“Soap sculpture is fun…[and in] emphasizing the big forms and ‘avoiding gingerbread’ it is good training in basic scuptural principles.”
Oh, not real gingerbread – that stuff is delicious. The Homemaker’s Encyclopedia (1952) just means that you shouldn’t make lacy gingerbread-trimming designs when you are doing your soap sculpture. Don’t attempt to carve a filigree Christmas ornament or a lace mantilla or anything.
Maybe you could carve a banana. Or a fishie… Just calm down, children, I promise we can start very soon!
There’s a whole chapter in the Hobbies For Everyone volume of the Homemaker’s Encyclopedia on how to have hours and hours of fun sculpting with soap.
Here’s what you need: a bar of soap (duh) and a penknife and some orangewood sticks “or even sharpened lollipop sticks.” That sounds fun already, sharpening a lollipop stick. I can’t wait to try that.
And then you have to “prepare the soap.” Don’t forget that it “should be thoroughly dry before being used.” Oh…okay. You know, if you think you can carve an eagle out of the wet stuff that sits in the shower soap dish, you probably shouldn’t be sharpening a lollipop stick. Or going anywhere near a penknife. But never mind, let’s press on, shall we?
Don’t forget to pick a simple design! Eagle, yes; lobster, no. Rough out the design, keep turning the soap around “keeping the general shape of the piece in mind.” Then carve the high points (the shallow carving) and the low points (where you carve in deeply and the whole damn thing breaks). I would be having a few low points by now, all right.
And when you are done you let it sit for a day or so. “Study it often.” (Why? Why should I study it often? How bored do they think I am? Wait, never mind…)
Then you can polish it with first a paper napkin or Kleenex, and then with your fingers and palm “to produce a soft finish and bring out the highlights.” Just the way Michaelangelo did.
My favorite part of this chapter is the last bit which is entitled “Some practical uses for soap sculpture.” And you thought there weren’t any!
Why, of course there are. The soap pundits at the Homemaker’s Encycopedia suggest that you carve a little boat, varnish it, stick “a small mast with a sail” on it, and plop it in “any nearby pond or stream.” (I guess this rules out us city kids – I’d have been forced to drop mine in the East River). And then you can race your soap boats. I don’t know about how well the varnish would work.
Those kids in the photo look enthralled. The one standing up is inciting a rebellion. Come ON you guys, let’s get out of here! As soon as they take that damn picture! I’ll bet that boy’s going to chuck his soap sculpture in a nearby pond or stream all right.