Metal, Bath and Body: An interview with the creator of Bath Sabbath, Virginia Giordano

Does the promise of a beard oil worthy of Odin himself entice you, does the thought of using soap shaped like Mjölnir make you want to bin your boring “bars” of soap, does the thought of thirteen different scents, all themed around the most glorious of metal songs, make you want to waste your Lynx as a homemade flamethrower (Note: Please don’t do this)? If the answer is yes, and it obviously is, read on.

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The amount of people who are going to break their glass shower doors with this while singing “Twilight of the Thunder God” under the water is uncountable

Over the last few decades, heavy metal has inspired countless crafts and merchandise items. We’ve been able to wear the t-shirts, hoodies and hats, sew on the patches, ink the tattoos. We’ve been a treat, or an assault, on several of the senses, you’ve heard the music, you’ve seen the artwork, you’ve felt the pain of a wall of death and you’ve drank the themed beer. What is left though?

Smell.

Welcome to Bath Sabbath, where one enterprising metal fan has taken it upon herself to rectify the lack of metal smells (or rather, lack of good smells. The sweat, beer and vomit combination at festivals has been with us for a while now). Operating on the craft website, Etsy, Virginia Giordano creates soaps, oils and bath salts to add a touch of class to our ensembles.

How can someone “smell” metal you may be wondering. If so, take a look at this small selection from the skin oil range for an answer.

Duncan Hills– You’re dying for a cup. Freshly brewed coffee with hints of vanilla and cream.

Once sent from the Golden Hall– A heady blend of Honey, clove, blackberries and the glory of a triumphant death.

Cursed be Iron– A blend of smoke, charcoal, and Frankincense with aquatic undertones. Smells like an anvil.”

Not only named after the type of songs that keep this website afloat. They also smell right. You won’t find the type of overpowering, harsh, almost artificial, smell that you might come to expect from a teenager on a first date, nor will you find the sort of perfume that lingers in your mouth after an older woman passes you on a train (to this day I don’t know what kind of perfume it is, as I type this I can taste it). I know this because I’ve spent the last few days with three different beard oils (Odin, Hades and Cernunnos) on my face and they’ve gone down very well. I’ve posted a short review of them here.

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Some of course will scoff, those who like their metal buttered on the serious side and detest the waves of silly bands cropping up from Europe (who most likely regard Chris Bowes as an enemy for life for Alestorm and Gloryhammer), but if metal was meant for one thing, it was to be fun. Even the super serious looking death metal bands of the world show a goofy side on stage or in interviews when not “in character.” A range of soaps named after metal bands and songs is frankly fun and practical. Let’s face it, after a two hour death metal show you might not be at your best, and a sweaty gig-goer high fiving you smelling like “the midnight sea and fiery brimstone. A smokey, salty ozone scent with hints of wood” (Holy Diver), is vastly preferable to smelling like the inside of a keg.

Though if you want the beer smell, there’s always the Happy Little Boozer. Do you love it yet?

I got in contact with Virginia recently and she was kind enough to answer some questions on her business and to send out the product that made my face smell so good. I was originally going to edit the answers into the article, but the answers are better in full so below is the unedited interview.

How many people are involved in Bath Sabbath?

It was originally just me, but my fiance, Brian, has been such an immense help. I literally could not do it without him so he’s going through an “apprenticeship” right now and we’ll see where it goes from there! My dad really wants to get involved, and he was the one who played me my first Sabbath album, so I think it needs to happen.

How did you get into making these soaps and oils?

I was always interested in homemade cosmetics and such, but I didn’t start actually making soap until my first year in college when I used it in an art project. I cut up soap to make this really ugly geode thing? It was hideous, but really fun! Then I got into fragrance blending and combined the two. I started making fragrances inspired by my favorite books or characters, (Captain Picard’s Earl Grey Tea, Dune-inspired “Spice must flow” soap etc etc) and I pretty much just went from there!

Why do you use Etsy as your platform?

Etsy’s emphasis on the handmade is originally what drew me, and they provide a lot of promotion and resources for sellers, so it’s been really helpful. Plus, it’s really easy for customers or potential customers to shoot me a message or ask a question. That sort of one-on-one feedback has definitely shaped my products. And I can’t even tell you how amazing it’s been getting to know everyone! I have met so many rad, rad people. My favorite was the mom who just wanted her “hair farmer of a son to smell better” haha!

Is there anywhere else offline or online these products are sold?

Currently Bath Sabbath is only available through the Etsy site, but I’m definitely going to start doing craft shows and offering wholesale opportunities in the near future! I just need more hands and more hours of the day, then I’ll be set.

Why did you choose to go down the metal themed path?

Metal chose me my friend! I actually focused most of my time at Art school on the Heavy Metal Subculture, painting portraits of Metalheads, or making mock album covers. It was right before graduation when my professor, Rob Clayton, asked why I didn’t combine my love of Heavy Metal with my soap making hobby. And I didn’t have a good answer for him, or a good reason not to! I went to bed that night and as soon as my head hit the pillow, the name “Bath Sabbath” came to me and I laughed so hard I knew I had to do it. I think Dio sent it to me.

How much time and space does it take to create your products?

Definitely depends on the product! Most of the soaps can be made within an hour, but it’s literally taken years to figure out all the quirks to soaping, of which I’m absolutely still learning! The fragrances take months and months to develop, with all the curing time and on-skin experimenting. Sometimes scents just morph on you, which is a huge bummer. When I’m working I feel a little bit like an alchemist, and sometimes it’s just as frustrating haha! I currently work from my studio, which is on the small side, but get’s the job done!

For those who don’t know, what is the basic purpose of beard oil and skin oil?

Beard oils are basically a leave-in conditioner for the hair. I have a lot of bearded men in my life, and I was noticing some of the skin and hair issues they were having, so I spent a year coming up with my Beard oil recipe. I formulated it to help eliminate beard dander, itchiness/redness and prevent break-outs along the hairline. It also features certain essential oils that encourage growth! And of course, it leaves the beard hair softer and shinier and lightly scented. It also works great on hair, especially dry ends.

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What comes first, the scent or the name? Do you think of a name and try to make something that smells like that, or the other way around?
That’s a tough one! I think the scent comes first, but it has to belong to the name. Like music, scent is so intertwined with memory and emotion, so sometimes I just try to capture a moment and run with it. Holy Diver is listening to Dio on a midnight trip to Santa Monica. Bard’s Song is listening to Blind Guardian while reading Tolkien’s work. The scent of Odin’s oil is the first time I brewed mead, and so on!

Have you managed, or tried, to get the bands your products are named after to sample them? I would imagine someone like Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth would be an excellent poster boy for beard oil.

Oh man. He so would. I used to have a Turisas soap (Turisoap!) and they reweeted it, but I haven’t really approached anyone, I definitely should though! I heard Nergal from Behemoth opened up a barber shop in Poland. I need to get in on that!

Do you have plans for further expansion, different products, more oils?

Absolutely! I’ve got more beard oils coming this year, and I’m working on shaving soap, solid shampoo bars, some hair oil and bath bombs. I’m currently sculpting new mold shapes and experimenting with cold-process soap, which is soap made the medieval way! Or the Fight Club way (without the human fat). I’m actually looking into historic soap recipes too. Roman soap, and a Viking soap recipe made with Bear fat, but I’m not sure it’s legal to sell haha so I need to do more research!

What is your favourite item you sell, the one you’re most proud of?

Tough one! It’s a tie between the Mjolnir soap, the beard oils, and the condom soap. I hand-sculpted the Mjolnir so it has a special place in my heart. I spent quite awhile revising and tweaking the beard oil recipe and I’m super happy with the end result. And the condom soaps were Brian’s idea and they make me laugh every time I get to make them. They have been to many Bacherlorette parties and I couldn’t be more happy about it!

If you’ve read all this and haven’t clicked any of the links yet (good on you for the commitment!) and want to stock up on your metal themed toiletries, click here to go to the store front. If you’re still on the fence, I really do recommend it. I have forced far too many people than I care to admit to smell my beard, and there hasn’t been a reaction that hasn’t been enthused. Thanks once again to Virginia for her generosity, her time and her links (she sent some links for other metal products that you should expect to see here soon, this is just the beginning).

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