So where did carving soap get started? What prompted people to spend their time carving soap? Is soap carving really an art?
Hand carved soap flowers were first carved in the village of Chian
Rai, in Northern Thailand. Villagers began carving soap as a hobby in
the evenings after their work was done. These soaps were then sold at
the evening bazaar along with other handcrafted items. Since carving
soap added to their incomes, carving soap became a profitable pass time.
As carved soap caught on in popularity, others began trying out their artistic abilities on bars of soap. In order to carve soap, it has to be soft enough that it won't flake or break off while you are carving it. The soap making process must be just right for your carving project to be a success.
Most of us think of soap as a temporary medium, and wouldn't really consider it as a medium for art, yet many artistic things are made from glass or other fragile mediums. Soap carvings are usually done in miniature, limited in size to the bar of soap used. On occasion, larger works of art have been made from soap.
The world's largest soap sculpture was made by Bev Kirk for the Ivory soap making company. She sculpted a winged pig which she titled "Sudsie, A Boar of Soap." This was carved from a block of soap five feet by five feet by six feet, and the finished sculpture weighed 7000 pounds.
I remember my mother having pretty soap flowers by our bathroom sinks. They were so pretty she wouldn't let us use them! She considered them a work of art worthy of display.
None of the soap making carvings made by my cub scouts would merit status as great works of art. Even so, we all had a lot of good clean fun creating them. Who knows, with practice, maybe someday one of my cub scouts will become a famous soap making sculptor.