For those of you who haven’t already guessed, I am really into my soapmaking! I have been a member of an american online soapmaking forum for several years and for the last year or so I have been helping to host soap challenges for the other members. A few times a year I make a challenge video demonstrating a technique for the other users to try. This month I have chosen peacock swirls and you can see my tutorial in the video below.
I chose to make a beer soap using Tribute ale from the local brewery at St Austell and matched my swirl colours with the branding on the beer bottle.
If you are ever down in Cornwall I would recommend a visit to the brewery, it was a really nice day out and our guide was really friendly.
I love to take part in soap challenges as it allows me to really express my creativity and at the same time enhance my soapmaking skills. I don’t get much chance to do this within my business as I have to stick to my strictly regulated cosmetically certified recipes for the soap I sell via my website.
This month’s challenge required you to find a friend or family member to make soap with, who you don’t normally work with. I asked my friend Anna as she was really keen to make soap and had tried on her own previously but was unhappy with the resulting soap.
Anna is an artist; you can see her work here:
When I asked Anna what kind of soap she would like to make, she asked if it was possible to recreate one of her gannet drawings within the soap. Anna originally wanted to embed the design within the soap log, but we only had a single day to work together so I advised her that an ebru style soap would work better and allow her more freedom of design. I thought her painting skills would really work with this style.
We made a white soap base in the bottom of the mould and I suggested scenting it with a marine fragrance called sea spray as it went well with the overall soap theme. We allowed it to set, and then poured a thin layer of soap batter on top (about 50mm thick). As you’ll see in the video below, Anna then created her design in this top layer using plastic pipettes and wooden skewers. The design was coloured using yellow iron oxide, activated charcoal and blue mica.
The soap recipe was a mix of palm, coconut, olive and sunflower oils with a superfat of 5% using 40% lye concentration.
As the challenge was all about collaboration, I thought it would be great to show what we’d each done to make the final product. I’ve made sections of the video go quickly so you get the essence of our day together without having to sit through hours of video!
Here is the finished wet soap next to Anna’s original drawing
After Anna had created her gannet design, we both took the leftover soap batter and created some more little soaps in some silicone moulds.
Thanks to Amy for coming up with this challenge, I really enjoyed working with Anna as I usually have to work on my own, it was so much fun and I would love to do it again.
Here is my entry for this month’s soap challenge. We had to cut out templates and use them to sculpt the soap into a layered design.
I had a look around for some inspiration and I came up with the idea of a skyline silhouette. I wanted a design where the skyline reflection was mirrored as a reflection in the sea underneath.
I found a skyline which had a shape that I would be able to replicate. As I needed three sculpted layers for the challenge, I chose to make a layer for the reflection, a layer for the buildings in the foreground and the layer for the buildings in the background.
I had a first attempt at this and found that it was much easier to make indented sculptured layers than raised sections as they kept dropping and wouldn’t hold their shape very well which meant the tallest tower sank. I decided to make the soap in two halves and stick them together with black soap to get the most defined layers.
I used clear polypropylene sheets to trace out my design and glued matchsticks onto the back of sections that needed the most stability.
I made the top half first by pouring the red and orange sky, then creating the pale grey background buildings, then the foreground dark grey buildings.
I left this section to set overnight then poured the blue sea layer. I allowed the black to set up until it was just firm enough to hold the soap I had made the day before. Then I pasted the two together with some more wet black soap.
I allowed the block to set overnight and cut the following day.
I used a 40% lye concentration for these soaps as it makes nice hard bars that can be unmoulded and cut quickly and I used a fragrance that accelerates a little called cashmere. I don’t normally use it for cold process soap as it traces way too quickly. I dropped in a small amount bit by bit into the batter to prevent it accelerating too quickly on me and found that it didn’t trace as quickly as I had wanted or expected. I may try this another time when trying to work with fragrances that move really fast.
