What makes a good soap?
Is it the ingredients, the design, the scent or the way your skin feels?
If all these factors make a “good” soap, what makes a good soaper?
Is it financial success? Is it popularity? Is it quantity sold?
I’ve been asking these questions of myself. I am at the beginning of my soaping apprenticeship, and my learning curve is steep. I learn a great deal on every batch I make. I learn how different oils interact; how temperatures affect the out come of the soap; how certain behaviors affect air bubbles; if its necessary to stir with a spoon or a stick blender, when to add fragrance oils… Most of all, I learn about myself.
How do I respond when my great designs fall apart; when I create a pourable liquid batter thickens unexpectedly; when my fragrance oil accelerates trace so quickly I begin thinking of re-batching before I’ve poured it into the mold?
How do I respond when I have un-molded my soap too soon and the entire batch is mushy? How do I respond when my colors morph into something I can’t name?
Do I move with the soap or do I resist? Does my creativity seize up along with my soap?
My best soaps, so far, are those that I had an unexpected result and moved into a new technique or responded to the behavior of the soap and didn’t lose the entire batch.
I’ve had many batches that have failed. ‘Failed’ is a weird term since I can always re-batch or grate the soap and use it for something else other than a bath bar. I’ve had soaps that have met the trash, never to been seen or used. Even those aren’t complete failures, if I learned something. Even the most pedestrian idea, “never do that again!”
My best soaps have come from almost-failures. Most of the things I do that are non-traditional soaps like hand-molded soaps are evolutions of soaps that I thought were failures. I didn’t let my judgment or old stories stop me, but continued with curiosity. I see this in cookie designers and other artists. I ask, how did they come to that conclusion? The answer is always, they didn’t let anything (rules/traditions/personal stories) stop them from pushing further.
For me, a good soap is one that I can use. That’s it. No matter what is looks like.
A Great Soap
A great soap is one that I imagined and manifested into dense reality and one that smells wonderful!
A Good Soaper
A good soaper is someone who continues to make soap, someone who learns from her craft, who doesn’t get frustrated but sees each re-direction as an opportunity to learn, and someone who continues to share her work even when its not what she intended. A good soaper is someone who believes in her craft and herself enough to carry on learning.