Oh my goodness! There were so many inspirations for this week’s soapy project, I don’t even know where to begin! Well, first and foremost, my inspiration was kindled by YOU, my crafty compadres! A popular soapmaking contest, held in January, yielded INCREDIBLE photos on social media of insanely gorgeous landscape designs, made by some phenomenally talented soap makers! Those pictures blew me away, and inspired me to want to improve in this area of soapy expertise myself! Admittedly, I’ve only made a handful of landscape-inspired soap batches in my day, and many have turned out looking more like finger paintings a proud preschooler would’ve done! Landscape soap designs have always piqued my interest, and I've always wanted to improve and grow in this area myself.
My next inspiration came from a fragrance oil! I am the biggest sucker for aromas which take me on aromatic journeys, and boy oh boy did this fragrance take me places! A soap named “Outback Mate” has always been a personal favorite scent of mine, so for the longest time, I’ve been eyeballing Nurture Soap’s duplication fragrance of it, “Eucalyptus & Mint”. I finally went for it and purchased a bottle, only to repeatedly kick myself for not getting my hands on this fragrance oil so much sooner!
The aromatic bouquet of this fragrance is divine, and is 100% identical to the scent it duplicates! There’s not even a hint of difference to my nose, and with notes of fresh eucalyptus, rejuvenating peppermint, and a dash of awakening lemongrass, this fragrance smells herbal, brisk, authentic and exceptionally revitalizing! When I close my eyes and smell this scent, I’m immediately transported to the arctic tundra, or some snowcapped mountaintop, breathing in the fresh, crisp air and feeling sublimely alive! I was inspired to use the same colors found in the original “Outback Mate” soap, which include stunning shades of blue (from the darkest of the dark to the lightest of the light), and deep emerald tones. I was also inspired to get this fragrance in a batch of soap immediately!
With inspiration beginning to stir, I began looking at landscape photos of the Arctic tundra, snowy mountains, floating icebergs and glaciers. After taking about a hundred screenshots however, I began whining to the only person who will (sometimes) listen- my husband! I felt like I hadn’t quite found the perfect inspirational photo yet, so he suggested I lookup Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. My husband was born and raised in Argentina, and the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most famous in the world. Turns out, that was “the one”! Its photographs were stunning, and I knew I wanted to create a landscape soap design with this specific glacier in mind. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned massive shards of ice, jutting out of eerily still, pristine waters; a massive wall of ice beyond that, followed by a range of mountains, so deeply blue they were almost black. Beyond the mountains would lie the sea (even though I later learned that the Perito Moreno Glacier is actually a freshwater glacier- oops!). A cheerful, blue sky with wisps of white clouds would complete this icy-fresh soap design. It was time to stop daydreaming and get to soapmaking!
GETTING CREATIVE... AND ORGANIZED!
If you’ve never made landscape designs in your soaps before, but have always wanted to give it a try, there’s one piece of advice I value above all others: Landscape soaps may look difficult, but I promise, they’re much easier than you may think! Are they a little tedious and time-consuming? They can be, but as long as you’re organized and go into your project prepared, having a clear vision of the steps you’ll take to execute your chosen design, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is! When you follow the design, step by step, taking it one section at a time, things will fall into place beautifully!
For my own batch of landscape soap, the very first step was to get some decorative melt & pour embeds made, as this batch would also feature soap frosting. I wanted each bar to have a mint leaf, colored in the fabulous “Synergy” mica, sitting right on top, alongside a sparkling blue snowflake, made with the lovely “Caribbean Blue” mica. On each side of every bar, “ice crystals” in a hypnotic shade of dark blue would look stunning. Without question, “Midnight Blue” mica was the “go-to” color for this! I happily went to work making the embeds with Nurture Soap’s Low Sweat, Clear Soap Base.
After making my decorative embeds, it was time to get organized and plan this batch from start to finish! My soap design would consist of several layers, each requiring different consistencies of soap batter to execute it, so the best way to make this project happen was to take my whole batch of soap and split it up into three smaller batches. With my first divided batch, I would make the icy-cold, crystal-clear water; the first few pieces of glacier ice, coming up, out of the water; and a teeny-tiny portion of soap batter, reserved for the purpose of creating an illusion of depth between the first soap batch and the second one.
