If you are a soaper or are aware of the soap community, you might have heard of The Soap Challenge club by Amy Warden. It's a monthly subscription where soap makers participate in a soap challenge in different categories. The techniques are taught by a guest instructor and makers have a month to work on their entries and then vote for their favorites. At the end of a challenge, winners win prizes provided by a monthly sponsor. Also, runner ups get recognition as well.
For over a year I had been wanting to participate and it was always the same: "I just don't have the time!". Well, it might have been true last year when I was overwhelmed trying to learn how to manage my company and a whole other roster of events happening in my personal life. Since I have a better grasp on how to spare some time now, this was the perfect time to try my first challenge. And March's challenge was SO FRICKIN' COOL!
March's soap challenge was a clamshell technique taught by Terri Endsley of Tree Marie Soapworks. If you have ever watched her videos, you know how meticulous and sharp her designs are. Also, she has the most soothing voice overs ever. The technique consisted of a special pour technique with two or more colors in one pot being poured side to side from three different points on the mold to be able to achieve a clamshell appearance.
There were two categories: regular and advanced. Of course, I went for the advanced because I always like to complicate everything even though this is a technique I had never done before *insert crying emoji*. The regular category consisted of half a pour of the mold and the top of the loaf would be the face of the soap. So you would probably get 4-5 bars per batch if you used the same 10" mold Terri did. The advanced category consisted of a full pour loaf and it would be cut like a regular loaf, so you would get 8-10 bars per loaf depending on on how thick you like to cut your bars. The results between categories were similar but had slight nuances due to the physics of things. The advanced ones ended up more rounded and "shell-like", where as the advanced ones were a little bit more elongated, due to the weight of the pour pushing them in slightly. You could not incorporate other techniques or finish your soap tops with anything. I ended up doing three tries to get my entry soaps.
Clamshell try #1
For my first try I wanted to try a pretty pink color way, but I also wanted to experiment with a natural colorant I love: red sandalwood powder. It does a super cool color morph from terra cotta red to a deep wine color. Also, I'm obsessed with adding some mica colors. While I could not incorporate mica lines, we were allowed to add mica drizzles into the pour, so I went with my favorite copper colored mica. For fragrance, I was a bit daring. It is recommended this technique be done with a well behaved fragrance since you need as much time as possible for your pour. So of course, I went in with a fragrance I had never ever used before (but had good reviews). I used Brambleberry's Clarity FO from their Spa Retreat collection. It behaved nicely! I was able to get most of my clamshells done but this technique does have a bit of troubleshooting and I guess I was trying to get the hang of it. To my surprise, I barely got any clamshells on the inside! It looked REALLY cool though, but not good enough to enter. On to the next!
Clamshell try #2
For my second try, I went a bit literal with the colors and went for a navy-periwinkle-pink combo, almost like mother of pearl on the inside. This was my first time actually trying three colors. For the fragrance, I once again went in with a fragrance I had not tested- Brambleberry's Vitality. Really, at this point I was just trying to use up all the FOs from that collection! At first it behaved perfectly until about midway where it started to get thick on me. UGH. This is quite possibly why I had zero clamshells on the inside, but the design was absolutely like mother of pearl! I actually loved how these came out the most. Still, not goof enough for the challenge!
Clamshell try #3
Ok. THIS IS THE FINAL ONE. If I wasn't going to get it here I was giving up! I was extremely tempted to do a fragrance free version to keep the batter as fluid as possible for the longest amount of time, but I still had the urge to put some sort of scent in because at the end of the day, I am still intending to sell these and my customers prefer some scent. So I went in with Rustic Escentuals' Falling leaves. I had used it last year for a fall soap and it is just perfect for this technique because it slows down trace. I went for a mint green/savage green combo. Finally, some nicely defined scallops! I had already seen some other soapers' clamshells and I knew this one wasn't anything groundbreaking (they had me shaking in my booties to put it nicely haha), but I personally loved how they looked and at the end of the day I loved participating so I submitted this attempt. I love the whispy aspect of the clam shells and I definitely will be trying this technique further on!
All in all, I absolutely loved participating in the Soap Club. I love how we learn new techniques and get to see how others interpret it in their own way. I can't wait to participate again. Maybe next time I'll place! Ha! Congratulations to all the amazing winners and participants!