Over 5 years ago, I started my own journey into learning soapmaking. There was something fascinating about transforming everyday oils, fats and butters into works of art. I felt like a mad scientist in my kitchen as I poured the dangerous lye/water solution into my lukewarm bucket of oils and butters for the first time. As I wielded the stick blender in hand, submerged the blade in the bucket, then pressed that powerful button, I knew I had begun the glorious transformation that is saponification. When the batter thickened to trace, I introduced micas and essential oils, then swirled like a mad woman. Once satisfied with the kaleidoscope of colors and fragrance, I laid the soap batter to rest in the mold for about 24 hours - then, chop, chop! Be honest, as you read, did you have any clue as to what I was even talking about? Most people don’t, which is why one of the most exciting things I’m confident enough to do is teach soapmaking to others so they don’t feel as lost in the soapmaking language as I did.
This month’s soap challenge was right up my alley, as I have been teaching soapmaking for the past year now, but mainly to small groups of people. This time I had the privilege of teaching one-on-one with someone who I’d say is more creative than myself. Artist, activist, writer, and all-around creative genius friend, AsiahMae stepped into my soap studio with headwrap and vibes high. Our challenge was to create and submit a soap including at least one technique of our choice - drop swirls or triple pencil lines. We decided to create two batches featuring each of those techniques just in case we ran into any issues. Before we began, we went over all of our safety precautions, then I began the instruction. As I looked on as she poured her first layer into the mold, I felt like a proud mama. From her color and fragrance selection, down to her laser-like focus on my instruction - she was a pro. Ofcourse, it wasn’t all perfect. I’m thankful for our foresight because a mishap happened.
As I unmolded the triple pencil line soap, I noticed the bottom layer got stuck to the bottom of our mold. Unfortunately that meant we were left with only two mica lines, which disqualified that soap since the requirement is three. I carefully moved on to unmold the drop swirl soap. That ordeal was much less dramatic, however when it came to cutting the loaf, it was still pretty soft and some drag marks ended up on most of the bars. With a few slides across the planer and beveler, our entry, “Pura Imber” was ready for a close up.
It took me years to develop the confidence to teach others what I myself am still learning. Everyday there is something new to explore and discover with soapmaking. What I enjoy most about soapmaking is the ability to share a usable skill with someone. In my group workshops, people from many different backgrounds are brought together by their desire to learn a skill in a setting where there’s no judgement. During my one-on-one session with AsiahMae, I got to experience creativity through the eyes of someone else and see in real time how my instruction could help someone create something beautiful. Whether you understand words like “trace” or “saponification” or not, you already possess the one most important rule of soapmaking - have fun! Which technique did you like the best?