With the second divided soap batch, the main “body” of the glacier would be made, as well as a dark mountain range behind it. The third divided batch would consist of the sea beyond the mountain range, and the sky also. A fourth batch would make the fluffy, white soap frosting, so naturally, I would need to make four different lye solutions, and four separate batches of oils. Keep in mind that in some landscape designs, such as this, some layers require sculping or stenciling which removes a portion of your soap batter. To compensate for this, I increased my total recipe size by five additional ounces, so that my soap batter would still fill my mold to the top, once completely finished.
GETTING CRAFTY & COLORFUL!
This landscape design would feature inspiration from the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier itself, and as we’ve all seen, either in pictures or in person, glaciers tend to have pointed angles and jagged edges. I’d need to make some stencils, that I could drag through my soap to create this. Using a piece of cardboard, I measured and cut two pieces, which would fit perfectly in my 2.5lb Basic Soap Mold, then cut out the jagged edges of “glaciers”. I made two cardboard stencils; one for the forefront of the glacier, with its pointy edges which would protrude out of the water; and another for the background of the glacier, which from a distance, appears less jagged and harsh. I worried about the pointed edges on my stencils becoming bent as I dragged them through my soap batter, so to reinforce their “pointiness”, I attached toothpicks! The stencils themselves didn’t look pretty, but they sure did the job!
As my multiple batch oils and lye solutions continued to cool down to room temperature, I continued preparing for my icy-cold, soapy theme by getting my mica colors dispersed in a bit of carrier oil. There were so many colors and color blends, it helped to stay organized by marking each mica with its batch number... That way I could easily remember which colors I wanted to use, and for what! For my first batch, “Tropical Teal”, “Blue Vibrance”, “Midnight Blue” and “Synergy” micas would be used to create my layer of frigid water. For the first section of the glacier, “Blue Vibrance”, “Caribbean Blue” + “Synergy” and “Proud Peacock” micas, blended with “Winter White” mica, made for the perfect combination of colors! A little extra “Blue Vibrance” mica would make a stunning shade in which to add to that small amount of reserved soap batter, which would create the appearance of depth within the design.
For the second batch of this project, even lighter shades of blue were created by blending more “Winter White” mica with the sensational shades of “Caribbean Blue”, “Tropical Teal”, and “Blue Vibrance” micas. These colors would represent the glacier in the background of this landscape scene. To create the ominous, yet beautiful, mountain range beyond the glacier, no other color would be more fitting than “Dark Navy Blue” mica! This mica is so richly, regally and deeply blue, it’s a shade that would be positively perfect for this part of the soapy theme!
The third batch for this project’s design would include the “sea” beyond the mountains (As mentioned earlier, this was before I found out Perito Moreno Glacier is actually located in Lake Argentino, but both are large bodies of water, so it works!), as well as the sky. The ever beautiful “Sky Blue” mica was chosen to represent the vast body of water which meets the horizon; and the sky would be a blend of “Blue Vibrance” mica with a little more “Winter White” mica. As you can probably guess by now, I kinda have a “thing” for “Blue Vibrance” mica! I just can’t help it... Not only is it one of my most favorite, most dependable shades of blue, it’s also a staple color that looks amazing, either blended or all on its own!
ONE STEP AT A TIME!
For anyone who’s never created a landscape scene in their soapy creations before, I can definitely relate to that initial feeling of intimidation. Looking at the whole picture, it can be easy to feel this way, but when you take a step back and break the design down, layer-by-layer, step-by-step, the bigger picture begins to appear much less overwhelming and completely doable! My lye solutions and batch oils had both cooled down to room temperature, so one step at a time, I was ready to start creating the landscape portrait I could clearly see in my mind’s eye.
