Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Zen and the Art of Soaping?

I have never been referred to as a "relaxed person," unless the person referring to me is being sarcastic. And I want to be perfect, which, of course, is impossible. The ever-present threat of impending imperfection (gasp!) hanging over me makes me nervous.

See, I am a planner. I have a very clear picture in my mind of how I want something to look, or how I want something to go. If things go awry, it throws me off. As you can imagine, I am thrown off a lot.

Soaping throws me off sometimes. I will go into a project with a vision -- sometimes I even sketch out a picture first. I consider how many layers I want, how many ounces I want total in my 2.5-pound loaf mold, and then figure out how many ounces of each layer I need.

And it will be beautiful. It has to be beautiful.

Well ...

It would be nice if everything was always beautiful all of the time. But it's not, even when you plan, plan, plan, as if planning is some sort of vaccination against disappointment.

Take this horrifying specimen, for example:
This soap was supposed to depict a dolphin frolicking in the surf. I made a sparkly dolphin embed and shredded some blue and white soap to look like frothy waves ...

Not so much. Sorta, maybe?

It has discolored a bit too, making it even more disgusting. Now, I made this dolphin soap a long, long, long, loooong time ago when I was only a couple of months into soaping. All of the other soaps from this time period were used up eons ago. Why do I still have this particular bar, then? Because for all of this time, I have been too embarrassed to put it in the bathroom's soapdish or even in my own shower. This poor bar cannot be saved. But it can be remelted and re-molded and turned into something new, although it's getting pretty old and may not melt so well. (It still smells good, though, like coconut!)

Fast-forward to just a couple of weeks ago when I made a honeysuckle soap. I had planned to have a layer of pale yellow with yellow and orange chunks, a layer of clear with flower cut-outs floating inside, and another yellow layer with chunks.


That didn't happen. The chunks stuck out of the first layer and would have intruded into my clear layer. If I poured more yellow to cover the tops of the chunks, the symmetry of the whole bar would be thrown off. So, I abandoned the idea of doing a clear-with-flowers layer in the middle and decided to just do an entire bar of yellow with chunks and then top the bar off with a thin clear layer with some pretty little flowers embedded on top. Even though it was not what I had planned to do, this happy mistake turned out very nicely (way better than that pathetic dolphin soap):
Lesson learned: Don't try to force things. If it's not working out, take it in a new direction and go with it. Relax, it will be fine, and it will probably turn out pretty anyway. Not all mistakes spell disaster. You may be pleasantly surprised when things take a an unexpected turn -- things may turn out way better than what you had pictured in your mind's eye to begin with.

Or you might be not-so-pleasantly-surprised.

But with glycerin soaping, at least you can always remelt if everything just goes to heck.

Oh, if only life were as forgiving as glycerin soaping ...

Hey, maybe there's a life lesson here that can be applied beyond the realm of soaping?

Nah ...