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Soap Carving - Art for Children and Adults
This article provides information on what type of soap, tools and projects are available for someone interested in soap carving.
When someone gets interested in soap carving the first questions they generally have are, "What type of soap should I use?" and, "What is the best tool to use?" Ivory is a popular soap for carving, but others will work as well. You can experiment with different brands and colors to learn how they carve and look. My very first soap carving was a green sheep. I don't even remember the soap brand, but I do remember proudly displaying my carving on a shelf for my parents.
Be sure to use a fresh bar of soap rather than an old dried out bar of soap. A dry bar is brittle and is more likely to crumble and break when you carve it. It hardens when it dries and then it takes more force to cut into it. When you use more force you are also more likely to break a chunk off.
Although a plastic knife is often used by beginning soap carvers, other tools can work better. A Popsicle stick can be shaped and sharpened along its long edge like a knife blade or on its end like a chisel. For finer work a sharp pencil works great.
For children, simple animals and fish are excellent projects. Teddy bears, snowmen, hearts and turtles all are popular. Once you have chosen the project draw a simple outline on one side of the bar of soap and slowly shave away the edge of the soap bar until it is shaped like the outline. Then begin rounding the edges until it looks good to you. Once you have it shaped, it may still have rough edges and little crumbled shavings on it. A good way to clean it up is to dip your finger in water and then gently rub all over your carving. This will make it smooth and clean looking.
You can try soap carving on your own but if you prefer to have instruction there are several ways to do so. Many communities will have arts and crafts festivals which will include some instruction on soap carving. If there is a wood carving club, contact it. Often, they will be happy to help teach a group of youngsters how to carve in soap. You can also easily find books which include soap carving patterns and instruction.
I have helped teach children to carve soap and been amazed at how well some of the children have learned and carved their projects. Some need a great deal of help and others just want you to get them started and will work very independently.
After reading this article so far, you may have the impression that soap carving is only for children. It is not just for children. Adults may want to experiment with it before they try their hand at woodcarving. It is an inexpensive and safe way to explore your talents and interests before using a knife on wood. Even if you are not
interested in wood carving, soap carving can be an art all its own. Although it is looked at mainly as a craft for children, some amazing carving has been done in soap. A well done soap carving can be incredibly complex and beautiful, almost like an ivory(not the soap) carving.
See the picture included with this article for a couple of amazing carvings done by a man with nothing but a bar of soap and a sharp pencil.
Soap carving can be great fun for children and adults. Grab a bar and give it a try.