Handmade Soap Review and Giveaway: The Mohawk Valley Trading Company

I want to kick off my up-coming post about the next steps in making Calcei with a giveaway of an ancient cleansing product. I originally believed Ancient Romans used olive oil based soaps to cleanse themselves, but after some research I learned many things I didn’t know about our ancestors’ bathing habits and the evolution of soap.

Castile Soap

For the most part the Romans didn’t use soap to clean their bodies – it was used for cleaning clothes. Instead, they would rub olive oil on their skin, sometimes mixed with sand, then scrape it off with a curved tool called a strigil. Soap’s use in personal care increased as people discovered the benefits of using it.

At any rate, I feel like a handmade, olive oil based soap is as close to ancient roman cleansing as I’d like to get – no oil, sand, and scraping for me, thanks! I promised more giveaways for 2014 and what better way to start off the new year than with natural handmade soap?! You know. . . wash away the old grime of twenty-thirteen and start fresh and clean in twenty-fourteen.

I had the privilege of working with the Mohawk Valley Trading Company over the past several years and I was given the opportunity to sample a few of their soap varieties. I especially like the castile soap because it has no animal products in it whatsoever – I’m not a vegan, I just like that it uses an alternative to tallow because personally, it just seems more natural to wash myself with plants than it does animal fat.

Handmade Soaps From The Mohawk Valley Trading Company

I was able to try the castile, goat’s milk lavender, tea tree oil, sage, pine, and rose soaps. The sage and pine seemed like they’d be good for clearing your sinuses if you use them in a hot shower. I was surprised at how much I liked the rose scent because I don’t typically like floral fragrances and rose tends to be overpowering. Most of the time rose scented soaps smell like old lady, but this one is mild – probably because it’s natural and not some manufactured “rose-like” scent.

All the soaps left my skin feeling smooth and not dried out like a lot of “beauty bars” and “moisturizing bars.” My favorite was definitely the castile; I love the smell, and the way my skin feels after I use it; soft and smooth.

Castile Soap From The Mohawk Valley Trading Company

About Mohawk Valley Trading Company Soaps

Mohawk Valley Trading Company Natural Handmade Soaps are made without parabens, phthalates, sulfates, petrochemicals, synthetic or artificial fragrances, dyes, detergents, preservatives or any other toxic or harmful surfactants, degreasers, plasticizers, reproductive toxins, pesticides, carcinogens, industrial chemicals or hormone disruptors.

Instead, they are made with:

Goat’s milk, shea butter, natural plant oils including; olive oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, palm oil, castor bean oil, wheat germ oil, sunflower oil and other botanical sources such as fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts.

• 100% natural plant-based essential oils distilled or pressed from fresh citrus peels, flower petals, spices, leaves, herbs and other naturally fragrant botanical materials.

• Beeswax and raw honey.

I know what you’re thinking; “Enough about soap already! What’s the giveaway?!!” Enter below for your chance to receive one bar each of goat’s milk lavender, castile, sage, rose, and pine soaps. See the terms and conditions for more details.

Handmade Soap From The Mohawk Valley Trading Company

Terms and conditions:

  • You must be 18 years or older to enter.
  • The Mohawk Valley Trading Company will ship the prize to the winner within 30 days of contest end.
  • Physical address required for shipping; no PO boxes, US recipients only residing in one of the 48 contiguous states.

Click here to enter the Soap Giveaway

*Please note that you will be directed to another site*

Art, Design, and Illustration Portfolio Gets a Fresh New Look

It’s been months in the making (for no good reason other than life is busy so I’ve been picking at it here and there) and here it is! The Kerrminator’s Art, Design, and Illustration online portfolio gets a facelift for twenty fourteen! I’ve revamped it a bit with a new color palette, some new design elements, added some pieces from 2013, and I’m now on more social media that I can’t seem to keep up with! Hurray!

Kerrminator Logo

2014 looks to be a fantastic year for me and I look forward to sharing more of my projects, rants, advice, and I PROMISE I’ll do more giveaways! Thank you all for making 2013 a great year for The Kerrminator’s blog. I had more views this year than the previous two years combined!

On the docket for the coming months includes my tips on designing logos for embroidery, the next section on making roman calcei, and so much more!

Keep checking in, or better yet, subscribe! Or follow me using your preferred big brother method listed below:


Happy New Year, internet friends!



