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Decorative Soap Art

It seems incredibly strange, amazing and difficult but the miniature baby twins you just see here represent the wave of the latest artware trend which is catching fast in several countries; the carved, decorated and sculpted soaps! Within past six years the soap carving and industry have emerged as a $30 million industry in itself globally and capturing new markets every day.


Almost two decades back this art form was limited to the village of Chian Rai, in Northern Thailand, where initially some villagers started carving soaps as a time pass activity while they were not working on their farms. Those villagers basically developed the techniques of making hand carved soap flowers. Those delicate but attractive soap flowers were then sold at the night bazaars along with various other handcrafted souvenirs like ceramics, carved wood and clothing at reasonably high price. Gradually the word spread and the media started writing about this art form.

World famous artist Jean-Marc Montjarret, was already an expert in fruit and vegetable carving when he came to know about soap carving during a visit to Thailand. Montjarret decided to learn the craft and within four months not only mastered this skill, but also developed his own soap sculpting techniques to create almost real looking soap flowers. Interestingly he imports soap from several Asian countries and uses only one very sharp carving knife. There are several such soap carving experts now a days, everyone having a unique sculpting style.

Learning Soap Sculpting

This art form is mix of several sculpting styles with some ideas originating from wood, sand, clay, soap stone and fruit & vegetable carving but the result which is achieved from a raw soap is mostly mesmerizing. The soap carving experts first of all prepare a clay-like substance from flake soap by adding suffucient water make it manageable like a bread dough. So if you want to learn the technique, first learn to make this dough-like soap-clay which can be molded and shaped like regular clay. After making this soap-clay, you make start making simple cups, plates, trays, shining coloured balls and whatever seems possible.

More fascinating soap sculptures are made from actual bars of soap in following manner. You may try it for yourself. Firstly, select a soft cream soap. Make sure you have enough bars of different colours if needed. The basic tool for soap carving remains the simplest, a hard pencil, a toothpick, fork and a sharp pointed knife. You’ll also require some newspaper to collect and catch the soap pieces after you carve off them.

Now very lightly sketch the design you want to make directly onto the soap, holding it very softly to prevent its damage. Now using gentle-yet-firm motions gradually scrap away the undesired areas. Here your newspaper will help you, if you slip the soap off your grip. Keep on working and developing the design, pattern or shape you have in mind. Smoothen the roughness by sliding & rubbing your fingers over the patches. If you notice any cracks, try to use a wet toothpick to moisten the area and smooth the cracks again using fingers. After the soap sculpture is completed store it in a cool and dry location without fail. You may master this technique by regular practice and working on more complex designs.

To know more about resources, visit here.

You may visit the following sites to learn more about the modern masters of this craft and their products

Link-1Link-2Link-3, Link-4, Link-5 and Link-6.

And to see some beautiful galleries of soap carvings, please visit here : Link-1, Link-2, Link-3, Link-4, Link-5

You may take a look at the International Soap Carving Exhibition here.


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19 Responses

  1. Very interesting Sharmaji.. I loved reading the history part. And you make learning the art sound so simple that I want to give it a try (and fail at it. Ha ha).

  2. Thanks for the information!
    I m from Estonia, also do soap art. My work can be found here

  3. do you organise workshop to teach soap carving in bangalore ??

  4. Thank you for for article on Soap Carving and mentioning my work in it. I greatly appreciate. But you did not include pictures of my soap carvings.
    All the best,
    Jean-Marc Montjarret

  5. Amazing article… pics are wonderful too..Some day, I’m gonna try soap sculpting. Thanks a lot for the positive trigger Ashokji…

  6. Amazing!! I remember one of your earlier posts on tree art. The pictures were so amazing, I just have no words for them. There is something divine in art. If I tell my own case, when I finish a painting and look at it, I am like….’I couldn’t have done this. God did it for me.’ Its His hand everywhere. We just have to pause and look around.

  7. beautiful art, i liked the pics especially

  8. I remember during school days we used to carve board chalks to different shapes of faces or horses etc. just for fun. If one can see, there is art in every object and that is what this article tells us. Thanks Ashok ji for showing us the incredible world of soap art.

  9. Sir,
    This is one of the faces of human creativity,so intelligently composed by you. I must regret one thing, that the God given creativity in every human being is getting spoiled by the self-destructive things prevailing in the world today. I read in newspaper one day, that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the terrorist from Pakistan ,who was captured in Mumbai for killing many people was dazed to see Rakhis tied to hands of people on Rakha bandhan day. He forgot all the proceedings against him on that particular day in the court and made repeated queries that what was the so beautiful thing and why so many people tied it to their hands.

  10. very cool art Ashokji. Art flourishes only when it is encouraged, thank you for bringing these wonderful art creations to the forefront.