For this studio project, my professor asked us to make a playable chess-set. It was open ended in terms of material and form, so I used the opportunity to study handcrafting. I think it’s the process and the unavoidable imperfections that speak for handcrafted objects; there’s a human quality to the final product that people find comfort in.
My final design was a set of simple forms that represented each piece, and I chose soap for my medium. I liked the idea of seeing the project all the way through, from the actual production of the soap to the manipulation of the form. By the end it became more about the production and the interaction between human and material.
Making soap is relatively straightforward once you have the ingredients and equipment. I found a small Toledo business that specializes in making soap, and the owner was nice enough to give me a demo and let me use her stuff. Oils are the main ingredient (palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.) Oils keep the soap from drying out your skin. After oil is added a lye and water mixture is blended into the oils, this allows the oil mixture to set. After this mixture sets any scent or colored dye can be added to the mixture, poured into a silicone mold, and left to harden. Then your creation is complete.