Great Cakes Soap Challenge Club Sculpted Layers Challenge

Update! (6/22/16)


Thank you to all who voted for my design! Your support means everything to me! 


Blue Moon



June – Is it really June already?  I can’t believe summer is pretty much in full swing. It feels like it snuck up out of nowhere. To be honest, I have been so oblivious to my surroundings lately that I don’t think I would have even noticed a 3,000-pound hippopotamus doing pirouettes around my backyard. I think I have pretty much ignored everything and everyone around me for the past month because I have been so engrossed and fixated… okay, obsessed …with the latest challenge for Amy Warden’s Soap Challenge Club. This month was the Sculpted Layers challenge. Our task was to create a soap design using sculpted layers. Each layer is shaped with pieces of stiff material like cardboard, plastic cutting boards, or foam core cut into specific shapes for each layer. This challenge really forced your brain into a problem-solving, analytical, calculating machine! It is one thing to create an individual soap molded into a specific design. It’s another to make that same design within the length of a mold, layer by layer so that the design is revealed only when the loaf is cut into individual bars. 

I always eagerly await Amy’s challenges each month, but this particular one has had me feeling beyond excited! If I had a tail I probably would have looked like this:


I have been excited to try this technique since I first laid eyes on Claudia Carpenter’s winning entry for the Winter Wonderland Challenge in February. I attempted the technique to a certain extent for my entry in the Location Theme challenge in April. Claudia provided quite a bit of information on her blog describing how she achieved her design and I was able to implement several of her techniques. While I was very happy with how my Colorado soap turned out, I wanted more details and more in-depth lessons on how to better accomplish the technique.

When registration for the challenge opened I felt like I had been given the key to the palace! I immediately began pouring over the tutorial, absorbing every detail I could on how to do the technique. I have mentioned before that I often have the problem of biting off more than I can chew and this project emphasized this character flaw exceptionally well. My issues began once I tried to decide on a design. I spent hours and hours pouring over ideas and found several I really liked. Unfortunately, I quickly realized my mind does not work like Claudia’s – I don’t have the engineering and computation skills to look at something and work it through like she does. I need to see the process visually so once I found a design I liked, I opened it in Photoshop and started dissecting it and formulating ways to execute it. Unfortunately, I was usually hours into the design before I realized that I was unable to make it work, at least for layered soap using this technique. I repeated this process at least 10 or 11 times before I found one that I felt would work.


This was the design I finally chose:dreamstime_1884719 copy


I knew going in that I would have to add the silhouettes of the trees and hanging leaves on after the soap was made, but even after taking that part away, The design was not as simple as it first appeared. Not only was it very detailed in some areas, but it was also pretty much impossible to pull off working the entire project from the bottom to top or even top to bottom. Why? Notice the direction of the moon’s reflection on the water – the design goes horizontally, from side to side. You can’t drag shapers/scrapers along the sides of the soap and expect the soap to stay in place. I knew I might be able to accomplish the design by building up layers of white soap in the middle and surrounding it with blue soap. I also thought it could be accomplished by sculpting an embed and placing it in the middle. Neither of these options would work, however. The first option would not allow me to control the design the way I wanted. The second option allowed for the control over the design and placement. However, neither option could be used; they didn’t utilize the technique and purpose of this challenge. I really liked this design so I needed to figure out how to make it work. 

Let the brain-racking sessions begin!

I began by combining all of the parts of the reflection into one singular shape. Looking at the image in the correct position you can clearly see that it is impossible to use a shaper/scraper to create the definition of the reflection since the soap would need to be scraped from the sides, or horizontally.

Bottom copy

Could it be done by turning the mold on its side and working from side to side rather than top to bottom (or vice versa)? Possibly!

Bottom Rotated copy

I thought if I could pour a layer in the bottom, let it harden, and then flip it on its side, pour the reflection, let it harden, flip it back, and pour the remainder, it just might work!

Some of the molds I have made have hinged sides so I can easily remove the soap. One of them happened to be the right size in length, perfect size horizontally, and if I flipped it on its side, pretty much the right size there too. I just needed to make a few little changes for it to work the way I wanted it to. 


Before adding the adjustment

I added a piece of wood to the top which could be used as a lid for the mold in its regular configuration. 


With the added adjustment – a lid for normal use or a side for an alternate configuration

But if I configured it a little differently…

Mold unassembled

I could turn it into this…

Problem solved – on to the next design challenge. 

