Sunday, November 13, 2016
From my homeland comes a range of hand made soaps by The Veldt Studio. These small batch, botanically-inspired soaps are now available online in the United States. (In South Africa, find out more about local distribution at Rondavel Soaps.) While they are ideal gifts for anyone originally from the southern African region, these high end soaps will be very welcome stocking stuffers, or simply special gifts, come the holidays.
The Veldt Studio is a family business run by wife and husband team Kate and Chikondi Chanthunya, who live in KwaZulu-Natal. They produce soaps with the Rondavel label (a ron-DAH-vil is a circular, thatched traditional southern African dwelling); Chikondi is the soap maker, Kate is the artist (and a gardener) - each soap comes in a slide-out box and is individually wrapped.
I started reading my wrapping, a page from a book. Kate told me, when I asked (we met on Instagram), that the paper is a temporary measure while she works on printing a South African map she has drawn; they use discarded and damaged Reader's Digest Condensed books from the local (Howick) library. "I find this hard sometimes," she wrote to me, "as I love reading, and often read the pages I am meant to be using for wrapping...but at the same time, I always hated that Reader's Digest and thought it was okay to condense/leave out sections that the author spent a lot of effort in writing!"
Every soap is redolent of fresh botanicals, some of which I have stumbled across on our wild hikes back home.
Beaten-up hands, post work. After an afternoon of rooting in the garden without gloves, I tried the Gardeners Scrub. Yes, it scrubbed out all the soil. But then I put it in the shower, where the Frenchman, to my surprise, guarded it fiercely. He has worn the bar down to a sliver. It's the complex botanical scent, as well as the poppy seeds, which feel very good on the skin.
I am not usually a fan of soap with Stuff in it. Like, bits-of-things. But the poppy seeds make a beautifully textured loofah for tired or itchy skin. We both love this soap.
The baobab and African bluegrass is intensely fragrant with Adansonia digitata (baobab) oil and seven other botanicals that include the bluegrass, but also coriander and grapefruit. It makes for a very happy shower experience and is noticeable to others only if someone comes right up to you and plants a kiss on your neck (as they do). Even the bathroom smells good.
Some of the soap names are very nostalgic and evoke the landscape and the vegetation types I love, and speak to them via the essential oils they contain: Little Karoo; Fynbos;Wild Coast; Bushveld; Platteland. Enough to make a person start tjanking (making noises like a wet dog who's been left out in the rain while inside his people - his life - are sitting around the fire gnawing roasted bones, telling stories of walks to come). But I have several more to go, and am looking forward to each one.
Each Veldt Studio soap is $12, which is much steeper than what I pay for our everyday Dr Bronner's All-In-One (it was Tom's of Maine until recently, when I realized they had been sold to Colgate-Palmolive). But considering the manufacturing process, the ingredients, the care in packaging and the unusually good aromatherapeutic experience, I feel that these are keepers, and gifts no one will regret giving, or receiving.
(And maybe send some to Obama. He shook that man's hand.)
- Previous Gifts for Gardeners Posts:
Tools with Teeth