The Balance of Structural and Decorative Design

It’s time for a throwback to my time in high school with a vase I created Freshman year. A book I was reading on my recent flight to New York;  Art in Everyday Life, by Harriet and Vetta Goldstein, got me thinking about the vase again.

The book starts out explaining the importance of good taste in design, then goes into a chapter about the balance of structural and decorative design. This was the part that piqued my interest because in one section it compared two vases: one with both good structural and decorative design (fig. 7 – left) and the other with good structural design, but poor decorative design (fig. 8-right).

The vase they described as being “bad” has a similar decorative design to one I created in high school. It was amusing, insulting, and thought provoking. It really made me rethink how I feel about my piece.

Ceramic vase crafted by Sara Kerr, age 15.Looking at my vase now, I feel the primary shape of it is well designed, but the handle is way under sized and poorly crafted for strength. It really serves little purpose for containing anything, especially not liquids, and it can’t be picked up by it’s handle. So, it’s easy to conclude that it has poor structural design. Regarding it’s decorative design, I’m conflicted; I’ve always thought it was very beautiful and I put a lot of thought into the placement of the leaves, and vines. Besides, I meant for it to be a decorative piece. So, what do you think? Does it’s imbalance between decor and structure work for it or does it fail because of it?

Constructing Leather Roman Military Boots (Calcei) – Part One: Pattern Making

Ryan Noel's handmade Roman Caligae (leather hobnail sandals)I figured I’d switch gears from embroidery and touch on a topic that has been rather popular for my readers; Roman footwear. I should note that when I started typing this article I had intentions of providing all the steps in one post, but I’m barely halfway through and it’s already over 1000 words. So, I’m breaking it into a couple different articles; beginning with the pattern making process, followed by the calcei construction, and I’ll even be throwing in a Roman-related giveaway.

My previous articles talked about the construction of a pair of Roman Caligae (shown on left), Calcei, carbatinae, and trying out a duct tape pattern. I said I’d post an update when we had the patterns cut out of leather and it’s been a year and a half soooo, better late than never! As per usual, Ryan works faster than I can photograph, so excuse the gaps in pictures, but I’ll try to include links to the sources we referenced while constructing this pair.

Back tracking a bit, there were quite a few ‘newbie’ problems with the caligae; They turned out way too big, the hobnails went in crooked, and they had shifting inner soles. Live and learn. We had never made leather shoes before, but we at least know to not make the same mistakes twice. We opted for the duct tape pattern for the next pair, in this case the Calcei. I’m sure professional shoe makers are probably laughing at our duct tape method, but honestly it’s quick, effective, easy, and above all else, it’s a very custom fit. Plus, this is a hobby for us and I have no intention of becoming a professional shoe maker.

Calcei Duct Tape Pattern

As I said, the second pair completed was a pair of Calcei. It’s a roman military cold weather boot. In hindsight we really should have started with these due to the ease of construction and uncomplicated design compared to caligae.  It’s a more ideal style for beginners to try in order to get used to forming leather into a 3-dimensional shape. I left off on the step of drawing the design on the duct tape form. . .

Roman men's military boots duct tape pattern.

Pattern Adjustments

Once you have the design drawn onto the duct tape, you cut it out. The way you do this is by slicing out exactly where your sole was and cutting the pattern open along the green line shown above (The green line being the visual center of your foot). The pattern should lay [relatively] flat though there will be some puckering around the toe areas. Try to ignore that as much as possible. You’ll want some heavy duty card stock or thick paper (bristol board works well) to trace the duct tape pattern onto. I should also mention that while you’re cutting and tracing, be sure not to rub off your calibration marks and to freshen them up if they begin to fade. Once you have them traced onto your card stock pattern you’ll be safe, but until then, make sure not to let them disappear.

Chances are you are going to have to make a few minor adjustments to your pattern if the cutting process resulted in some funky edges. Ryan had some issues with the heels of his due to shifting and bending the sole during the duct taping process. You can see below the difference between the duct tape cutout and the final altered pattern.

