A month of landscapes!

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Below are the other soaps I made as I honed my skills on the way to a July 2019 Landscape, not Seascape challenge entry. My ability to produce an entry was challenged by my lack of skills, the vagaries of natural colorants, my inability to control trace in small portions of batter and my slow, slow, slow recipes...

Landscape #1 - the indigo for the sky was a success and I liked the mountains, but is that the Red Sea and a beach where I was hoping for fields of flowers??? Trace stage/speed and color matter... Also, what are those weird zebra stripes doing in the bottom where the rows of corn should be? Adding annatto and paprika powder from the bottom of my infusions was not enough to give me the bright golden yellow I hoped for in the final soap. The green is sad, just sad. The madder, rose and red clays did not produce the brighter orangey red I wanted. The blue piping worked well, but the batter for the white cloud was too soft. I used a slow moving recipe created by Kapia Mera as my base recipe. It has a small amount of palm in it and I am beginning to suspect that palm is a problem with natural green colorants. This run also turned out to be a bit of a nail biter because the batter turned orange at the very beginning when I added ROE in a little Jojoba oil. Altogether, it took almost 12 hours from beginning to end to make this soap.

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This is the concept drawing for the soap (in my dreams :lol:)

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Landscape #2 - I was mostly focusing on getting the greens right, wanted to refine the cloud technique a bit, and hoped for clean layers. I portioned my soap based on Fibonacci numbers (8, 5, 3, 2, 1) and also used color intensity to create the feel of a receding horizon. I built from the top up, meaning I started with the sky because I thought that would help me with the cloud. Look at the lovely smooth top on this soap! But also notice my smooshed cloud, which is a result of not having a firm enough trace given the eventual weight of the overlying batter. The greens here are from matcha tea powder and powdered parsley flakes. The sky color is from indigo powder and the cloud has TD added. Once again, I had little luck getting the soap to reach the desired level of trace and then set up at a reasonable pace and abandoned the idea of clean layering. In the end, I love the way this soap turned out. It reminds me of my MIL’s homestead in South Dakota (see pic). For that reason, I’m calling this soap “South Dakota.” This was the same recipe as above, and it was distressing to watch my bright greens as they started turning brown after I cut the soap. (ETA I kept this soap from gelling in the hopes of holding on to some of the brighter green color. You can’t tell from the pic, but the parsley powder stayed green while the matcha powder went brown despite the loaf mold going into the freezer for a few hours and then the frig overnight. W/ thanks to relle and cmzaha on how to keep a loaf from gelling!) I wrapped the reassembled cut loaf in plastic wrap for a week, which slowed down the discoloration compared with the end piece I left out in the air. (With thanks to Earlene for letting me know I could do that).

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Landscape #3 - the day I tackled clean layers and got there! Once again I used Fibonacci numbers to portion out my batter. To increase the intensity of a green base color, I used matcha tea infused OO, lightened the batter with TD and darkened it with AC. I’m finding that an infusion gives the best colors for matcha and annatto, but there’s a practical limit to how many different batters you can make, especially when the amount of batter needed for a layer or section is very small. For this run I decided not to make a separate white batter for the sky and just tweaked the colors with TD and indigo. It’s not blue, but it still feels like the sky to me (perhaps during a dust storm :)). The pencil lines are cocoa. The “hills” in the top layer are soap seeping up at the sides of the mold. I like the way they look and will probably try to sculpt that top layer if I ever make this soap again. To keep the greens from fading, I reassembled the cut loaf, wrapped it in plastic wrap and left it for a week, which definitely helped to preserve the green color. Alas, I was unable to replicate the lovely green shade I achieved in my very first matcha tea infusion soap (pre-challenge). I noticed that the powder is getting darker with time and I’ve started wondering if maybe the manufacturer packs it with carbon dioxide and nitrogen gases in the bag (like they do with the bagged salads) in order to slow down any oxidation.

