Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Terra Crystal Gem Soap : Tutorial

Terra Crystal Tutorial

This is a tutorial for making layered crystal gem soaps.  This is an intermediate difficulty soap, you should be solid with the fundamentals of melting, adding color and adding fragrance to clear soap before you try this.

This tutorial is intended to show the methods used to achieve the visual effects of this bar and to share the love of a type of soap crafting where there are no mistakes or wrong answers (provided you know how to make a solid layered soap).

For this particular batch, I melted 10 lbs of crystal clear M&P that I will pour layer by layer into a pyrex 9"x15" cake pan.  Fragrance is an earthy blend of patchouli, ginger root and vetiver essential oils that colored my base a light yellow, a few drops of ultramarine blue were needed to neutralize the yellow a bit.  For colors, I am using 5 different micas: dark copper, light silver, grey silver (or antique silver), hi-lite red and last a dreamy one called Travel to Mercury from a company called TKB.  Also I am using 3 different oxide pigments, a light red, a dark brick red and black.


So lets start our first layer, a bright strong mica: Travel To Mercury.  For this I used 1 and 1/2 cups of melted soap.  I prefer to use water with most micas.  This layer I made a nice strong color, enough to just hide the tip of my spatula as I mixed it.  You can enlarge these images by clicking on them.

And into our mold/pan it goes, with a little spritz of alcohol to remove bubbles.  Next I fan the layer to help it form a skin faster.  While that is cooling, I mix up 1 cup of dark copper and 1 cup clear, setting them aside for a moment as I texture the first layer.
When the skin on the first layer is thick enough to flex without breaking, use your hand to move it around and create an uneven, wrinkled surface.

A note on micas at this point.  Moving the liquid around in this layer not only makes for pretty wavy lines in between layers, it helps your mica shine from every direction.  When left to cool on it's own the mica will look glittery from the top and bottom, while the sides are a dull flat color.  The reason for this is that the little flakes in the mica all lay down if left in a liquid.  When we wrinkle this surface we are also setting up or solidifying the soap as well, essentially freezing all those little flakes as they point in all directions like a photo of confetti in the air.
So then, back to the copper and clear.  I want them to be cool enough to swirl together, but I did hurry it a bit and mixed the colors while they were still pretty warm.  First a spritz of alcohol and then I pour on the clear.  Next I add the copper gently, moving it around the pan and swirling it and the clear with a spatula.


Just as with the first layer, I fan this off to help form a skin and then wrinkle it up with my hand, careful not to mix the copper and clear together too much.

Next is a thin layer of black, again 1 cup of melted soap.  Spritz and pour, but this time take a knife and make cuts into the first couple of layers, working the liquid soap into the cuts.

I am holding the knife at an angle, working the blade up and down as I cut being careful to work out any air.  I make around a dozen of these in different directions and angles.  Here is a video of me doing the knife work in the next layer (if you listen hard, you can hear how my son carries on when gaming online with his friends lol).


     

That color was hi-lite red with a dash of dark red oxide and black oxide, again 1 1/2 cups. This time I made the mica a bit more mellow, just deep enough that I can see my spoon when I submerge it into my base.

This is the basic pattern for the next three layers.  Pour it, make some cuts into the preceding layers, fan it, wrinkle it.  In this particular soap, the next three layers are 1. clear with just a hint of Antique Silver, 2. Strong Silver with a dash of light red oxide, and 3. another black layer.  These layers were all between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 cups. The cuts made with the knife over these layers makes for some stunning diagonal lines in the finished product.
Now there is just enough clear left to fill the pan right to the top, but before we do there is one last little wow factor to throw in.
This is a deep red mica from Wholesale Supply Plus (WSP) called rouge mixed with some glycerin.  It is thick enough to leave a trace when you lift you spoon or spatula out of it.  Now we are going to spread just a tiny bit of this around on the black layer using a foam brush (also called a poly brush).  You want to be very careful here, too much will ooze out from between the layers in the final product or worse yet, keep the top layer from bonding.  You want just enough to leave a slight color.  Here are some pics of me spreading it:



Now we will add a thick layer of clear to act as a window for this pretty red.  As usual, a little spritz of alcohol is needed then I pour the clear over a spoon, being very careful not to disturb the mica we just painted on there.


And there she is!  Now for the really hard part...waiting for it to cool!  I strongly suggest letting it cool naturally.  If you try to hurry it by putting in a refrigerator or freezer the middle will still be warm and soft while the outside is rock hard making it more difficult to take out of the pan.   So an hour or so later, it's time to see what we have in there.  If you didn't forget to spray alcohol in between layers, it is pretty easy to take it out of the pan using a rounded bread knife and a cookie spatula.  First, take the knife and work around the edge of the pan, going as deep as you can without cutting into the soap.

Obviously, you want to be extremely careful when using a knife like this.  I like to use a rounded tip because it makes fewer marks on the side of our soap.  Once you have gone around the pan and separated the sides and maybe even pried the bottom a bit we move on to a tool that was just made for this.  well it was made for cookies but it works superbly for our needs here.


Turning the pan upside down I very gently work the spatula back and forth using gravity to assist in pulling the bottom of the soap away from the pan.  Don't be alarmed if some of the cuts that we made earlier seem to be opening from the process, you can seal them shut again with your hands (another reason not to hurry the process in the 'fridge).   The 'cake' of soap should be flexible enough to pop out once you can get your hands in to grab one end.  Now for my absolute favorite part...cutting it into bars!  I take my long bread knife and cut the 'cake' into strips, holding the knife at an angle.  By cutting at an angle, you are providing a much broader window into the layers than you would get by cutting them into straight bars and of course it looks more like a crystal that way too.  You can vary the thickness of these strips to make for different shapes if you like.


Once you have cut your strips, it is time to cut bars from them.  Again, an angled cut makes for a nice crystal look and gives a better view of the layers.




Lastly, I cut off any sharp edges or corners as I like to wrap these in a clear plastic wrap.  The trimmings can be saved for embedding into another soap or if they are warm enough you can mush them together like a snowball.

The important thing to remember here is there are no mistakes, just unintended prettiness.  You can vary this method in lots of different ways  to create some truly stellar soaps.  Try different colors, different thickness in layers etc.  One warning about using a knife to create those diagonal lines: if you make too many there is a good chance that chunks will want to fall off, especially in the bottom layer.  You can just trim off anything you don't like of course, but the more you save the more you have.  It may take a couple of tries to get it down pat, so don't get discouraged!

  Depending on how large you cut your bars, you can get an average of 25- 30 bars from a soap brick this size.  You can use any size pan you like of course, but I recommend Pyrex because metal can get scratched up and leave flecks of metal in your soap when trying to work it out of the pan with a knife. 

I hope that this will encourage you to try some different approaches to melt and pour soap crafting and share these methods out of love of the art.  Create freely, with joy and love!  Please do share pictures of your own experiments and successes.


Guest Post by Thomas, aka Mr. ADKaromatherapy.
This soap is available for purchase -----> HERE