Making Watermelon Soap: When Creativity Takes an Unexpected Turn
The anticipation had been building for what felt like ages, as I eagerly awaited the chance to create my very own watermelon soap. It was a dream come true when the Soap Challenge Club announced that the theme for June 2023 would be centered around watermelon. It felt like destiny was on my side, and the design possibilities were endless. While I often experiment with various techniques and variations, I decided that this time, I would focus on a single, exquisite creation. And so, the journey began.
The Quest for the Perfect FragranceThe first challenge I encountered was selecting the ideal fragrance for my watermelon soap. Having a watermelon-scented oil in my collection, commonly used for crafting delightful watermelon bath bombs, I contemplated if its sweetness would be fitting for my soap. However, I had reservations about its candy-like aroma overpowering the true essence of watermelon. Reluctantly, I crossed it off the list, strike one.
As luck would have it, I needed to restock my fragrance supplies, prompting me to gather more information from my trusted supplier. Buying fragrances online has always been a less-than-ideal experience for me, as I yearn to experience their scents firsthand. Unfortunately, alternatives are limited in my area. So, when evaluating fragrances online, I rely on three critical factors. First, I examine reviews from fellow soap makers. Surprisingly, this fragrance garnered positive feedback, which is quite rare. However, several reviewers mentioned that while it performed well in cold process soap, its scent tended to weaken or fade over time, strike two.
Next on my checklist was the fragrance's vanillan content, known to cause soap to turn an unsightly brown, which would surely clash with the watermelon aesthetic. This particular fragrance contained a mere 0.34% of vanillan, and both the supplier and other reviewers assured that it wouldn't discolor the soap. Satisfied with this aspect, I proceeded to check the IFRA usage rates, a vital step to ensure I used the fragrance within safe limits. Alas, the maximum usage rate for this fragrance was only 1%. Personally, I prefer working with 3-5% fragrance, as lower concentrations may still yield noticeable results. This, coupled with the reviews mentioning the fragrance's tendency to fade, became strike three.
As fate would have it, while ordering other supplies from Voyageur Soap and Candle Supplies, I stumbled upon their watermelon fragrance oil. By this point, however, panic had begun to set in. Time was slipping away, and I needed to place the fragrance order promptly to ensure my soap would be ready for the upcoming markets in early July. This fragrance boasted zero vanillan content and a generous IFRA maximum usage rate of 8%—so far, so good. While the reviews weren't outstanding and a few mentioned its tendency to accelerate trace, my hurried state led me to overlook those details. Oops.
Designing the Watermelon MasterpieceLast summer, I had dabbled in a One-Pot-Wonder soap design and was eager to revisit this technique for my watermelon soap. I envisioned a slightly abstract yet unmistakably watermelon-inspired design, capturing the classic color scheme of green, white, and pink.
My plan involved dividing the soap into five colors. I opted for two shades of green—Golden Shamrock mica from Fizz Fairy and Sage mica from Windy Point—for the outer rind, intending to place them at the bottom of the bars. For the inner rind, I chose Titanium Dioxide for a crisp white, while two shades of pink—Pretty in Pink mica from Fizz Fairy blended with a touch of Titanium Dioxide, and Magic Red mica from Windy Point—would compose the juicy pink flesh. My goal was to alternate these colors, creating thin, curved stripes with a subtle overlap between the green, white, and pink sections.
A Twist of FateThe soap mixing and measuring process unfolded seamlessly. Given the requirements of this design, I took great care to pre-mix each colorant with olive oil and avoid excessive blending. Once I divided the soap and incorporated the colorants through gentle stirring, I added the fragrance and began pouring the soap back into the large bowl.
Since I wanted the pink sections to grace the top of the soap, they needed to be poured into the bowl first. This technique employed a last-in-first-out approach, meaning I had to alternate adding the pink shades, followed by the white, and finally, the two green colors.
After just a couple of pours with the pink soap, it became apparent that this technique was doomed to fail. The fragrance oil accelerated the soap's thickening process far beyond what I had anticipated. By the time I finished pouring the pinks into the large bowl, I found myself struggling to scrape and coax the soap out rather than pour it smoothly. Continuing with this method was simply inconceivable; I would have ended up with a muddled watermelon catastrophe.
Adapting to the Unexpected
In moments when our plans go awry, it's crucial to have a Plan B. When faced with rapidly thickening soap, my Plan B remains consistent: get the soap into the mold as swiftly as possible. All thoughts of intricate designs evaporate, replaced by the urgent need to transfer the soap before it becomes immovable.
Thankfully, due to my cautious blending approach prior to adding the fragrance, I managed to salvage a small window of time. As the original design called for the green soap to form the bottom layer, I swiftly poured it into the mold, followed by the white layer on top. While it would have been delightful to achieve perfectly even layers, the sight of the rapidly thickening pink soap in the large bowl discouraged me from attempting such precision. I gave the pink soap a hasty stir and scraped it onto the white layer in the mold.
Initially, my intention was to create a soap with a flat top, but the thickening pink soap rendered that notion impractical. Instead, I embraced the unexpected turn of events and added texture to the top, incorporating poppy seeds for an intriguing contrast and tactile appeal—an element that hadn't been part of the original plan either.
Revelling in the Unforeseen OutcomeDespite the series of unforeseen mishaps, I eventually found myself holding a charming and slightly rustic watermelon soap. It wasn't the soap I had initially envisioned, and truth be told, I felt dissatisfied with it at first. Like many soap makers, I tend to scrutinize my creations upon cutting, focusing on every mistake or misstep. However, a few weeks later, after allowing it to cure quietly on the rack, I revisited the soap and discovered a newfound appreciation. The fragrance exuded a delightful sweetness with subtle floral undertones, perfectly complementing the swirls of pink. Granted, had I planned a layered soap from the beginning, I might have employed a different technique for the swirl. But that's okay. Each soap-making endeavor allows me to grow in both experience and skill, providing valuable insights for future endeavors.
In the end, my watermelon soap served as a gentle reminder that embracing the unexpected often leads to remarkable results. While it may not have aligned with my original vision, it possessed its own unique charm—a testament to the beautiful unpredictability inherent in the creative process.
Be sure to check out the full "making of" video on the YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/PIz2jb_eF9Y