The very first step to executing the first batch was to get the “water” layer of the design poured. Carefully adding my lye solution labeled “#1” to my batch oils labeled “#1”, I blended the soap batter to just past emulsion, then separated the batch into three portions, which would eventually become the water, the front of the glacier, and that very small accent of blue, which would add a bit of depth to the picture. Working with just my “water” portion, I split this into four smaller portions, which I colored with “Synergy”, “Midnight Blue”, “Tropical Teal” and “Blue Vibrance” micas. I also incorporated this portion’s share of “Eucalyptus & Mint” fragrance oil, and let me just tell you... This fragrance behaves so exceptionally well, and smells so amazingly minty-herbal-fresh, my whole kitchen smelled incredible, and I was able to take my time, getting each layer poured at my own carefree pace! I positively LOVE this fragrance oil!!
It was time to get that very first layer poured, so working while my soap batter was at a beautifully fluid trace, I poured my “water” in a vertical drop-swirl. You might be asking yourself, “Well, I’ve heard of a drop-swirl, but what’s a vertical drop-swirl?”. A vertical drop-swirl is when the soap batter is poured up and down, width-wise, in your loaf mold, rather than horizontally, down the length of the mold. When a drop-swirl is poured up and down the length of the mold, that’s when you see those big dollops and swirls of color throughout the soap bars. When poured up and down the width of the mold though, a drop-swirl poured this way will create thin wisps of color throughout the bars when cut. Since I wanted the water portion of this project to appear still, with ripples rather than waves, a vertical drop-swirl just seemed right for this pour!
With the water layer of my batch poured, it was time to move on to making the front of the glacier itself! Using the next portion of soap batter from this first soap batch, I split the batter into three smaller portions, then incorporated those lovely, soft, blue micas, along with some more “Eucalyptus & Mint” fragrance oil. For this part, I did an in-the-pot-swirl, then used a spatula to carefully break the fall of the layer over the previous one. This layer would need to set up a bit to be able to drag one of my homemade “glacier” stencils through it, so I gave it a little time to set up to the perfect consistency.
Once the soap batter set up to a consistency where it would hold its shape, I took the more jagged “glacier” stencil I’d made and carefully pulled it though the layer of soap. Using stencils in one’s soapmaking projects is a fun and easy way to add some beautiful shapes and textures to your soap designs! Once you’ve pulled your stencil all the way down the length of the mold, simply pull the stencil up to scoop out the excess soap batter. That’s all there is to it, and you can use the straight side of the stencil to clean up the ends and sides of the mold too!
For the very last detail of the first batch, I grabbed that small portion of reserved soap batter (about an ounce), and colored it with “Blue Vibrance” mica. Being careful to pour this portion over the lowest “peaks” of my makeshift glacier only, this small amount of soap would be the perfect added touch to make it appear as if the glacier was truly coming up out of the water! As mentioned earlier, it also would help to create the illusion of depth, so that my next glacier layer would appear as if it were behind the first layer, not sitting right on top of it. When it comes to making landscape designs in your soaps, sometimes the tiniest details can have the biggest impact on how authentic your sudsy scene looks!
SECOND VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST... KINDA!
My first batch was complete, so it was time to move on to batch “#2”! This batch would have two layers: The second half (or background) of the glacier, and a dark, blue mountain range in the distance. As I had done with the first batch, I carefully added the lye solution to the batch oils, then blended the soap batter to a light trace. Because “Eucalyptus & Mint” fragrance oil behaves so well in cold process soap, I also went ahead and incorporated it into the batch, prior to incorporating the colors. I knew now that it wasn’t going to cause any mischief, and to be completely honest, I’m just thoroughly obsessed with this scent! It didn’t just make me feel revitalized, rejuvenated and refreshed, but it actually helped to clear my sinuses too! It really is a delightfully fresh and cleansing aroma!
I divided this second batch into two equal-ish portions, then divided one of those portions into three smaller ones. I then colored these three smaller portions with my lighter blue micas. Similar to the first batch, I used a blend of “Tropical Teal”, “Caribbean Blue” and “Blue Vibrance” micas (all blended with “Winter White” mica) to create varying shades of light blue, but these colors were blended with even more “Winter White” mica to make this “glacier” appear lighter than the one before it. With these picturesque blues, I poured another in-the-pot-swirl, then poured this directly over the previous layer.