I’m calling this soap Fibonacci’s Field of Dreams:

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Landscape # 4 (crazy, right?!?) - A re-run of Landscape #1 with some newly acquired skills and using my lard based recipe, with clove and ginger EOs I had on hand to help with accelerating trace and the set up in the mold. This is one funky smelling soap... I made one portion of batter with annatto infused oil, one with matcha tea infused oil and one plain and then added powders (Spirulina, madder, paprika, indigo) to changed the base colors. The colors are better, except for the wimpy indigo. Of all things, I thought I had indigo down... It was going to be my entry, maybe, but I still wasn’t really happy with it.

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Skill building interlude - Next up, I played around with trace in a couple of soaps that I don’t show here. That practice led to my sculpted madder soap, which isn’t a green landscape by any stretch of the imagination. I made soap shapers and used a medium to firm trace after reading (very late in the game) about how Claudia Carpenter made her landscape soap, as well as discussions of her technique here on SMF. The simplified version of her technique that I used works well as long as you can keep the bubbles out of the batter!

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AND THEN THE MICAS ARRIVED!!!

Landscape #5 - my challenge entry, described here.

Landscape #6 - this one was just for fun! With micas in hand, I went back to a pouring technique I’ve used for my series of “mud soaps” and again used the KM recipe that I used for those soaps. The wonderful Ginger & Lime FO (Nuture) I recklessly used for the first time many have caused a little acceleration in the batter. But, oh it smells so nice... It wasn’t a huge problem until I got to the upper third of the soap, where the light blue and yellow layers wouldn’t spread across the top of the batter in the mold. I ended up plopping the remaining batter into the mold and making giant swirls. Without the lighter layers, the top third of the soap looks more like ocean than sky (which I filed away for the future). My surfing nephews are going to love this soap! Here’s the rough cut.

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I can honestly say that I enjoyed [almost] every minute of making these soaps, even washing up the dishes. There were a couple of late nights, but it did get faster, especially once I gained some control over the speed of trace.
 
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WOW! you're a magician, they are all so lovely.
No 4 is my fave, its gorgeous. Can totally understand why you'd thought of entering that.
Thank you Rahmi! I’m afraid that it’s less magician, more ocd persistence, but thank you for thinking the former! There are definitely some good colors in #4, but I couldn’t get past the problem with the indigo. I had many successes with indigo in the past, both as dispersed powder added to the batter or powder added to the lye. Then when I really needed it to work, I got almost no color. Argh...
 

Ladka

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And I enjoyed reading your description of your plans and procedures!
By the way, I love ALL of the soaps you posted. So much so that I would gladly buy a bar of each if you were nearer :)
 
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And I enjoyed reading your description of your plans and procedures!
By the way, I love ALL of the soaps you posted. So much so that I would gladly buy a bar of each if you were nearer :)
Thank you Ladka! As a relative newbie, I was trying to include some of the details that made a difference in my ability to get an effect or not. I watched a lot of videos, which are helpful, but they rarely slow down enough to show you exactly what the trace level is or how long it really takes for the soap to set up in the mold. If you were closer, I would happily give you one of each of the soaps. Soap making is a way for me to get my mind off of anything that brings me down. It would be an added joy to be able to give my soaps to someone who has an appreciation of handmade soap!
 

earlene

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Mobjack, I really love soap #4 and soap #3, the Field of Dreams one. You may not have been satisfied with the resulting blue of your indigo in soap #4, but I think it is a perfect sky blue that I have seen thousands upon thousands of times in the skies. But I do understand the need to keep trying in order to to achieve the desired result, especially when using colorants.

I am seeing some pointy layers, which is a technique I want to learn to achieve, (and will play with eventually as it is included in Amy Warden's Soap Challenge Club.)
 
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@dibbles and @earlene I really like #3, too, and considered it as an entry, but then decided I should stick with the one that was technically closest to my original concept.