One of the biggest issues with finding the right design was trying to find one that was simple enough to create using the sculpting technique, yet not simplistic in its appearance. I usually turn to vector images when I am looking for ideas for soap. Vectors usually provide images that have defined shapes and lines and are easier to translate into the soap-making process. They can also be deceiving in their simplicity.  Something that looks simple will often have very detailed areas that are very difficult to pull off on the small canvas of a bar of soap. I encountered this issue with my Colorado soap. While the lines that made the mountains did not seem to have very intricate details on paper, the finer details ended up being too minute to stand out once it was scaled down to soap size. When I made the layer shapers/scrapers the detail of the mountains was lost because of the small scale. They ended up still looking like mountains but they were not nearly as detailed as I had planned.

Me being the me that I am, I didn’t learn from that mistake. I knew going in that the silhouettes of the foliage in the foreground would have to be added in after the soap was made. Everything else seemed simple enough but once I got down to creating the shapers/scrapers, that’s when I noticed it wasn’t quite as simple as it looked. I simplified the design, or so I thought. 

Mold Guide_1

As I did with my Colorado soap, I used my Silhouette Cutting Machine to cut the shapers/scrapers. This time I used plastic cutting mats instead of chipboard. Initially, I cut them according to this design but I later found out after attempting the first try that the reflection was still way to detailed and intricate. I ended up emptying the mold, reserving the soap for future designs, simplifying the design even more, re-cutting the shapers/scrapers, and trying again.

Although it was difficult, I simplified the design as much as I possibly could while trying to maintain as much of the detail as possible. Here is the design I finally used in the end.

Mold Guide6 copy

It still proved to be a challenge, but more on that in a little later.


By the Moon and Stars!

Making the moon and the stars didn’t pose quite the design challenge that the reflection did but they still proved to be pretty time-consuming. For the moon, I needed a round, cylindrical mold and had no doubt what to use – no question – PVC baby! When it came to the stars, more thinking was involved. I initially thought I would just toss in some shredded bits of white soap and hope for the best. Then I began to doubt my luck with that type of approach. Lately, my soap designs seem to end up being everything but what I expect. I was afraid the soap bits would glop together all in one place, or worse, connect in some way to spell out some profanity or even create some inappropriate image all on their own! I was hoping for something a little more controlled in the placement. How could I create tiny sticks of soap that I could use for the stars? No PVC here, baby! Mid brainstorm, I remembered a clay extruder I bought for some project or another a while back. This little contraption had several different shaped dies and was perfect not only for the “star” stick embeds but also allowed me to create some additional shapes to give the moon the appearance of having craters. I made up a very small batch of soap and once it had set up enough to form into a ball, I packed the extruder, cranked the handle, and voilà – sticks of stars and craters!


When I created the inner part of the moon, I placed the crater sticks in the PVC tube and poured white batter around them. Once that hardened, I placed it in a bigger PVC tube and poured blue around it to give the look of a glow around the moon. 


Ready, Set…

As I have mentioned before, I am a visual person. Not only that, but improvisation is most definitely not a strength of mine – in any shape or form. It helps me tremendously to have a visual map of what I am trying to accomplish and I like to use several guides and/or reminders to assist in this task. For this endeavor, I taped a picture of the image to my wall along with a printout of my layer calculation results from Claudia’s ultra nifty, handy-dandy layer calculating spreadsheet. I also taped my scaled-to-size image to the inside end of my mold. One of the best tips I learned from Claudia’s tutorial was to use certain ingredients like clays and/or fragrances to help accelerate the soap. Using accelerants like these helps to greatly reduce the wait time for the soap to firm up between layers. Since florals are oftentimes the worst culprits for acceleration, I don’t usually use them in soaps I want to keep at a thinner trace. I was ecstatic to finally be able to break them out for one of my projects. I chose a combination of Jasmine and Hyacinth because the combo reminds me of the Night Blooming Jasmine I fell in love with years and years ago visiting Greece.



Guide Fronts

Simplified and re-cut scraper/shapers – used to create final design

Backs of scraper/shapers reinforced with popsicle sticks for added support

Backs of scraper/shapers reinforced with popsicle sticks for added support



I began the soap by pouring the initial bottom. Once it had set up a little, I used my first scraper/shaper to make an indentation for the bottom part of the reflection on the water. On top of that, I used a squirt bottle filled with white soap to add a line down the center. Once firm, I used my second scraper/shaper to mold the top part of the reflection.

Bottom Pour

Initial Pour – the bottom

First Sculpted Layer

Bottom of reflection

Once this section was completely hardened, I disassembled the mold and adjusted it for the side pour position. I used a divider for reinforcement so I wouldn’t get too much seepage into the upper section.


Flipped to side for pouring reflection

SIde Pour

First pour of the reflection

Once this had set up, I used my first side reflection scraper. Even though the reflection had been simplified, it still proved quite a challenge to sculpt such deep grooves. I ended up letting it harden a little more then used a piping bag to build the grooves high enough for the scraper/shaper to form the proper shape. I piped, waited, scraped, piped, waited, and scraped …it took me several hours to get it to where it should be. The next white section went a little smoother. I let it set up a little more before the first scrape and only piped, waited, and scraped a handful of times. I topped both of those layers with more blue – to create the left side of the reflection.

Blue Ridges

First sculpted layer on side (right side of reflection)

White ridges

Second sculpted layer on side (white part of reflection)

Once these layers had firmed up completely, I disassembled the mold again, returning it to its original position. On top of this section, I poured what was supposed to be the first layer of the horizon. I had pretty much lost a lot of my enthusiasm with soaping at this point so when the batter became really thick, I just plopped and glopped it into the mold. Because of my lackluster approach, I didn’t really obtain the evenly leveled and layered sections I needed in order to effectively create the graduated appearance of a sky against the horizon. The resulting design looks much more like mountains in the distance than a sky with a clear horizon line. Because of the unintended mountains, I have declared this soap to be a moonscape over a lake, instead of a moonscape over the vast ocean!

Flipped Back

Bottom part flipped back into original position

Horizon- Mountains

First layer of horizon/mountains

With the horizon, er…the mountains complete, I began to pour the remaining sky. I placed my sticks of “stars” throughout the sky in between layers of blue. At the last minute, I thought of something I had been wanting to try. I have been curious to see what effect salt would have in soap if it wasn’t mixed into the batter so I decided to coat the outer part of my moon embed with a layer of salt. My greatest hope was that the salt would kind of “bloom” creating a possible halo effect around it. At the very least, I was hoping there would be some color differentiation between it and the surrounding soap. The result? Nada, nothing, zip, zilch! Maybe over time, something will develop. Hopefully, something will develop! 


Placing “stars”


Moon embed with a coating of salt


A Run for the Finish Line!

Originally, I had thought I could utilize more of the awesome capabilities of my Silhouette Curio by making stencils of the foliage silhouetted in the foreground of the design. My thought had been to use mica and paint the images on the soap. Unfortunately, after I spent a tremendous amount of time choosing, sizing, and tweaking the images, I realized that some of the images I wanted to use wouldn’t work when cutting them for stencils. Several of the images had additional sections that weren’t attached to anything around them. They had floating areas that were not anchored to anything and therefore would remain as floaters when the rest of the image was cut. 


When I created my entry for the Landscape Challenge, I used decoupage to create the images of the geese and trees. I had mentioned in that post that I would like to try temporary tattoo paper if I made something like that soap again – so that was the direction I headed in. I have to say, I have felt like the soaping gremlins have been plotting against me from the beginning of this project. I knew to expect the usual challenges I experience whenever I attempt to force the soap into obeying my intended design. That is normal in my world. But this soap was ridiculous! I almost feel like someone somewhere has a tiny voodoo doll in my likeness and has been using it to wreak havoc during this entire challenge! I am really stunned at how many things have gone wrong for me – from finding an oil I just used in an entirely different place, spilling numerous bottles of colorants 6 or 7 times, lye solution getting dumped over on the countertop, programs choosing not to work, running out of ink mid-project not once, but twice…and the list goes on and on!

Well, enter the final disaster. I am sure you all are very aware that it is unwise to try a technique that you have never done before, especially hours before a project is due. I know that. I ignored that. I tried that. First of all, I think the temporary tattoo paper is a fantastic option for adding details to this type of design. Not only is it skin-safe but the level of saturation and detail that is accomplished using this medium is fantastic. I WILL try it again. The only reason it failed miserably this time is 100% user error. I won’t go into detail on how to use the paper saving that for when I actually get it right. If I wasn’t already freaking out because my soap wasn’t finished yet knowing the deadline was quickly closing in, I might have been able to pay more attention to what I was doing. I forgot to mirror the image. I printed the image on the wrong side of the paper. I thought I was printing a draft copy to check alignment but the actual tattoo paper was loaded instead. I didn’t get the adhesive side lined up correctly to one sheet and it applied all wonky. When I attempted to apply the last adhesive sheet to the only image that turned out I wasn’t paying close enough attention and covered the wrong image on the page. And these are only some of the troubles I ran into trying to make this option work!

Option three -LAST CHANCE! I turned to my trusty old friend, the one that didn’t let me down for the Colorado soap – decoupage! As I did with that technique, I used a glue stick to glue tissue paper to a piece of copy paper and printed the images on that. I was careful to only glue the outside edges of the paper, just enough to keep the tissue attached as it went through the printer. I needed the images to print in the middle area without the glue so that they could be removed easily from the paper to use on the soap. Once the images were cut out, I adhered them to the soap using *Mod Podge. 


Soap before images are added

Soap before images are added


My Entry!



