I have wanted to make a soap inspired by Starry Night for a while! But I considered it a big project, and was not sure how to go about it, so I kept it in my idea list for a while.
Initially, I thought of putting the soap batter into condiment containers, and use it as paint, because I really wanted the lines from the painting to be distinct, like in the original:
But then I hesitated because after watching videos of soaps done with this method (the condiment bottle method) I realized this was better suited for a very runny soap batter, which did not sound like it would give me control over the painting. Then I thought I would put it in piping bags with a small opening so the soap came out in strands like spaghetti, but I am not good with piping, so I decided against it.
So, at last, I researched how Van Gogh made it, and when I learned that he used the impasto technique, a technique he often used actually, where he would pile thick layers of oil paint on the parts of the canvas he wanted to highlight; which resulted in an almost three dimensional look. I realized that was what I should attempt to do as well, so I got out my palette knives, made a recipe with light colored oils and butters (for the first time I did not use olive oil!) and came up with this:
( Above is 24 hours later).
I was not sure how my fragrance oil was going to perform. There were mixed reviews about it. So I soaped at room temperature, only brought the mix to an emulsion instead of trace, and stirred the fragrance in a small portion first. (A tip I received from a viewer) When I noticed it did not accelerate, I added it to the rest. and blended it with a whisk. The texture was achieved with palette knives. If you try them, make sure to get the stainless steel ones. I used the ones with the smaller tip. I made the “village” out of soap dough a couple weeks prior. And the moon and stars out of soap dough too, right before I made the soap. After mixing the lye water, I started gathering the rest of the ingredients. By the time I was done getting everything ready, the lye water had cooled down significantly. Especially because I could not find the houses! I told my husband, “I cannot believe I have lost an entire village”
I visited the Natural Science Museum exhibit of Death by Natural Causes (Yes, I am weird like that), and one of the exhibit items was lead paint. In it, it said that Vincent Van Gogh probably had lead poisoning, because he would put his paint brushes in his mouth! A symptom of lead poisoning, is seeing a halo around lights, which they said explained the halos on this painting around the stars and the moon. I suppose we will not know for sure, but you can read more about this theory here and here.
Plastic Containers as Molds
I used as a mold a scrapbook page storage case. I have come to realize that smooth (shiny) plastic containers lend themselves very well for soap molds, instead of the frosted plastic ones. I also like to bend and flex the container to see how flexible it is, the more flexible, the better. Of course I would prefer containers with straight edges, possibly made out of silicone with a wooden frame. However, given that this hobby is not paying for itself yet, I need to keep my costs down! I put about 75 oz of soap in it, and it ended up being too little (it was about 3/4 inch thick, so I would recommend about 100-110 oz of soap batter for this “mold”. I did add a second layer to the bottom of this soap to make it thicker.
The irregular and rounded edges do not bother me. I figured I can cut the corners straight myself and use the extra soap to make either soap balls for a future galaxy soap project, or a smaller hand shaped soap, by squeezing it together. The soap came out of the mold easily and had a shiny finish at the bottom. (I waited 24 hours and my recipe had about 75% of solid oils and butters), did not insulate.
On the other hand, I have used a plastic drawer before as a mold, and the soap stuck to it. from the bottom and from the handle part, so I do not recommend those as a mold unless you line them.
To Cut or Not Cut
I could not wait to share a picture of the soap in one of the facebook groups I belong to, and I was overwhelmed by the response to it. Surprisingly (to me), several people suggested not to cut the soap, but frame it or keep it, or sell as a whole. Well, given that I already painted this on a canvas (with acrylic paints, not soap) and I do display it at times in my house (although now I want to go back and make that painting better), I decided to go ahead and cut it. You see, I like to paint, and I actually have more paints than I have room for. Also, I needed to add more soap on the back to make the bar thicker, it ended up being thinner than I wanted.
I realize than by cutting it, the effect of the painting as a whole will be gone, but I knew that going in. I have discovered that my joy of planning and making the soap is greater than my attachment to the final soap. I know that the soap with the green portions will be given to guys (probably my brothers and husband) and that the ones with glitter will be given to gals (probably my sisters or friends). They may or may not know what the whole looked like, but the important part is that they will have a fresh cotton fragranced soap, that will be conditioning to their skin and will have a nice textured pattern on top with deep colors, or houses, or even glitter!
Next time I want a challenge, I will try to to find out if something similar could be made as a loaf mold! I have seen a very close approach done actually, but it requires some thinking to materialize what I see in my head!
I will be posting the video of the making soon. I should have it in my youtube channel next week.
And here it is: