I am so excited to share the news that we not only won our category, Best Conference Theme, in the Soapers Showcase competition at the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild (HSCG) Annual Conference, but we also won Best in Show! If you remember from our previous post (Best in Show), this is the second time in a row we have won this amazing award!! If you had told me a year ago that we would be here I honestly would have cackled in your face. For anyone who knows me, my cackle has its own character and often reaches the room before I do – so this really is saying something. I have been asked so many times to share how we did it, and I am truly honored to do so. I never would have imagined that I would have something new to provide to the soaping community, but here I am! We have also decided that this seems to be what we’re good at – making weird stuff out of soap that happens to look like real stuff – so we’re going to keep doing it! And, as an added benefit to other soapers out there, we’re going to make more of it and I’ll share how we do it here. We aren’t super quick about it – as this is a part time gig for me and a sometimes gig for mom – but whenever we make something cool I’ll share it with you and provide some practical tips for how you can actually use this in your soaps you make for sale. You’re obviously not going to spend three days making one product, but some of the techniques we use can and should be used to help make your soaps even more amazing than they already are!
Our first step was in deciding what to make for the conference. So as mom and I normally do, we went out for some brunch to talk ideas at The Virginia Kitchen in Herndon. We knew we had to top or at least equal last years winning design, and after some discussion, we also knew we didn’t want to do food again. We didn’t want to be known as the ladies who do food soaps, especially since that’s done a lot in soaps already. I had been thinking about how cool it would be to do something electronic, like a cell phone. Mom and I discussed that for a bit and then she remembered the new Whova app that the HSCG had unveiled for this years conference. It was then that our idea took root and we started planning how we would pull it off. We made a tentative plan and then a few weeks passed until we could finally get together to create it (I live in PA and mom is in VA – we’re about 2 hours from each other).
Mom arrived in PA and as soon as the kiddos went to bed for the evening we set to work creating our silicone molds. From our experience gained last year, we decided on a slower moving silicone so it wouldn’t set up on us too fast. We chose one that would set up in about an hour which should give us ample time to fix any disasters that might occur and prevent having to mold something twice. We decided that just creating a cell phone wouldn’t be enough, so we also decided to make the iPhone box as well. Mom had one on hand so she brought it with her to PA. We wrapped it in parchment paper as putting the cardboard directly into the silicone would warp the box and change the shape of our mold. Then, unfortunately for me, we discovered that the box wouldn’t stay submerged in the silicone – instead it wanted to float – so I got to hold it down for an hour until the silicone set. Thank goodness for patience and Netflix. (Pro tip: Use silicone that will set up in about 30 min rather than an hour, this will allow for fixes AND you wont have to hold whatever your molding for an hour.) Then we needed to mold the cell phone. We obviously couldn’t use the actual phone, but a phone case was a different story. We jammed some playdoh inside the case to add some weight (lesson learned from the too-light cell phone box) and to fill all the holes that are in a typical cell phone case. We didn’t want the silicone to get inside the case, we just wanted to mold the outside of the case. We then set the case inside the silicone. Thankfully, this one set in just fine and I didn’t have to hold it.
Within 12 hours the silicone was finally set enough that we were able to check out how successful our molds were. This proved slightly difficult to unmold, but eventually we popped the box and the cell phone case out of the silicone. Our molds were perfect. We then tested our molds by pouring in some basic white MP. The soaps set up nicely and the mold worked the way we wanted it to. We played around with our test cell phone until we figured out the combination of colors we wanted and the sizing of our images for the water soluble paper. Since the cell phone mold was actual size, we also needed our images to be actual size as well. I finished the images up in Photoshop and then printed them out on water soluble paper from my inkjet printer. Thankfully the images were close to perfect and I only had to fix the size once and reprint.
Once we had our images, we cut them to size and readied our soap bases; Crystal Clear MP as well as our basic white MP base. We chose the Crystal Clear base for the cell phone so we could get a fun deep purple with some glitter for the cell phone case. As we waited for that to set, we laid out a silicone pie mat and poured a very thin layer of clear base directly on the mat. We placed our finished images upside down on top of the thin layer of soap and spritzed it with alcohol. We waited for it to cool to 120′ and then added another very thin layer of white base on top of them, and spritzed that with some alcohol. Once it set up entirely, we literally peeled the whole thing off the pie mat and cut out the pieces with scissors.
Now that we had our pieces, I realized that in order to truly make it look like a cell phone, the image would need to be deep set into the cell phone case just like it is in the actual case. So I spent some time carving out the inside of the cell phone to fit our cell image.
