I could not stay in bed this morning, just had to get up and cut up yesterdays soap to see what I got. Soap making is so wonderful, nothing is totally predictable and you never know how each batch is going to turn out. That can be good and can be frustrating too but my experience is that, even if your ideas don't turn out exactly as you wanted you usually get something good. Its this journey of discovery that is my main driver in the business making me go on trying out more ideas and new ways of creating them.
I have been thinking about this particular idea for a long time. I live in East Devon, very near to the World Heritage designated stretch of coastline called the Jurassic Coast. This stretches for 95 miles from East Devon (Exmouth) to Dorset with rocks recording 185 million years of the earths history. Quite an amazing place and I really wanted to mark this somehow, in soap! My favorite bit is the cliffs and beach at Budleigh Salterton, the river Otter snakes its way down joining the coast here and it it a truly breathtaking place. The beach is characteristically covered in wonderful elliptical pebbles, part of the ancient pebblebeds from the area, the cliffs are red and very dramatic and the sea is quite often stained red on rough stormy days. I believe the cliffs are red because they were once sand dunes and form part of the Triassic section of the Jurassic Coast. I wanted to capture a slice of this scene.
So how to do this. I needed to make pebbles, lots of them! But rolling lots and lots of balls of soap takes ages and anyway I could not then create the way the pebbles look. They are really beautiful, reds, pure white, black, greys and almost cream. lots have streaks, dots, lines and spots in them so how to get that effect? I had to think hard
I decided to roll out chunks of CP soap that I had already made in advance especially for this project, goats milk soap but left absolutely natural in colour. Each roll was coloured using ground charcoal, red oxide and yellow oxide which seemed to make sense to me as they are all natural earthy pigments. Some rolls were split down the middle, covered with a light dusting of colour and put back together so I could get lines. These would be placed in the soap to create the pebble effect.
I decided I wanted a mixture of warm, summer like scents evocative of suncream, ice creams and warm skin as well as a fresh, ozone kind of smell to represent sea breezes and beautiful skies. Discolouration might be a problem as I chose to use sandalwood and vanilla, so I only scented the cliff section thinking that if it is going to go brown on me (because of the vanilla) that would not matter too much. The Gracefruit scent "Rice Flower" http://www.gracefruit.com/ was my ozone choice. Its really light, a bit floral and very fresh, I love it. Like most floral scents it goes very fast in CP soap, I knew I would have to work fast and be careful, so I only used this in my last layer, the sky.
So how did it turn out? I am so pleased, it looks great and smells so beautiful. I know its going to change, I think the cliffs will get darker and the sky will change too. I did want to get more white into the sky and swirl a bit but the Rice Flower set so quickly I only just had enough time to get it into the mold!
I know soap makers always talk about cutting up the soap, I thought you might like to see how I do this so here's a step by step for this project, you can see how exciting it is to finally reveal the hidden design inside.
The side of my plywood mold (made by my lovely boyfriend) has now been clipped off and the teflon liner slides out easily.
I then peel back the liner to begin to reveal the various layers of this soap. I wanted to create quite simply a slice through the scene revealing the sea at the bottom swirling around a pebble beach with the lovely red cliffs in the background and a dramatic sky above - well that was the aim!
OK, now we begin to see a slice emerge, not the complete thing yet as this is just the very end of the loaf cut off to give me a good straight edge to start to measure out my bars. It is giving an idea of the finished thing though............ I think. Im still holding my breath at this point.
Now I carefully measure of one inch sections of the loaf which, when cut will provide me with 2 bars for each slice, 44 in total.
And start to cut, the two end pieces are at the back of the loaf, still not sure of the final look yet.........
And there it is, a slice of Jurassic Coast soap inspired by Budlegh Salterton!! Yipee, its nice, I think. I wish some of the pebbles were a bit darker but I like the stormy look of the sky and the swirly sea round the lower pebbles, exactly what I wanted!
The finished loaf, all cut up, ready for trimming and curing. I cant tell you how nice it smells, its exactly what I wanted, the sandalwood really comes through and the ozone sky gives a sunny lift. I really love it, think this might be a keeper - What do you think?