Earlene - out of curiosity, where do you think you see pointy layers? I didn’t try for that specifically, but recently watched a video on it and think I have the general idea. Is it mostly about putting new batter down in lines over the top of batter of an existing layer (of a different color) so that the new batter makes dips into the previous layer and the first layer forms points between the lines of new batter?
 

earlene

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@dibbles and @earlene I really like #3, too, and considered it as an entry, but then decided I should stick with the one that was technically closest to my original concept.

Earlene - out of curiosity, where do you think you see pointy layers? I didn’t try for that specifically, but recently watched a video on it and think I have the general idea. Is it mostly about putting new batter down in lines over the top of batter of an existing layer (of a different color) so that the new batter makes dips into the previous layer and the first layer forms points between the lines of new batter?

In landscape #2 with your clouds specifically. I haven't done a thorough reading of the Pointy Layers challenge at Soap Challenge Club or watched all the videos because I knew I did not have time this month to even start on that challenge, so cannot really comment on the technique other than to say I want to try it. However once I am back home again and things settle down a bit, I do plan to give it a go.
 

steffamarie

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Wow, just an incredible lineup of soaps, and your concept art is stunning!! Mine looks like a kindergartener drew it! Simply stunning results, Mobjack. Standing ovation!! :winner:
 
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In landscape #2 with your clouds specifically. I haven't done a thorough reading of the Pointy Layers challenge at Soap Challenge Club or watched all the videos because I knew I did not have time this month to even start on that challenge, so cannot really comment on the technique other than to say I want to try it. However once I am back home again and things settle down a bit, I do plan to give it a go.

So, actually, I made that soap upside down. I piped the blue soap into the bottom of the mold and then piped in the white soap over top. The white soap wasn’t firm enough and I think it ended up settling down into into the crevices of the piped blue soap. Another way to make points!
 
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Wow, just an incredible lineup of soaps, and your concept art is stunning!! Mine looks like a kindergartener drew it! Simply stunning results, Mobjack. Standing ovation!! :winner:
Thank you so much Steffamarie. My mom painted for many years and I never, ever felt like I could even get close to what she could do. Maybe I found my niche in landscape soaps :).
 

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Wow!! All beautiful. On first look, #4 was my fave. But looking back, I change that to #2. The subtle color differences in the layers are perfect!
 
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Wow!! All beautiful. On first look, #4 was my fave. But looking back, I change that to #2. The subtle color differences in the layers are perfect!
I know that I intended to have a good gradient in that soap, but with the odd proportions of the batter I used, I’m not sure that I did the math quite right for the color additions and sometimes what looks one color with natural colorants does not look quite the same when the soap is done. I’m so glad you like them!
 

KristaY

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As I was scrolling thru, reading about your process and looking at the photos, I thought "the first one is my favorite!" Then I moved down to the second one and thought "Nope! The 2nd one is my favorite!" And on it went through the lot. Now I have no idea which I like best as I see your intentions and inspirations in each and they're all stunning! I can honestly say this is the first time I've heard anyone talk about using Fibonacci numbers to design soap which is brilliant when you're talking about landscapes. More of your mom's artistic talent was passed to you than you give yourself credit for. You've definitely got a design knack @Mobjack Bay and I'm learning so much just reading about your processes so thanks for that!
 

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I'm in awe with your dedication @Mobjack Bay! Such a steep learning curve..
I already loved your third try! I'm still jealous of the color of your matcha soap. Even if it's not as bright as the one you made before it still has the distinct, soothing green of matcha tea.
I'm completely impressed with the intricate multi-color, multi-layer soap design you made for your fourth try. Doing that with only natural colorants is an extraordinary display of knowledge and patience! Your research and experimentation have definitely paid off[emoji6]
I'm very curious what you're going to do next!
 

Ladka

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Now that I've read through everybody's comments I understand better why I so loved all of your soap landscapes: I do natural dyeing, mostly on wool, silk and cotton, and I love Fibonacci, using it in knitting and felted ball necklaces.
 
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