Here is my first attempt where the upright buildings weren’t as defined as I would have liked and my two shades of grey were too similar to each other.
I hope you like my entry. Another really interesting challenge and a technique that I will definitely use in the future!
This is my new blog platform attached to my shiny new website. I hope you like it! For those of you who already follow me over on blogspot, I will be posting on here instead from now on.
If you are a new reader, then please feel free to pop over to the old blog at http://thesaponista.blogspot.co.uk/ where you will find some tutorials which may be of interest if you are a soapmaker and some posts showing examples of my soap art.
This is designed to be a place for me to show you the art based soap work that I do and provide information to those of you wishing to have a go at making soap yourself. Occasionally, I will be offering you the chance to purchase these extremely limited edition designs in my online store. However, as my company is based in Europe, we have very tight regulations regarding the sale of cosmetics, and every bar that is made has to be certified by a cosmetic chemist at an extortionate fee before they can be listed for sale. This means that unlike some of my other soapmaking friends across the globe, I am unable to share every one of my unique artistic designs with you.
Soapmaking really is my passion, both the design side, and producing functional recipes using only the best ingredients. I look forward to sharing this with you and if you have any questions then please feel free to comment below or drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This month it is my turn to run the SMF soap challenge. I chose the topic of mosaic soaps as I haven’t seen it done for a while and I like the versatility of the technique. I can’t wait to see what all the soapers who choose to participate will come up with! I absolutely love seeing all the creativity and talent from the soapers we have on the forum.
Here is the mosaic soap I made for the demonstration of the technique.
You can find the video tutorial along with lots of other tutorial videos for the other challenges that have been organised previously here –
Once the challenge is over at the end of the month, I will add a link to the entries and the winner. Feel free to pop over to the forum, we are a friendly bunch and if you participate on the threads for a while then you will be able to enter the competitions.
This month, the challenge on www.soapmakingforum.com was a tough one for me. Were given several images of birds to look at and asked to choose one that stood out to us. Then using colours from the photo, we had to take a feature or a feeling or something about the picture that struck us and translate it into our soap design.
I chose the image of the bird shown below
The bird picture I have used is the one that most appealed to me. I love the colours of the birds feathers combined with the green background of the leaves. The colours I chose for my soap were a green from the background of the image and a couple of shades of blue from the feathers combined with the black and white which are also colours from the feathers.
I love the way the birds feathers are splayed open and the image gives a feeling of complete freedom. I have tried to reflect the lines of the long wing feathers in my soap design. I made it in a square soap mould, by placing dividers into the corners and filling with the different shades of color, then I filled the rest of the mould with the green and used a skewer to create the lines. My soap is scented with a mixture of pine and cedarwood essential oils with a touch of juniper as I felt it went well with the overall look and feel of the soap.
Here is the finished design, I hope you like it!
This month’s challenge was incredibly challenging for me. I had so many goes at this trying to nail it, I think I will have enough soap to wash with for fifty years! I finally achieved a droplet that I am happy enough with to enter so here it is!
I only poured a small amount of batter into the bottom of the mould before pouring in my droplet colours as I like the droplets which have a long thin stem.
My bars are scented with a blend of spearmint, lavender and rosemary essential oils hence the mica colours that were chosen.
The mica was purchased from http://www.u-makeitup.com/ and the colours used were purple passion, lime, dreamy aquamarine and some titanium dioxide and activated charcoal for the black.
I thought I would also post some of my other attempts in order to show you how challenging I found this challenge to be. Getting a droplet shape was not easy for me!
I loved the colour of these and all the layers within the droplet, In real life they look much brighter and more vibrant. I was gutted that the outline turned out wobbly. I think it was because I poured the sides with a squeeze bottle rather than a jug so the pressure forced the batter into the mould unevenly.
There were also lots of other attempts, some with no droplet at all, others with triangular shaped patterns and one where I used an accelerating fragrance which set up on me so fast that all I got was tiger stripes across the middle of the bar.
