“NEVER give up! NEVER Surrender!” – Jacob Nesmith, Galaxy Quest
I’ve found my motto for soap challenges issued by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks.
The May challenge, Teardrop Technique, is designed to produce an elegant teardrop shape suspended in the center of the bar. This is achieved by using a slow trace formulation, removing about 25% of the raw soap for the teardrop shape (divided into individual cups of color), pouring 30% of the remaining batter into your mold as a base, then slowly and carefully pouring your colors – one on top of the other – down the center of the mold.
After applying your center color, the soap is finished off by pouring equal portions of the base-colored soap equally and at the same rate along the sides of the mold (“wall pour”) so that a classic teardrop shape forms from the pressure of the wall-poured soap edging toward the middle of the mold. Yep – what could be simpler? What could possibly go wrong?
While the Teardrop Technique instructions sound straightforward, the reality of producing a decent-looking teardrop shape it is deceptively tricky. Good thing I truly enjoy the learning process, ’cause there were a boatload of errors at first.
But remember, “NEVER give up, NEVER surrender!”
Let’s deconstruct my efforts so that we’ll learn together…
I often try other experiments when participating in challenges. For last month’s Location Challenge, I used Indigo powder at the lye stage and CPOP-ed the soap for a deeper sky color. As I use mostly plant-based, natural colors and those results were promising, I boldly decided to CPOP again, using alkanet root in the lye stage as the base color in my first attempt (pix, L), with activated charcoal, madder root, and titanium white for highlights. I envisioned a delightful, deep purple w/a red, black and pinkish teardrop shape.
While the design result on the red-brownish bar was graphically arresting, the “smoldering volcano” look wasn’t what I had in mind. Plus, that red-brown color was….eh. Biggest mistake was the consistency of my color pours – Amy warned that we’d be tempted to over-blend/thicken the raw soap, but coupled with titanium white’s quick set-up, I was left with an unhappy glop that simply wouldn’t pour smoothly. :(
Attempt #2: I returned to using natural indigo powder at the lye stage + much less titanium white (with cocoa and charcoal powders). While I like the base soap blue (CPOP, again), I belatedly realized that I had poured the bottom layer too shallowly + allowed it to set-up too long, resulting in the poured colors sitting on top of that layer instead of breaking though. Alas! Once more I was left with a volcano theme – some even looked to have funnel clouds arising (though I did like how the soap tops came out).
Attempt #3: Time to simplify: My third attempt used a different slow trace formulation, no lye-stage color, and no CPOP. Instead of pouring the colors from paper cups (difficult to control flow), I opted for increasing my recipe slightly so that I had enough color to put in squeeze bottles (made pouring far more consistent).
In the pix to the L, the squeeze bottle colors are prepped (plain, charcoal, safflower, and madder root), plus the mold is 30% full of base color with the remaining base color divided evenly into two containers for the wall pour.
There were other challenges: For whatever reason, the consistency of the middle pour seemed to blossom out in a curious way. The most difficult aspect of this technique was, undoubtedly, trying to get the consistency of each stage and color exactly right – too thick, and the pours are for naught (as demonstrated by my first attempt). Too thin and the colors run. Yeesh.
Distressed that yet another attempt appeared to be going south, I finished off the steps for the technique and tried to figure out options for finishing off the top.
Remember “NEVER give up, NEVER surrender”? Well, at this point I was pretty much, like, “SCREW it – may as well have some fun!”
Having a set of squeeze bottles (still relatively full of soap) opened up other design possibilities.
And…ya know, third time was a charm. You can actually see the teardrop shapes in the center of the soaps to the R. I’m also really pleased that the sides of the teardrops are smooth, not all jaggedy. The top circles are pretty fun, too.
Friend Cheryl McCutchen wants me to call these Psychedelic Psuds. Too bad I didn’t use Patchouli as a scent – if I ever attempt these again, perhaps I will. You just never know with me.
Remember, friends, “NEVER give up, NEVER surrender!”
Now go watch Galaxy Quest. Really. You won’t regret it. Your kids will like it too (even if they don’t know what Star Trek is.)
Thanks, again, Ms. Amy Warden for setting up such an intriguing challenge! And if you, dear reader, are a participant in the Teardrop Technique, let me know which soap entry is yours.
Peace Out, friend!