This layer needed time to set up as well, so that I could use the second, less “pointy” stencil to create the ridges of the glacier. As soon as it reached a consistency where it would hold its shape, I repeated what I had done with the first glacier layer, and gently pulled the stencil through the soap batter, all the way down the length of my loaf mold. After scooping the excess soap batter out, I again used the stencil’s straight edge to clean up the ends and sides of my mold.
Moving on to the second layer of the second batch, I colored the next portion of soap batter with the fabulous “Dark Navy Blue” mica, then poured this over the previous layer. This layer would also need a little time to set up, but I could admire this mica color in soap all day long if I had to, so I didn’t mind one bit! I did discover that my camera hates blues and greens together in the same photograph though! It just doesn’t seem to want to photograph either color correctly, so when I tried to correct this via editing, it only made things worse! Every time I edited my blue tones to accurately depict the colors I was seeing in person, the green tones would get thrown out of whack. When I’d correct the green tones though, the blue tones would go a funky shade on me again. I just couldn’t win with this one, and it’s times like these which remind me of how badly I want to take a photography class!
As soon my “mountain” layer set up, I got to work, using the back of a spoon to gently sculpt and dig out a glorious mountain range. This is the part of the project where you can really let your imagination run wild, sculpting a range of mountains any which way you desire! I have to admit, there was something immensely satisfying about using a spoon to play around with my soap batter... I felt like a kid all over again, only this time, I was holding on to hope that this particular landscape design wouldn’t look like a preschooler’s finger-painting project!
BEYOND THE HORIZON
After getting my mountain range sculpted and shaped, it was time to move on to the third, and final, batch (minus the soap frosting, of course)! This last batch would consist of a large body of water (be it a lake, sea, or ocean) beyond the mountains; as well as a crisp, blue sky, complete with wispy, white clouds. One last time for this stage of the project, I carefully added the lye solution to the batch oils, stick blended the soap batter to a light trace, incorporated more “Eucalyptus & Mint” fragrance oil, then divided the batch into two portions. To the portion which would represent the body of water, the ethereal “Sky Blue” mica was blended in, then poured directly overtop the mountain range; just enough to leave some taller peaks poking up though the soap batter.
To create the sky with the last portion of soap batter, I divided it into two smaller portions, and again, used my favorite blue blend (“Blue Vibrance and “Winter White” micas) to create the perfect shade for a serene, blue sky. For the clouds, “Winter White” mica was used to color the second portion of soap. I knew I wanted to pour this final layer in a drop-swirl design, but I also wanted the clouds in my sky to appear thin and feathery within the soap. As with my very first layer, I knew that if I poured my drop-swirl horizontally, across the length of the mold, I’d produce a more classic drop-swirl effect of big, colorful swirls and dollops. To ensure these particular clouds would remain fine and wispy, once again, I poured my drop-swirl vertically, up and down the width of the mold.
With my third batch complete, and all layers poured, I was feeling excitedly optimistic! I had no clue if I’d actually managed to pull off, and successfully re-create that landscape scene of Perito Moreno Glacier, which I had seen in a picture, but I had taken my time, went into the project feeling organized and prepared, and had been particularly meticulous in my organization, planning, color choices, method, steps, technique, and layers. I’ve always felt that the amount of effort one puts into a project has a profound effect on the finished results, and is reflected in its outcome, so unless the soap gods just completely hated me, some sort of resemblance of a glacier had to be present in the soaps themselves... At least I hoped so!
SNOWCAPPED SOAP FROSTING!