And here as promised are my other six attempts!!!
Thank you for another great challenge Amy 🙂
SMF Soap Challenges
I help to organise a monthly challenge on www.soapmakingforum.com. I ran the August challenge which tackled inverted stamping.
You can find the challenge thread and read about everyone’s experiences along the way here
and you can find the thread with all the lovely entries here
There is also an SMF challenge youtube channel with tutorial videos for all the challenges, including my inverted stamping one, along with other tutorials by SMF members that you may find useful.
As long as you have been a member of the forum for a short period and have posted 50 times, then you can participate in the challenge. Come over and find us on SMF, we are a friendly bunch and always willing to accept new members into the fold.
Discolouring Fragrance Challenge
This month was a discolouring fragrance challenge run by GalaxyMLP, the basic rules of the challenge were to use a fragrance that discolours and incorporate that into your soap design. You also had to choose a colour scheme for a famous brand or sports team and incorporate that into your design too.
Below is the original challenge thread if you would like to read the full challenge criteria and see people’s discussion of their experiences of the challenge
Here is the entry thread
And here is my entry.
I chose to use Wimbledon as my theme as I love the combination of purple, green and white.
I used a basic slow moving recipe at a 5% superfat of –
The discolouring fragrance I used was porridge oats from gracefruit which I used at 3%. The description says it discolours to a dark tan.
I wanted to try a sort of different butterfly swirl with this challenge. I tilted the mould slightly to one side, then filled it with 1/4 of the discoloured batter, then I alternately poured the white purple and green until the mould was half full. I then used a hanger in a circular motion to create the bottom half of the butterfly. Then I poured in some more discoloured batter and drop swirled the colours in on top to create the top wing of the butterfly.
Here is the soap when it was first cut
Here is my entry for this month’s Great Cakes Soapworks challenge. This is my attempt at a Clyde Slide.
This was a hard technique for me. It took me several attempts to achieve the feathering which is the signature of this technique. I am pleased with my entry though in the end!
I wanted to do something a bit different with my pour for this challenge. My aim was to pour the white base colour in at the back of the bowl and simultaneously pour the brown and green so they met in the middle. The aim was to produce a soap that had a different colour on each side rather than a homogeneous mix of colours, which I feel I managed to achieve. I quite like the symmetrical look that it creates.
Here is a picture of the bowl as I poured. I used a washing up bowl to pour into as I found that using the regular jug that I make soap batter in didn’t seem to have a big enough surface area. I was trying to find something similar to the big round bowl Clyde uses in his videos. I waited until I had reached a medium trace before pouring.
I propped the left hand end of the log mould up slightly by about an inch and poured in one solid sweep from left to right, then laid the mould back down flat.
I chose a standard recipe with palm, olive, coconut and sunflower oils. I have been thinking about making Christmas soaps recently which is why I chose the colour scheme, it reminds me of peppermint creams so I scented with a peppermint fragrance oil. I used brown and green mica from White Ape Pigments and titanium dioxide.
Here is another attempt that I made that I was quite pleased with
I feel like I should write a separate blog post called ‘How not to do a Clyde slide’ as it took me quite a few attempts to get the technique to work how I wanted it to! Here is a run down of what I learnt the hard way if you are interested in reading it.
Amy’s tutorial said that pouring the batter too thick would prevent the feathers from developing. I think I took this too literally with my first attempts. I poured them so thin that the autumn coloured soap which started out as several lovely shades of red, orange and yellow, turned into an unpleasant homogeneous brown.
My second blue attempt was slightly thicker trace, but I still didn’t achieve any feathers. I think the soap still turned out fairly pretty though. I poured the grey base background, then poured pools of dark and light blue on alternative sides of the pot to try and achieve a soap which was half dark and half light, similar to my entry soap but in a jug. The soaps are really pretty and I like them a lot, but they don’t demonstrate the feathering at all. I think this was because the batter was too thin and the jug too cramped.