Curly Wurly - The lily pond

Hi everyone, back again with my fourth challenge. For the November 2019 Challenge with the Soap Challenge Club , we had to use soap curls in the design of our soap. I decided on the Advanced category, where the curls had to be fully embedded in your soap with a smooth planed surface.

The super exciting sponsor the month was Custom Craft tools. I have one of their moulds and it makes me feel happy every time I pick it up, I had to ship it to the UK from the USA which made it a big investment for me, but I have never regretted it, such a beautiful piece of soap equipment. Ironically, for this months challenge I needed to use a slab mould, so back to my homemade mould.

I made two soaps this month as I wasn't happy with my first design. This is my submission soap 'The lily pond'

I had made my mistakes with the soap curls on my first soap (will I've included further down if you feel like reading that much and want to know about my first soap too), so the process here was fairly plain sailing.

I wanted a design that was bright and cheerful, showing a variety of curl styles, but I also wanted to make sure that the curls themselves were the stars, not just the design they created. In my first soap I made a picture, but whilst it was made of (a lot) of curls, I felt the curls themselves weren't key, they were just used to get the colours and picture I wanted. So I sat myself down and just started doodling, trying to think of something that would lend itself to the curl design, rather than me forcing the curls into a design that they didn't enhance. Flowers and a peacock tail were initial candidates, but flowers seemed too obvious and I'd already done a peacock for the brush embroidery challenge, so I after a bit of thought I ended up with my lily pad doodle.

From my first soap, I'd learnt that I didn't want the background a single colour, I didn't want the blue water colour forming the background of the lily pads, the frog and fish etc so I needed to make sure that each shape had a continuous outer curl with the smaller decorative curls inside. I was surprised how long it took me to work out how I wanted to place each curl inside its outer border, I tried varied angles and designs.

I used Amy's soap curl recipe, which is brilliant and set about making my curl soap, long bars for the bigger things like the frog, lilies and goldfish outside curls and then short bars for the dragonfly and lily flowers:

I may have overdone it (slightly!) but I initially made one batch (in my loaf mould with small home made dividers) but I wasn't entirely happy. From my design I was worried that I wouldn't have enough orange for the goldfish, then for my dragonfly I felt that the purple/pink contrast was too pale, so I remade that. With the pink for the lily flower, I'd originally used the same pink as the dragonfly, I felt this was too bright and I also didn't want any elements to be the same colour, so I made a paler version. Believe it or not, I did plan the colours first, I just changed my mind when I saw them all together.

One good thing though is that this recipe looks like it will make brilliant soap dough, so I now have soap dough in these colours with my spare bits.

I used two different planing tools, a cheese planer/slicer and my soap planer. The cheese planer would make the thicker curls I needed for the bigger elements and then the planer for the flowers and dragonfly.

I decided in the end that I would use both 'dragonfly' colours for the large wings, to try to get a darker swirl in the middle, then lighter towards the outside so I joined the two together. This worked well as I wanted a longer style curl that I could compress into a wing shape.

Once I had all my pieces I mixed up enough base batter to give me a 1cm thick base and poured it into my slab mould, this would allow me to position the curls where I needed without them falling all over the place.

Then I placed my curls into the soap. I'd used a fairly slow-moving fragrance as I wanted the base to hold the curls, but not set up whilst I placed them in, a bit of fiddling around and I was there.

The final pour took a surprisingly long time, I knew I needed a fluid batter, so couldn't afford to mix the remaining base in one go as I wanted to make sure that the batter got right inside the curls and left no air bubbles, so each colour was mixed, brought to a light trace and poured separately. A funnel jug worked well for the bigger parts but I had to use a pipette and squirt the batter in for the flowers, dragonfly and goldfish, making sure I got the pipette nib right between every single curl layer. I filled the frog with brown, the dragonfly with pink and for the flowers I alternated and filled the white flowers with pink and the pink with white. For the goldfish and lilies, I made up lighter versions of the curl colour to make sure the curls stood out.

I had a bit of a 'dambuster' with the goldfish tail and had to shore it up with extra base batter (you can just see it in the bottom left of the photo), I wasn't concerned as this would be above the planed soap layer, and in the end, it turned out fine.

Uh Oh, confession time ..............

I can't believe it, but I felt quite guilty about the next part.

After I pored everything, I stood back and looked at it, I was worried that there wouldn't be enough contrast between froggy's legs and the lighter lily pad colour, and if they didn't show he would look like some weird kind of mutant frog, (look away now if you're squeamish) I pulled his legs and feet out, sliced some soap from a block of brown I had leftover from my other soap, made new legs and feet and pushed them in, luckily my batter was still very fluid and quite a bit of banging down settled them in nicely. To compensate for the leg replant, I also gave him eyes (there that's not so bad is it?).

Unmoulding was a breeze, but planing was not. I had nothing big enough to plane the whole slab, so I ended up with piano wire with a cork on each end, holding it tightly wrapped around my hands with chunky oven gloves on. I had the soap propped up in my mould to give me a straight surface. That is a painful experience, but luckily it worked well (I had unmoulded and planed slightly early so it wasn't too hard)

So that was my lily pond, I hope you like it.

My first soap

As I mentioned above I did make another soap, I won't go into all the lengthy details, but just quickly (well, I'll try).........

Seriously - again with the weird smelling block thingy!!

I was inspired by my two beautiful cats (Kalex and Suter) and decided to try to do a tabby cat soap. I did have a few funny looks from the two of them as I kept appearing with colour swatches and curl soap to see if I'd got a match.

Design drawn up I set to work on my soap curls, only to discover that adding sodium lactate is a bad idea. Over an hour of curling and I had 2 useable curls and a pile of shreds, and when you see the finished result you'll see I needed a lot of curls. A redo of the curl batter and I was away

Some pics of essentially the same process as described above, just a lot more curls and absolutely ages with a pipette squeezing batter into curls (I think it was about 2 hours).

The final soap:

Why didn't I choose this one? I like the head but I think the shoulders is where it all goes a bit wrong, it's rather like a child's drawing and that wasn't what I was going for. Also, I don't really think it shows the beauty of the curls.

I may revisit this one, but using soap 'waves' rather than curls as I think they'll lend themselves much better to the nature of hair/fur.

I asked Suter what she thought:

Holy cow!! is that meant to be me?

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you enjoyed it.

Please feel free to leave a comment below, if you have any advice or constructive criticism feel free to say, I'd love to know things that I can do better/differently.

Until next month. Take care everybody & happy soaping.

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