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soap challenge

The Soap Challenge Club offers soapers the chance to really let their creative side go wild.  Every month a technique is offered as a challenge and hundreds of members have the chance to show off what they can do with the technique.  It is a great chance to learn, experiment, and grow as an artist.

March Soap Challenge:  Inlaid Soaps

For the month of March, we were challenged with Inlays.  Soapers were instructed to make a soap, then carve designs into it, filling the new voids with new soap.  I knew immediately how I wanted to tackle this challenge.  

Instead of making regular bars of soap, I went big.  I made a slab of soap using a slab mold.  My slab measures about 7"x7".  I colored it with a beautiful dark blackberry mica and used a fragrance oil that is known to discolor to brown.  The result was a deep, dark slate color.

I unmolded the slab and let it rest for two days.  I wanted the soap to firm up enough to be able to withstand detailed carving.....A lot of detailed carving.  But I needed the soap soft enough to allow for clean, easy cuts without chipping.

Tools used for clay carving worked beautifully on the soap.  I first traced out the design with a fine point, then used a variety of scrapers to cut out the design.

About two hours (and a lot of soap shavings) later, I finally had my design  The dahlia pattern stretched about 6 inches round, fitting perfectly on my big slab.  Looking at the carving from an angle with the light, the thinness of the soap walls is really evident.  

Now came the fun part.  Filling the voids.  Soapers were given the choice of using "soap dough", also known as moldable soap which has the consistency of play-dough.  Or soapers could use regular, pourable soap batter to fill the voids.  I went for the pourable soap.  Using pourable soap batter, I could create beautiful movement and blending of colors to give each petal its own dimension of colors as you would see in a real dahlia.

And the RESULT!  I used a bright yellow to start in the center, blending to a beautiful orange, which gives way to a vibrant pink, and finishes in a stunning purple.  I poured each color in an expanding circle, then used pipettes to "inject" additional colors into the petals where I wanted a little extra dimension.  I then used a pastry scraper to scrape off the excess soap.  After a day or two of curing, I *carefully* ran the soap slab through my planer for a finishing polish.  This slab turned out stunning, the colors really pop against the dark background.

Then came the heart-wrenching decision.....to cut or not to cut!  I loved this big slab, but this hardly makes for a practical bar of soap.  So I reluctantly grabbed my soap cutter and divided the slab into four equal bars.  Each measure approximately 3.5 inches square, 1 inch tall.  While I was sad to cut into it, I think it helps give context to the size of the pattern.

I loved how this soap turned out.  It makes me happy every time I see--and smell it!  This technique was time consuming, but very fun.  I look forward to more soap challenges!

May Challenge:  Pour Through Soap