Now that I have lots of new pieces made and photographed (although not yet listed – but I will shortly, I promise!), have caught up with orders and have deadlines looming at me, I’m planning on spending the weekend working on a couple of one off ‘exhibition’ pieces.
I’m planning on submitting a piece of handmade jewellery for inclusion in the Contemporary Wearables awarded exhibition which is held every two years in Australia. I’ve had work featured in the exhibition a couple of times previously and it’s always a great excuse to get myself working on something more conceptual in nature than my production work.
Plus I’m hoping to make a related pendant which can be photographed for submission to a forthcoming book of 500 pendants by Lark Books.
For months now I’ve had an idea floating around in my head to do with secrets and sentimentality – and the idea of partially concealing and revealing secrets. This idea has been through several incarnations and somehow has ended up with me wanting to make a piece using … soap.
My finished piece will have several panels of carved/sawpierced soap – similar to the trial pieces above – which will be set on top of silver panels. The silver will have text and possibly some images etched into it – some of my secrets, which will be partially seen through the carved out spaces in the soap, but not enough that anyone will know what they are (unless, of course, they destroy the soap panels!).
The pattern I’m using for the soap carving is one that I’ve become fairly obsessed with in recent months, as those who have been paying attention might have noticed! It’s an old ironwork pattern and I’m completely in love with it – every time I go looking for a new pattern to use for something I always seem to come back to this particular one.
I’ve found the soap to be interesting to work with – and difficult in some ways.
The white soap above is great to actually carve as it’s lovely and soft. However, unfortunately it’s cheap supermarket soap and the perfume was so strong, fake and invasive that it made me want to leave home – I found it really difficult to get rid of after I’d been working with the soap. I’ll be happy to never smell that particular type of soap again!
I also found that particularly when it’s quite thin the soap is brittle and can break easily, as you can see happened to my first trial piece. I’ve since managed to complete one which has stayed in one piece, but I’m not entirely happy with it as it’s a little bit too fragile. However, I do love the milky white colouring.
It took me a while to work out how to more easily work with the transluscent, amber-coloured Pears soap, but soon figured it out and realised that it’s great to work with as it’s a little bit flexible rather than brittle. Plus it smells great! But unfortunately it tends to be a bit too see-through given how thin I want the panels to be. Giving both the top and bottom surfaces a scratched finish helps to prevent seeing through it too easily, but I’m less happy with this finish.
I decided to seek some expert advice to try to get just the right soap for my needs and contacted the lovely Hiromi of soap.etsy.com, from whom I have purchased some truly delicious handmade soaps from in the past. After going through my needs with her, Hiromi made a suggestion of her new Vernal Breeze soap, which is mostly white and has a lot of oil in it to make it more flexible than brittle and powdery. And the smell is lovely!
So this weekend I plan to be sitting at my bench for many hours carving and sawing little panels of soap once again, as well as etching some secrets into panels of silver – and hopefully making a start on the construction of the piece too. The deadline to have the piece finished and photographed is early May for both the exhibition application and the book.
Wish me luck! I will of course report back here once I have a finish piece or two that I’m happy with – and might even provide a report into work in progress.