Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Say Hello to My Little Friend ...

Whew, it has been busy in the Wonder Turtle soaping kitchen! So far, I've got three craft shows coming up in October and one in November, and they all have a holiday/Christmas theme (golly, is it that time already?). So, I've been making a bunch of new holiday soaps for the shows - and maybe I'll even get around to listing them in my Etsy shop one of these days, preferably before Christmas is over.

One of my special holiday soaps this year is my little Gingerbread Man, scented with a Gingersnap fragrance oil.

It would be so much easier to use a soap mold for this, but I had a hard time finding a gingerbread man mold that I liked. Either the molds made soaps that were bigger or smaller than what I wanted, or they were similar to what lots of other folks were using. (There was one mold in particular that I saw over and over again, and, as a result, I also saw that soap over and over again.) I wanted the soap to be roughly the size of a gingerbread man cookie, so I thought, why not use a cookie cutter?

I used a gorgeous sparkly Cappuccino mica to color my melted clear soap, and poured the soap into my trusty 8x8 silicone baking pan.

After the soap hardened, I turned it out and used a cookie cutter to punch out six little gingerbread men. (My cookie cutter had a sharp edge that stuck out and made the cut jagged - I just used some packaging tape to cover it up so it wouldn't mangle my soap.)

Looks like a lot of wasted soap, right? The great thing about melt-and-pour soap is that it's never wasted. I can just cut up the leftovers and melt it down again.

These little guys are actually a lot of work, and they take their toll on my hands (if you look closely at the photo on the left, you'll see an upside-down gingerbread man in the center of my palm). No permanent damage, I'll live. After they're popped out, they're a little gummy and rough around the edges, plus I can't help but smudge them. So, I run my finger along the edges, smoothing them out. And I spritz a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol on my finger, shake off the excess, and then do a few straight sweeps over the tops to get rid of any smudges. (The alcohol evaporates very quickly and does not adversely affect the soap.)

Sometimes, surgery is necessary, and oftentimes it doesn't go well. Check out the poor little gingerbread guy over there, laying in a pile of his own gore. He's a goner. See, as I punch out the soaps, the cookie cutter can warp and give my little guys a bit of a stumpy leg. I try to exert even pressure on the cutter when pressing down, and I pause to reshape the metal every now and then. Still, sometimes a leg comes out so stumpy that I decide to sculpt it back to normalcy. I was successful with one gingerbread man, not so successful with another. Like all of the plastic surgery cautionary tales warn, once you start cutting, it is hard to stop. This project would probably be easier if I made the soap less thick, but I wanted to get as much soap into each gingerbread man as I could! My hope is that an occasional stumpy leg will lend the soap some handmade charm. I doubt it's even all that noticeable to anyone but me.

I made a similar gingerbread man soap last year, and I wanted to make these even more special this year. So, after shrink-wrapping the soaps, I put them in a cellophane bag and tied it off with some raffia. Because the gingerbread men are so small, it's difficult to put an ingredients label on the back without the edges of the label showing, so I decided to attach a cute card with all of the pertinent info on it (including a "I'm soap - don't eat me!" warning). I just hope that the card isn't too comical, seeing as it's as big as the soap itself.

Maybe I can get creative and find a more efficient way to make these. I thought that perhaps I could pour a thin layer of clear soap on the bottom of my pan and set the cookie cutters in the clear soap so that it seals the edges of the cutter. Then maybe I could just pour my gingerbread soap into the cutters and be done with it instead of popping each one out by hand, cleaning them up, and then having a bunch of soap to remelt. I'd just need six cookie cutters.

Hmmm ...