There’s rarely a soapy project I make where I don’t want to put a piped-top on it too, and this soap design in particular just seemed perfect for that! Like big, fluffy clouds reaching up to the heavens, or the snow-covered peaks of majestic mountains, I felt that a billowy, frosted, white top would go wonderfully with this icy-cold theme! With my fourth lye solution and batch oils, I whipped up some soap frosting, colored in “Winter White” mica, and got to work creating a sublimely copious piped-top for my loaf of soap! Once finished, nothing could have made this look more magnificently apropos than the true “icing on the cake”: “Cornflower” Enviroglitter! There’s really no way to capture the sheer brilliance and full beauty of Nurture Soap’s Enviroglitters in a picture, but in the flesh, this earth-friendly glitter is positively enchanted!
For the truly final step of this project, I lovingly placed my melt & pour embeds atop my shimmery soap frosting: A refreshing mint leaf, snuggled up to a delicate snowflake; and deep, blue “ice crystals” on either side. My project of glacial proportions was complete! It was time to get this batch insulated for the night, but I couldn’t wait to see what morning (and the cut!) would bring!
THE BIG PICTURE!
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more apprehensive about cutting a batch of soap in my life! I truly didn’t know if this was going to be a successful blog post, or a “Well, at least I tried!” one! Thankfully, my affirmation of a project’s outcome always reflecting the effort in which one puts into it still remains intact! I was absolutely elated when I cut my soaps and could clearly see each element of the scenic landscape design I had hoped to create in my soaps! Crystal-clear, frigid waters; formations of ice, protruding up, out of the water; the jagged formations of an ancient glacier; lithic mountains, looming in the distance; a deep, blue sea beyond; and a clear, blue sky, where fine wisps of white clouds lazily floated by... It was all there! To tie the whole design together, mentally taking me to this magical place, by way of an exquisitely awakening, aromatic journey, was the fragrance oil itself: “Eucalyptus & Mint”!
The magic of soapmaking is that oftentimes, we can’t see the bigger picture until it’s fully complete. I think that’s one of the beauties of it too! I mean, if all we ever saw was the bigger picture, the end result, perhaps we’d be more hesitant to try new things, and grow in our experience and skill of this craft. You may look at a soap design and think, “Oh that’s too difficult. I’ll never be able to do that!”, but when you see (and then put into practice) the steps it takes to accomplish that which you thought you’d never be able to, you begin to realize it wasn’t so difficult after all! The very first “high-top” soap I ever saw, my first and immediate thought was, “There’s no way I’ll ever be able to make something like that!”.
Although I would NEVER eat an elephant, not even for a million dollars (because elephants are earth angels), there’s a popular saying which asks, “How do you eat an elephant?”. The answer to this is: One bite at a time! Although it makes me sad to even fathom eating an elephant, the actual meaning behind this is true for everything you set out to do! How do you improve in your knowledge and skill of soapmaking? One step at a time! How do you make a landscape scene in a batch of soap? One layer at a time! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will always arrive at that destination you set out to reach! Happy steps forward, my incredible fellow crafters!
RECIPE USED FOR THIS PROJECT:
- Lye @ 5% Superfat
- Aloe Juice @ 33.33% Lye Concentration (2:1/Liquid: Lye)
- 40% Olive Oil
- 30% Coconut Oil
- 10% Castor Oil
- 10% Cocoa Butter (Deodorized)
- 10% Shea Butter
- Sodium Lactate @ 3% Usage Rate
- Eucalyptus & Mint Fragrance Oil @ 6% Usage Rate
*See Below for Mica Colorants Used
SOAP FROSTING RECIPE USED FOR THIS PROJECT:
- Lye @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water @ 33.33% Lye Concentration (2:1/ Water: Lye)
- 40% Olive Oil
- 30% Coconut Oil
- 10% Castor Oil
- 10% Cocoa Butter (Deodorized)
- 10% Shea Butter
- Eucalyptus & Mint Fragrance Oil @ 6% Usage Rate
- Winter White Mica @ 2tsp/PPO
- Cornflower Enviroglitter
- Melt & Pour Snowflake Embeds in Caribbean Blue Mica
- Melt & Pour Mint Leaf Embeds in Synergy Mica
- Melt & Pour Jewel Embeds in Midnight Blue Mica