Museum of Literature - Mr. Bloom's Lemon Soap

Bloomsday is worldwide celebration of James Joyce and his 1922 novel Ulysses. It happens on June 16th every year, reflecting the events in the book which takes place over the course of a single day.

Cold process lemon soap with essential oils, inspired by James Joyce

Before COVID-19 put a damper on all public celebrations, I was approached by Edel from Museum of Literature (MoLi) in Dublin. She asked if I could create something for Bloomsday inspired by a passage in Ulysses where Leopold Bloom purchases a bar of lemon soap from his pharmacist:

"Mr. Bloom raised a cake to his nostrils. Sweet lemony wax.

- I'll take this one, he said. That makes three and a penny.

- Yes, sir, the chemist said. You can pay all together, sir, when you come back."

I'd been wanting to make a citrus soap for a while, so this project couldn't have come at a better time. It opened up the opportunity to experiment with some new designs and scents.

Lemon soap with essential oil

Photo: Early experiments got chopped up and re-batched into new soaps

Mr. Bloom's Lemon Soap is made with 100% natural ingredients. I first tried to colour it with yellow clay (too orange), turmeric (too speckly), and finally settled on infusing parts of the oils with annatto seed which resulted in a sunny, lemony yellow. It was then mixed with uncoloured soap batter to achieve the swirly effect. Natural colourants have a tendency to fade over time, but since the soap comes in a cardboard box it should hold up quite well.

 Cold process soap with lemon essential oil

Our handmade soaps contain only essential oils for fragrance. This was a tricky point, because citrus is notorious for not "sticking" without a middle or base note to anchor it. Yet I couldn't introduce too much of something that would overpower the lemon scent.

Cold process lemon soap with essential oils, inspired by James Joyce

After a bit of experimentation, I landed on a bright, beautiful blend of lemon, bergamot, may chang and cedarwood that survived the saponification process surprisingly well (my partner came into the living room and was convinced I had a lemon cake baking in the oven, it smelled that good).

Cold process lemon soap with essential oils, inspired by James Joyce

Mr. Bloom's Lemon Soap is only available at Museum of Literature. Situated in a stately building next to St. Stephen's Green, it is much more than just a literary archive and features both historic and modern Irish writers. The museum takes care to highlight Irish female authors too - when I visited in January, there was an interactive exhibition on Kate O'Brien going on.

Museum of Literature (MoLi) in Dublin, Ireland

After you're done with the exhibitions, you can visit the shop where you'll find  lovely gifts made by Irish artists and artisans (including exclusive skincare items by Literary Lip Balms), sit down for a meal at the lovely café, or take a stroll through the garden.

This is one of my favourite projects to date. Ulysses is an important part of the Irish literary heritage, although few seem to have read in its entirety. If you plan to attempt this challenging novel you might find The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham enlightening. This fascinating companion book delves into why James Joyce's masterpiece was considered not only dangerous, but also one of the greatest of the twentieth century.

Interested in custom soap for your event or business? Reach out to us, we'd love to hear about your project.

Literary Lip Balms

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