We then used some white base as glue and pasted our cell image right inside the carved out case. We used this same technique for the cell phone box; using the white base as a glue, we pasted the pieces right on to the molded cell phone box. It was at this point that mom needed to head home to VA.
The soap had hardened up nicely, but now I needed to finish up the cell phone and the mold cell phone box. The cell phone, while awesome, still needed some finishing touches. The piece that was set inside wasn’t a completely perfect match for the case so some of the edging could be seen. I used a small paint brush and gently used some clear that I had quickly microwaved to a good working consistency (I go more by what it feels like). I painted it into the small crevice between the image of the HSCG Whova app and the phone case. This connected the two pieces, but now some of the image had been covered up through accidental drips or just over painting. Using the same tool as I had for carving out the inside of the phone, I gently smoothed away any rough edges and over painting until the phone looked the way I wanted it to look.
Now that I had a cell phone, I could concentrate on the cell phone box. This proved to be the hardest piece to work with. Since we had added the images on all sides of the box, there was now a distinct crevice between each piece, rather than the smooth edges of a regular box. I microwaved up some of the white soap base that we had used for the box, and set to work adding in extra soap between each of the pieces to build up the sides and crevices until all sides met together like a regular box. I didn’t like the roundness of the edges, and tried to keep carving the edges straighter, but it just made the newly added soap too mushy and it would slide off the side of the box. So adding the edges back up again, I decided to reuse my box mold. I poured about an inch and a half of the clear base into the mold, spritzed the box I had made with alcohol, and then pushed it as hard as I could back into the soap mold until the clear base oozed out the top and covered the bottom of the box. I then waited for it to set up. Once set, I held my breath and pulled it out of the mold and eureka! It had worked! But, if you remember, in order to get the mold, we had wrapped the cardboard box with parchment paper. So, the molded box now looked like a box wrapped in parchment paper….but I had my edges exactly the way I wanted them. Nice and crisp lines. So I then spent another hour or so carving away at the box to smooth it out on the top and sides so that they too looked like a basic cell phone box.
Entering the Competition
Mom and I decided when we entered it into the competition that we would glue the cell phone directly on to the box with additional soap so that the two pieces wouldn’t be accidentally separated or damaged with people touching it and picking it up. We kept the pieces separate until we arrived in GA (we drove) and then finished putting the two pieces together in the hotel room using a coffee mug, some extra soap base I had brought with me, and a heat gun mom had brought with her. It worked like a charm.
And then we won…AGAIN! I can hardly believe it and I am so excited to make more amazing things for all of you! Let me know in the comments any ideas or suggestions you might have for something for us to try! We’d love to test it out and see how it works.
You’re clearly not going to sell cell phones as Apple would be on your doorstep in a hot minute with a cease and desist letter – but there are definitely things you can use in your own soaps you use for sale.
- Water Soluble Paper – super easy to use and makes something ordinary look pretty extraordinary. You can use any images you want as long as YOU HAVE COPYRIGHT. So don’t go stealing images off the internet, but do take some of your own pictures (flowers in your yard, family and/or pets, neat textures or patterns you like etc.). The sky is the limit with this one. You can make it upside down in the mold as is commonly done, or you can do like we did and make embeddable pieces.
- Silicone molds – Use anything and everything to make these molds friends! We molded actual bread last year! If you want a certain texture or feel to your soap, don’t be afraid to mold it yourself. Have a cool trinket you’ve always wanted to embed into your MP or CP or hybrid soaps? Well now you can! Just mold the thing and you can make whatever nifty personal thing you want come to life on your soaps.
- Other molds – Don’t have silicone handy? Find something else you can use as a mold. For instance, with the lettuce last year we literally painted the lettuce itself with soap which made the lettuce the mold. We then peeled it off and poof, soap that looks just like lettuce. Don’t be afraid to pour soap on things…but also be prepared to lose the thing you decide to pour soap on.
- Soap Carving – That cool thing you wanted to do didn’t quite pour the way you wanted? Carve it away! Wanted some kind of texture on the tops? Carve it in there! I wouldn’t spend too much time on this as the more you handle your soaps the more money it costs you in the long run, but if you’re anal like I am you want things to be perfect. So like Tim Gunn says, “Make it work!”…use whatever tools you have at your disposal. I used a tool more commonly used for grout. Whatever works!
Alright friends, this is the longest post ever so I’ll stop chatting away – but let me know what you want us to try! We have some ideas and I can’t wait to show them to you when we get around to them, but I would love to know what you’d like to see too!