Here are the specs on the soap:

  • I used Claudia’s recipe on all parts of the soap:  

          42% Lard
          22% Costco Mediterranean Blend Oil
          25% Coconut Oil (76 degree)
         11% Castor Oil 

         1.5:1 water: lye
         3% lye discount/superfat
         1 tsp/ppo sodium lactate

  • Colors:

          Midnight Blue Steph’s Micas

          Stellar White Steph’s Micas

          Ultramarine Blue Aztec 

          Titanium Dioxide Aztec 

  • Fragrances (mixed in equal parts): 

          Jasmine Rustic Escentuals

          Hyacinth Aztec


While this soap had more wrenches thrown at it than a monkey in a mechanic’s garage, I do like the way it turned out. I plan on trying the temporary tattoo paper on a soap sometime in the near future, but for now, the decoupage worked pretty well, once again.

Thanks for stopping by!



*Since I have made this soap, I have learned that Mod Podge, or any other product, is not needed to adhere the tissue paper images. I have found that if I slightly wet the surface of the soap, the tissue paper adheres just fine. If some of the edges of the tissue are still visible, I just take a paintbrush, wet from water, and “paint” over the edges. They disappear into the soap very well. 

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Sara Golding
June 23, 2016 11:57 am

Debi- you have done it again! Who else thinks in such 3 dimensional ways? To flip the soap around, and then put it back the other way? Bless your heart! Thank you once again for sharing the step by step of your brilliant creation- Congrats on a well deserved win!

June 23, 2016 6:18 am

Congratulations on your very well-deserved win, Debi! I pored over this post about a million times. Thanks so much for not only producing such a lovely soap, but giving the detailed scoop on how you got there. I learned so much!

June 23, 2016 2:17 am

Dear Deby,
a magnificent work! How much I like your entry!
Congratulations to the second place!
Best wishes

June 22, 2016 5:35 pm

All I can say is WOW!!!! Amazing design!

June 21, 2016 10:37 am

Debi, This is just amazing!!! You always come up with the most incredible ideas and create absolutely gorgeous soaps. Just stunning!

Patricia DePhillips
June 20, 2016 7:08 pm

Debi, you never cease to amaze me! This is beyond the realm of soap making and into engineering, artistry and metaphysics! Absolutely gorgeous!

Amaryce Cousins
June 20, 2016 9:03 am

This mold is inspired! Beautiful!

June 20, 2016 4:56 am

This soap is amazing! You put so much awesomeness into this! I need to try the decoupage technique! Fantastic job!

June 19, 2016 10:36 pm

Wow, Debi! You’ve done it again. I just love this. And what a great idea using a mold with the ability to open up the sides. Lovely.

June 19, 2016 3:14 pm

Debi! I don’t belive what I see…. This is just amazing and I am gobsmacked ( I don’t even know if that is the right word… ). Congrats and good luck

June 19, 2016 6:16 am

I love your imagination and tenacity Debi! ‘If there’s a will there’s a way” right?? Bravo and conquering and making a beautiful piece of art! I will have to try the approach you used to create the inner sculpting sometime. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

June 19, 2016 5:16 am

I am in awe by all the work you did for one soap!! ..and the result is breathtaking!! You are indeed a problem solver and have proven that there is a solution to every challenge. The way you made the stars.. is brillant! pun intended. 🙂

June 19, 2016 1:54 am

my eyes hurt, its so stunning, and the blog, well done you…

Vera Lede
June 18, 2016 9:24 pm

Deby, a very beautiful soap! Decoration paper it approached good!

Claudia Carpenter
June 18, 2016 4:28 pm

Seriously??? This is insanely beautiful! Even without the decoupage, it’s stunning!

Claudia Carpenter
June 19, 2016 11:49 am
Reply to  Debi

Oh, and thank you for making me feel more normal with my obsessions. 🙂

BTW, I’ve been tempted to try tattoo paper, too, but am thinking it won’t stick to the soap surface. Are you using the pricey Silhouette paper? Please post something if you can get it to work. I’ve been trying another approach and will post if that works.

June 18, 2016 4:19 pm

Wow, Debi – it’s beautiful! I love the colours, and am so impressed that you managed to get the reflection right …..!! Great work!

June 18, 2016 2:52 pm

Wow, that is wonderful and very creative. And breathtaking. And amazing))) and…etc)))))))))))) really sofisticated work. Congratulations) You are the best)

June 19, 2016 5:40 am
Reply to  Debi

)) I have forgotten to write that your idea with the mold is so interesting and unusual. I have never seen this before and also never thougth about something like this. You are very very creative)))

June 18, 2016 2:11 pm

Debi! These are absolutely amazing! Love love love!!

June 18, 2016 1:36 pm

Oh wow, Debi!! This is breathtaking!!!

Amy Warden
June 18, 2016 1:15 pm

What a cliffhanger of a post!! I can’t believe the lengths you went through to create this soap, Debi! It’s magnificent!

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