How To Make Hand Molded Soaps
Refreshing an old art form
This is what has worked for me, and although I don’t think most of you need to know this, I will state it to be clear. There are many ways to do anything, hence the cliche, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” (I have no hard feelings toward cats either.)
To make hand molded soap without a silicone mold takes a few ingredients.
- A reliable soap recipe
Now, if you have these ingredients, you can begin.
I’ve given a lot of thought to this post.
There are many seasoned soapers offering their recipes – simple, hard and slow trace cold process soaps and many others. These are not difficult to find. I do have recipes I’ve used and I’ve posted here. This recipe will work for hand molding too.
One of the great protected secrets of any Soap Witch (or any soaper) is their recipe.
Why? Because not only does it take a lot of time to figure out what you like and then achieve the ideal soap, it can take many mistakes, anguish at less-than-desirable results and effort researching EVERYTHING. This is part of any good Soap Witch’s apprenticeship and therefore, her initiation into the Soapers Secrets. Secrets only known by those who have traded time, efforts, energy, money and creative desires to know. Its a fair trade. To give recipes to anyone is to take away from her process and her self initiation.
Copy a Design
It is my belief that if someone is striving to copy another design, it will surface. If someone is striving to find their own creative path that, too, will surface and therefore their intentions will come through the art.
I am not fearful of someone copying my designs. It will never be exactly like mine, and that is the beauty of art.
When it comes to painting, in ancient times, apprentices would copy the master painter’s work until the secret of the stroke, the paint consistency, the intention (in part) was revealed. I have done this many, many times. The honorable thing is NOT to claim the results as one’s own, but to state that it is a reproduction. In fine art, there are experts who will authentic art. In soap we have honor.
I do not want to take credit for something I did not manifest into this world. It is a wondrous thing to see something in your minds-eye and then have the ability to manifest it into the material world. This, the world at large, takes for granted. I do not.
With that said, get ready for my contradiction… Nothing is new. So, how do I reconcile these ideas? I understand that this is the first time I’ve made this art… My hands, my eye, my design execution are all different. I will, if asked, say where I first saw an idea, or if I came up with it without a prompt. I have not seen anything I’ve made in soap anywhere else. If its out “there” I have not seen it and can’t claim to have copied it. That’s not to brag, but to state how I like to create. I enjoy what is in my mind and want to share it.
I watch videos on fondant, gumpaste and clay molding, then use that idea to make it into soap. Those videos are easy to find on youtube. I also thank each artist in a private email or comment. I have even sent soaps, as a ‘thank you’ to people who have inspired me. They didn’t do anything particular, but I wanted to acknowledge that I found inspiration from them and how they are in the world.
I’m stating this to be clear where I stand on copying my work. If you want to hand mold soap some copying might be necessary. Its good to practice what you see.
Once you’ve made your soap, which I suggest making a pound to begin, let it cure for 24 hours. No need to put it in the freezer. Sodium lactate is unnecessary. Unmold it and you may be able to use it immediately, depending on your water amount. I do not alter this and use the suggested rate.
I’ve found that letting it cure in a air tight bag for a few days makes the soap even smoother and more pliable. It needs to be the consistency of soft clay. A touch of silk can help.
Only take what you’ll need and keep the bulk of the soap wrapped in plastic and in an air tight bag or container. If it seems the edges are drying out, spray some water on it or put a wet paper towel in the bag.
At first touch, after its unmolded, it will feel slightly hard. Just keep working it, heating it up in your hand and squeezing the crap out of it. Its a good hand exercise, or so I like to tell myself.
When molding the soap, I spray with alcohol and water, depending on the design. Alcohol will dry. Water will moisten.
Soap behaves differently than clay, fondant or gumpaste. It does not like to stick to itself after exposed to the air and it can be immediate with some soap base. You’ll see as you work with soap in this way. Because of the lack of stickiness of soap, and the fact that it can crack as it dries, can limit designs.
The rest, now that you’ve unmolded yourself from traditional silicone soap molds, is up to your imagination. Go forth and create soap!