Shortly after making my first Starry Night Soap, I decided one day I would make a version of it on a loaf mold. That was a year and a half ago, and the idea was still sitting on my “Soap Ideas” list, somewhere towards the bottom of it. Well, the time has come and I decided to use the 2020 January Soap Challenge as my motivator to tackle it.
Initially I hesitated because just recently I made the second attempt at Starry night soap, but I was disappointed with it for the most part and it was on a slab mold again. This entry will be journal style as I have not even made the soap yet.
I suppose this would be the day I decided I would do the challenge and that my entry will be the Starry Night. Then I watched all of the instructional videos, and I almost changed my mind! I personally do not like making soap layers, or having to scrape shapes in soap to fill with another soap batch. I think primarily it is because I do not like to wait around for soap to set. And then having to mix lye and oils again multiple times. However, maybe an accelerating fragrance like it was suggested in the instructions will come handy here.
I printed an image of the Starry Night close to the size of what the soap will be, to have an idea of what size I need to make the moon and tree embeds (still not sure if I am making a tree embed yet though). Also to help me make the soap scrapers (Not sure if that is the right name) I believe that the painting main object is the sky and the swirls that Van Gogh painted on it. I have struggled on how to achieve this effect with soap, I do not think a spoon swirl will do it justice, and I thought the curls effect would be the answer (which I think it was, for a slab mold). For the loaf mold, I am going to attempt doing it in layers. When I stared at the painting long enough, I noticed that there are different shades of blue in a layer kind of way. So the plan is to make scrapers for them
I have not accomplished as much as I wanted as far as embeds go. Just thinking and more thinking. Contemplating doing confetti style soap in the blue layers, and going through my fragrance list, to see which ones are accelerating. (The list has been updated since, but looks similar). It will either be a floral or spice blend, since both of those tend to accelerate. I have the recipe ready (I will use my masterbatched oils), so maybe I will blend the lye water tonight and prepare embeds and scrapers.
I made the soap scrapers today (apparently they are called Shapers). One with polymer clay, and the second with cardboard. I “colored” the back of my miniature starry night print with pencil, and then traced on top to get the curves.
Day 5 & 6
I worked on the embeds. Made the moon, the “stars” which are just logs of yellow soap dough. I used an extruder for that, and I attempted the church with extruded pieces and some hand shaping too. I ventured to mix the lye with water so it will be room temperature tonight or tomorrow when hopefully I get to make it. I feel this soap has taken more preparation that usual, however I hope to be able to use the scrapers again. I made the tree scraper with corrugated board and inserted bamboo skewers to strengthen the thin tip.
I have not yet made the soap, but I have calculated how many ounces of soap batter I should need per color. You can skip this part if numbers make you dizzy….lol. I sort of visually estimated how much of the soap space a layer was using, if half, or only 1/3, or only 1/4 and then multiplied. Say, if my soap bar averages 4 oz once cut, and I know I am going to get 9 bars from the mold. I would say….well, this yellow layer covers about 1/4 of the soap front. In a 4 oz soap bar, that would be 1 oz. 1 oz multiplied by 9 (total bars) equals 9. Ok, I need 9 oz for the yellow layer
I am making more soap than needed though, and will leave about 5 oz uncolored for last minute adjustments. I could do something more exact though if I did not want any waste. It can be done on paper but I just used my ipad Adobe sketch app (Also found in notes) for this example. I drew somewhat even lines in a picture of the painting. I had to measure the length so I would have more or less the same size of squares. In the end I had 20 squares of about 1″ in size. (the white lines). To be even more exact, I divided each square by 4 with yellow lines. I got this:
This further division meant I had 80 squares now. So I started counting how many squares the tree covered. (Some squares are not completely filled with the tree, some of them are only filled halfway, so in this case, I counted 2 squares as 1). In the end, I decided I had 12 squares worth of tree. 12 out of 80= 12/80
If I divide that: 12/80 = 0.15 I get 0.15 which gives me the percentage multiplier. In other words the tree covers 15% of the total image. If my soap batch weighs 50 oz (without the fragrance), I just need to calculate 15% of 50 oz. 50 x 0.15 = 7.50 Which means I will need 7.5 oz of soap batter for the tree pour. I would then repeat the process for each color I plan to make. Hopefully I can get it done tonight!
Update: Smart as I thought the above was, when actually making the soap I realized my folly. I need to have more than 5 oz extras, I need to have extra soap so there is something to actually scrape out! As someone in the facebook group for the challenge said it, I should calculate the amount of soap equal to the highest “peak” of the shape to be scraped.
It is Saturday. Today is the day!
Later that day….I did it. I made the soap. The stupid soap! Sometimes making soap feels like a battle, sometimes the soap wins and sometimes I win. Sometimes we reach a truce. Today, I feel like the soap won. I made a couple of mistakes on my first layer and forgot to add the stars embeds until after it had set up, plus I should have calculated for more soap to take into account the scraping part. Then it all felt like trying to win a race while blindfolded. I hope the church is in the right spot, I hope the tree is too, I hope my two house village is as well, but I don’t know, it was all guesswork.
I think that unknowingly I had a premonition I had bitten more than I could chew when I started procrastinating on the actual making of the soap. It’s Saturday, I finally had time to do it. I went to the craft room and decided to organize half of the supplies closet first, then my packaging material; before I started cleaning the table and mixing the colors for the soap.
Today was the big reveal. Though it was not as horrible as I expected, it was not what I had imagined either. The village in Starry Night (and the church) were elements that Van Gogh added himself, and I feel the complement the sky well. My village and my whole soap look like a hurricane went through it, for real, and it only left two houses standing, and the tree leaning to one side, almost uprooted. What is more, in a couple of the bars, one of the house embeds tilted to the side, adding to the hurricane effect. Not all was lost though, adding small lines with a brush and face paint has helped a lot identify what the soap is supposed to be. Judge for yourself: