice, so far. One trip was due to a hockey injury and the other for a CT scan that was scary, but turned out to be no big deal. We are so fortunate to have three healthy children, and to have insurance and the money to pay for care if anything were to happen to them.

On our last trip to the Children’s Hospital I cried. It was not because of my son’s injury, but because of another boy the same age who was there. He was on a first name basis with the staff in the ER because of his frequent visits. He was bleeding from his nose and had very little hair. He and his mother were staying at the Ronald McDonald House. All hospitals are sobering, but to be a mother walking down halls filled with sick and dying children is more gut wrenching than I can express.

So, when I recently was given the opportunity to be a sponsor for an event here in Seattle which is raising money for Children’s Hospital, I jumped at the chance. It is the annual couture fashion show where local designer Luly Yang introduces her newest line of evening gowns and wedding dresses. Last year the event raised over $100,000 for Camp Korey, a Carnation facility to help children who have serious illnesses.

I will be a sponsor at this year’s event, which will be held at the Seattle Aquarium and will be appropriately themed “Ocean”. I am contributing custom Ocean soaps for the attendees as a thank you for their generous donations to Children’s. Putting together the packaging has been a very enjoyable creative process for me. I always like doing custom projects, but this one has been unusually fun. I got to visit the studio (incredible!) and sit down with Luly and Travis McBurney from True Colors Events to discuss the color scheme, textures and look for the show…and for Luly to choose a scent for the soap. Fun!

I’m almost done with the finished product. I’ll probably give you all a sneak peek, but not until the day of the show. As a sponsor, I also get to attend the event. I’ve never been to a fashion show before. Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to wear! Aaack! No pressure there…

image credit: Luly Yang Couture