Right Foot Calcei Pattern

You will also note the pattern is bigger than the duct tape form. So let’s break it down to what modifications you need to make to your pattern:

Calcei Pattern Modifications

1. Smooth out your lines, removing any really odd chunks that got chopped due to an error, like the heel on the right boot on Ryan’s, and make the ankle/top a graceful curve. Be sure to compensate your addition/removal on the sole pattern as well. Also, try to stick to the rule of not deviating from the duct tape pattern by more than 1/4″. (Or you’ll fuck it up!) 😀

2. You need to be able to extend your tabs so if when you press your duct tape pattern flat, the tabs seem to overlap or one gap is larger than another, even them out, but keep them about 1 inch deep. *TIP* I drew one side then used tracing paper to transfer the identical tabs to the other side, making sure they’ll line up when the shoe is closed.* When modifying the tabs, BE SURE not to move the top tab, and that the length of the toe is IDENTICAL, so don’t cut into that at all.

3. Once you’re happy with your shape and lines you can move on to adding to the pattern. DON’T move onto these steps until you’re absolutely sure you’re done tweaking because otherwise you’ll be doing things twice. First thing you’re going to add is the 1 inch extension onto all the tabs.

4. Next add 1/4″ onto the top of the toe for seam allowance.

5. Finally, add 1″ along the entire bottom

Take your time on the pattern because it’s really the most important step. If it’s wrong, all your work will be for a pair of ill-fitting, P.O.S. shoes!

If you have any questions regarding the pattern making process, or pattern modifications feel free to leave your comments/inquiries in the comment section below. Check in regularly for part two in this series and for a chance to win a certain cleansing product used by Ancient Romans!

****UPDATE!!! Check out Part 2 of the Calcei Making Process here!!!****

Winner of MMA-Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Custom Polo Shirt Giveaway 1

Congratulations YANES! You are the lucky winner of a custom Jiu Jitsu polo shirt!

You have been contacted by email and have 48 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen. Crooked Brook will ship the polo to you within 30 days of contest end. Physical address required for shipping; no PO boxes.

Enjoy, Yanes!

Thank you to everyone who participated and check back often (or subscribe on the left) for more giveaways in the near future 😉 Free stuff! Why wouldn’t you want in on that?

MMA-Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Custom Polo Shirt Giveaway!

Guess what, my avid readers and embroidery fans! We’ve been talking so much about embroidery lately, I think it’s time to announce that I have teamed up with my friends at Crooked Brook to sponsor an embroidered polo shirt giveaway!

This polo shirt is the first of a fresh new series of martial arts designs they’re releasing. The polo shirt is embroidered with the flags of Japan, Brazil, the USA, and the Jiu Jitsu kanji on the back with the Jiu Jitsu kanji on the left front chest.

Polo shirts are another inexpensive yet cost effective marketing tool. More casual than button-front shirts and dressier than t-shirts, embroidered polo shirts are part of the uniform for many businesses.

Polo shirts are also called “polos” or tennis shirts and they became so popular on golf courses, people started calling them golf shirts. Although the words “polo shirt” and “golf shirt” are used interchangeably, the term “polo shirt” is more popular.

Polo shirts embroidered with a company logo given as gifts or giveaways are called promotional polo shirts or golf shirts and are great way to get your name out there and build brand awareness.

These giveaways are first quality, polo shirts from Crooked Brook’s inventory and the brand will be determined by what they have in stock at the time the winner is announced. The winner will be chosen randomly, from those who post a comment BELOW with an answer to this question;

What gender and size polo shirt would you like to win?

Terms & Conditions:

You must be 18 years or older to enter. Contest ends midnight (Eastern Standard Time) 08/09/13. The winner will be chosen by me and contacted by email. The winner will have 48 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen. Crooked Brook will ship the prize to the winner within 30 days of contest end. Physical address required for shipping; no PO boxes, US recipients only residing in one of the 48 contiguous states.

Happy Winning!

Embroidery: a medium often overlooked by artists

Like most artists, I sprouted my skills and talents early in life at home, honed them in school, and explored them out in the world. I’ve worked with a lot of media both traditional and. . . not so traditional; from oil paint to plaster, from water balloons to charcoal straight from the fireplace. I rarely say “no” to trying a new medium and although I don’t expect every artist to be as gun-ho about trying everything they can get their hands on, there is one medium I’ve worked with that I feel shouldn’t be overlooked by artists, especially graphic designers. That medium is embroidery, or “painting with thread” if I may.

Contrary to a lot of logo designers and graphic artists I have spent a lot of time working in embroidery shops learning the ins and outs of embroidery; from digitizing to mass machine running. I spent several years creating meticulous custom designs (my most notable piece being the rendition of Gram Parson’s Nudie Suit) and a year working in a high-production facility pumping out as many as 500 garments in a day by myself. It’s this combination that has taught me how to create a truly unique piece of embroidered art, and how to recognize a well-digitized design.

