Handmade soap is a luxury in 2021. In 1900, it was normal to make your own soap, with lye (sodium hydroxide), usually in a cast iron cauldron over a fire, outside. The fumes were potent and odiferous for miles.
Soapmaking has now become an art for some; people collect “artesian” soaps. Some soaps are handpainted, moulded, and sculpted, a true art form.
A soap maker often produces a STYLE of product. Some are plain, organic, made only of fresh milks and herbs. When you have a chance to attend a Farmer’s Market, you will find at least one soap maker. Each one there has a different product line and soap style. When soap is handmade, there is a story behind it. I would like to address one specific style of soap today.
FANCY SOAP. This category is best illustrated by this blog’s picture. Made individually, 5-8 ounces each, each is handpainted and beautifully detailed. My mother calls these “show soaps”. That means you never use them; they are dusted and kept pristine, just as decor. If you use them, the paint will wash off but you would still have a great bar of soap.
There are FANCY SOAPS that are loaf forms, beautifully decorated with intricate wax flowers, laces, ribbons, even dried fruits. These can cost $60-100+ each. They are kept as a decoration , a longlasting aromatherapy source and can eventually be cut in to soap bars.
FANCY HANDSOAPS are a third form of this category. Made individually, usually 3-5 ounces each, several small soaps that are moulded, scented, decorated minimally are set by the bathroom sink for guests to wash their hands with after the toilet.
in my mother’s house, none of these were for the family to use. I recall soaps smelling of fresh fruit, koolaid, even cookies. The guest soaps were replaced each season. As a child, I tried so hard to use one of those delicious items in a bath.
Now, I make these soaps for Mother, keeping her well supplied. When I go to her home,I am still not allowed to use FANCY SOAP. “You know those are for guests”.