Now that you’re ready to start soap carving, what are you going to carve?
Just like with any other artists, soap carvers can find themselves suddenly blanking when it comes time to start working.
You can get yourself set up with the right size and type of soap bar, have your work area ready, and have your chosen soap carving tools ready to go…then find yourself sitting there, knife in one hand, soap in the other, unsure of where to begin.
The effect of an untouched bar of soap can sometimes be like that of a blank page for a writer or a blank canvas for a painter. Where do you even start? If you are doing soap carving as a family activity, you might not only have to come up with soap carving ideas for yourself, but also for your kids.
Here are some great soap carving ideas that can help you get through your initial creative block:
- Hearts, smiley faces, and other symbols
If you’re first starting out with soap carving, keeping it simple will be helpful for learning carving techniques and the feel of your soap carving tools. Start out by making simple shaped soaps, similar to the kind you find at home décor store or in novelty gift baskets.
These soap carvings have simple, easily recognizable shapes. Try scoring a simple heart or circle onto your soap bar, then carefully carve it out of the rectangular bar. For smiley faces, just carve the expression into the surface of the circle.
See if you can make a collection of soap carvings. Create emoji expressions on soap circles. Consider making a number of seasonal icons for the holidays, like a set of Christmas trees done in green and red soap. These shapes can also be a great canvas for more elaborate patterns you can carve onto their surface.
These simple soap carvings of symbols can be mastered relatively easily and won’t get too frustrating for beginners. It makes them great for kids having fun and adults looking o get started on the soap carving art alike.
- ‘Embossed’ patterns
Soap carving is more than just carving the overall shape of a bar of soap. You can also create patterns that resemble embossing on the original rectangular shape of the soap. These can range from simple large heart shapes to elaborate feather designs. These patterns can be quite detailed and are an interesting way to learn and practice doing more detailed soap carving work.
- Turtles and fish
Two popular animals for simple soap carving are turtles and fish. Both of these animals have simple, distinctive body layouts and require some but not a lot of carving to bring out of a soap bar. You also don’t have to worry about trying to get them to stand up, which can be hard to pull off if you’re not careful with your soap carving.
You can make turtle and fish soap carvings as simple or as detailed as you like and they will still be recognizable as turtles and fish (well, probably…art is a learning process). Fish have always been a really popular choice of soap carving for children since soap is often associated with bath time and bath time accessories tend to have a marine theme.
Turtles have the benefit of having a shell to carve a pattern into, which can be a lot of fun. If you’re looking to carve animals out of soap, turtles and fish are a good place to start.
If you want to make a more elaborate animal soap carving, bears are a good place to start. Bears standing and walking on all fours have a large bulky shape that is fairly easy to carve out of soap compared to animals like horses or cats, for instance. A lot of bear soap carvings look like Native American carvings of bears made from stone.
There’s something about that design that has a timeless quality. A bear soap carving can be as simple or as realistic as you like. It can be a relatively flat image of a bear or a more three-dimensional and realistic bear sculpture. Bear soap carvings are a good starting point if you want to learn how to make more elaborate soap sculptures.
Flowers are very common yet very diverse soap carvings. If you ever attend a soap carving craft class, you will probably be creating a flower soap carving. These soap carving flowers can get quite elaborate. They can easily be abstract or realistic. If you want to step up your soap carving game and explore what just you can do as an artist, flowers are a great way to go.
Flowers made from soap are the most ‘traditional’ form of soap carving. Fruit carving, which resembles soap carving a great deal, often results in elaborate flower shapes.
Those techniques translate well to making very similar and more permanent soap-carved flowers. In Thailand, where carving fruit into flowers has long been a tradition, flower soap carvings are commonly sold as souvenirs.
Sit Down and Doodle!
Let your imagination flow. Sit down and doodle out some ideas for soap carvings. Some ideas may work, some may not, but getting them down can result in some really fun and cool soap carving ideas.
If you want to create more intricate soap carvings, getting a design on paper is usually key to getting it right when you start carving. A paper design for your soap carving serves as a plan for you to go off of.
Elaborate carvings can take a lot of time and it is easy to focus in on one detail while forgetting what to do next. If one of your ideas doodled during brainstorming catches your eye and demands more detail, keep sketching and see where it goes! The doodle can end up being your master plan for the soap carving.
Looking for More Ideas?
There are many great soap carvers out there. Many of them share examples of their work online and some even post tutorial videos. As you learn more and more techniques for soap carving yourself, it will start to get easier to come up with new soap carving ideas.