What IS Embroidery? And what the HECK is digitizing?

Embroidery is a type of decoration that, today, can be done using computerized embroidery machines to stitch on a fabric surface with a needle and thread and can be done using a wide variety of thread colors. Modern machine embroidery involves digitizing the design first in order for the machines to know what to do. (They’re not self aware yet!)

Back in the days before machine embroidery existed, and hand embroidery was the method used, people followed patterns or made up the design themselves. Machine embroidery is kind of like following a pattern, but the pattern has to be created and that’s where digitizing comes in. The digitizer creates shapes in various colors to make up the design/logo and essentially programs each and every stitch that goes into a design because the machine needs to know what to do and what sequence to do it in. Digitizing is an often tedious task and involves a lot of knowledge of not only the digitizing software, but the variations to expect and plan for when working on different types of fabric (stitching on a knit fabric is far different from stitching on a woven fabric) and not to mention the machine tensions, speeds, hooping specs. . . the list goes on.

Embroidery and digitizing are their own unique species from graphic design, but embroidered items are very common marketing and design tools. People don’t give it enough consideration and I think that’s mostly because they don’t know enough about the process. I don’t think everyone should go out and learn all there is to know about it, but as a graphic designer it’s important to know some basics. I believe it’ll make you all the more well-rounded in your knowledge and insight into your clients’ potential needs.

The Elixer of Creativity!

Wine? Coffee? Tea? What’s your drink of choice when you sit down to be engulfed by your creativity? Personally, I’m a tea drinker. I tend to stick to a couple varieties depending on the type of work I’m doing. Chamomile for relaxing work, english breakfast for “art-on-a-deadline,” orange pekoe cut black for rainy, cozy, coma-inducing days, and iced chai for summer heat to cut through the thought-muddling humidity.

It’s the feeling I get knowing I’m drinking a flavored liquid made from nature that attracts me to tea – organic tea leaves, organic honey and maybe a little dairy-free creamer or coconut milk, but nothing more. I use honey because sugar just doesn’t flavor tea the way honey does. Not to mention extra sugar is unhealthy while the health benefits of honey are numerous.

Tea puts me in a mellow, thoughtful, self-exploring mood that I desire when I’m creating my art. Bad tea is an unwanted distraction and breaks my focus. I’ve tried lots of sources for my honey – the good old “honey bear” variety, creamed honey, over-priced, low-quality “raw” honey at the supermarket. . . They just don’t have that “BAM” flavor. Where’s the BAM?! I’ll tell you where! At tenonanatche.com! They have quite a few varieties, but my favorite so far is definitely their Raw Apple Blossom Honey. It has a sweet, subtle apple flavor and a pleasant, fruity aroma.

The flavor and aroma emitted from this apple blossom honey is a lot more pure than the normal liquid “sshtuff” you get at the store because those store varieties come from multiple hives all OVER the place! How do you think they get so much of it? It’s mass produced, mass collected, and blended not to mention processed; removing a lot of the good nutrients you find in raw honey. This particular apple blossom honey is harvested from specific orchards so you know exactly what type of apple blossoms the bees have visited. That’s how you get the apple blossom honey variety and the distinct flavor and aroma.

I absolutely love the foam that is often forming on top of the honey. Sometimes it has little bits of pollen, propolis, and wax in it. I try to only scoop a section of the foam at a time to stretch it out to as many wonderful cups as I can. Maybe I’m weird, but I like it when my honey is super thick and foamy at the top – it’s a sense of freshness and ripeness. I have the same feeling about bread that gets moldy really quick because that usually means it doesn’t have added preservatives.

Some people might be repelled by the idea of consuming unprocessed honey, but I’m a nature kid! I grew up in the woods and I. ate. dirt. I once ate a bit of tree because it looked good. Besides, honey is actually regurgitated nectar. You are eating bee vomit. And it’s fucking delicious! Sometimes raw, natural, unprocessed things are better for you. I’m not advising you go out and shovel tree bark and dirt down your gullet, but you should definitely try this honey. It might just make your art-making more enjoyable and relaxing.

It’s pure, flavorful, amazing, and good for you. ‘nough said.