Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez

May 14, 2014

IMG_2655We caught up with some old friends from Adelaide recently and I found out that one of them has a startling secret life…he is an artisan soap maker!  I am not talking murky bars of obscure smells that I tend to buy at the farmers’ market…he makes beautiful bars of beautiful soap with beautiful scents in beautiful packaging for beautiful moments of everyday luxury.  He gave us a house gift of Lemon Meringue soap.

IMG_2647He is Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez and I confess, he had me at the name! It sounds like an adventure in Casablanca with glamour, intrigue and exotic cocktails.  If it was a bar, I would go there and never leave. Whilst not a bar with drinkies, these bars of soap can be purchased at select markets in Adelaide and on-line whenever you fancy! The product line is quite broad and the various names and descriptions will entrance you.

IMG_2644The packaging is so lovely. This is soap that you can give someone you love. But mind you use it! I got in trouble when I confessed I don’t use my pretty soaps…they go straight to the undie drawer where I can see them everyday.

Mr Shanghai says that soap is for using and that other things can be used for the undie drawer or indeed the wool stash.  Yes, I have put soaps in my wool stash to mask the woolly smells and fool the clothes moths. Mr Shanghai said the reason why lavender and rosemary are such effective defenders of our woollies is because they both contain camphor notes. Camphor wood resin is the great deterrent against moths.  He suggested soaking something absorbent like cotton wadding in good lavender or rosemary essential oil (not from the supermarket…ooops, I do that too!), then wrapping that in cotton wool so the air can get in and out. Put the little bundle into a wee fabric baggie to hold it all together. Mr Shanghai says that this would be much more effective than ye olde lavender bag and easy to renew.

IMG_2645Apart from not wanting to use harsh chemicals and liquid soap in (more) plastic dispensers, I had not really thought too much about the process of making soap before. But Mr Shanghai has.  He told me all kinds of interesting things. Apparently new combinations of essential oils must mature over time and some oils have a very short life that can change the scent of a soap if you don’t account for it.  Lavender leaves smell different from lavender flowers although both can be used to make lavender oil.

Mr Shanghai  also has a fascinating blog (which you can easily follow on Bloglovin) where he describes what he does and how he formulates new scents.  He has a delightful writing style, a kind of Beverly Nichols meets Cary Grant talking about everything from violets to graphic design to furniture and photographs.

Do go and have a look. These soaps are lovely, hand made bits of wonderful.  I know, because I broke open the packaging and actually used it!