First let me just say that I have nothing but respect and awe for them members of my soaping group who queued up to take on the pointillism challenge put to us by our soap teacher, and were successful. The challenge was to choose a picture we liked and recreate this picture in soap using a method called pointillism which Cathy (our teacher) demonstrated via video on YouTube. She did it effortlessly and with a grace and talent that I know now I will never, ever have.
This is my story:
I ruminated on the pointillism challenge for quite a few days before I decided that I would attempt to do this. I saw the amazing creations that others were producing and felt that I should try to do something equally as beautiful and creative and, I admit, I felt some pressure to compete as I am one of a handful of Canadians in this group: I really wanted to ‘put us on the map’ so to speak. So I thought, and I searched and then I found this lovely picture by Mandy Burand that I thought was a lovely blend of abstract art in the style of the Group of Seven. Excellent! I studied the picture, looked at the colour ‘zones’ and was fairly certain I could recreate this beautiful picture in the medium of soap. Wonderful. I had a brief vision of me sending a bar of soap to Mandy and imagining how impressed she would be to see her painting recreated in a bar of soap! Wow! How awesome!
So I began.
First I chose my colours: I would need six, I decided: Pink, orange, yellow, purple, blue and black. I rummaged through my supplies. I had all these colours but they were neon…hmmmm… well, this could be my ‘interpretation’ of Mandy’s lovely pastel pink, yellow, orange and purple. The blue was vibrant and the black, well that’s just black. Good. So I got out all my supplies, measured my oils and lye and mixed my dyes. I don’t usually use commercial dyes – I prefer using natural colourants – but had used these two years ago when I started soaping and figured I’d just use them up. After consulting with my Soaping101 cohorts, I mixed up the dye with some almond oil, but to make things just a little faster I decided to mix the dye in the squirt bottles rather than in individual cups as I had seen others do.
I hear the collective groan of many experience soapers. This was, as it turned out, a monumentally bad idea. First of all, I mixed the dyes in the late afternoon then stopped to have supper. I popped them in the bottles, mixed them with a little blender thingy I have and set them aside. When I came back I ignored my dyes and proceeded to mix my oils, lye and fragrance oil to a thin trace. That’s when I realized I’d made mistake number two. My oils and lye were mixed in an ice cream pail… without a handle. So how in the name of all things holy did I think I would be able to pour the mixture into the bottles while holding the funnel steady? Luckily I have the world’s most accommodating 16 year old son who, at my screamed request, popped a pair of rubber gloves on and held on to the bottles and funnel for me. We carefully filled all the squirt bottles and that’s when I realized why my first mistake was, indeed, a mistake. As you have probably deduced, the powdered dye had all settled to the bottom of the squirt bottle. Yeah. Have you ever tried to mix dye in a tall narrow bottle while the mixture is single mindedly trying to turn itself into soap? Suddenly I was panicking. I grabbed my wee blender again and whirred each of the bottles. The pink, yellow and orange cooperated beautifully… the black, purple and blue – or should I say grey, grey and dark grey – didn’t cooperate quite as well. With much shaking and stirring and swearing I eventually got some sort of ‘mixing’ to happen, but they were not quite the clean vibrant colours I had imagined. Oh well, I was committed by this point so onward and upwards!
Despite soap batter being slopped all over my work top, I lined up the bottles, got my mold and eyeballed my picture. I grabbed the ‘blue’ and put my first few squirts of soap into the mold… it kind of came out like thick frosting. Oh crap. I had to work faster… so I went in to high gear squirting, changing colours, squirting, eyeballing… and that’s when I realized mistake number 3.
The reason I started this by saying I take my hats off to the soapers who succeeded at the pointillism challenge, is that obviously they are much smarter than I am. You see, my mind could not make the leap from looking at the horizontal picture and then translating that to a perpendicular medium. So instead of creating a soap that, when I sliced it, would be a mini reproduction of the painting I had chosen, I was making the painting in my soap mold the same way you would draw the painting on a piece of paper. I panicked some more. I stopped thought about it again, then changed my approach… wait! Wait! No that was still wrong! So I moved on to my next colour, oh dear. I’m sure the pink and the purple didn’t touch! What am I doing!!! And that’s when it happened. That is when the picture I was using changed from Mandy Burdan to Jackson Pollack. I squirted and squirted – staring goggle-eyed at the picture, desperately willing my brain to snap into action and get the colours and order correct. But no. my brain was off listening to the hockey game in the back ground and glancing over its shoulder every once in a while saying ‘hey, don’t blame me – I don’t have a clue what you are doing’. Eventually it was over. I stared at the soap in the mold, wondered what the heck I’d just made. It smells good – maple FO – but… I don’t know, I just don’t know. So I will post a picture tomorrow evening when I have cut my soap but honestly, I have no idea what I just made…