The January challenge has been a truly international experience, as we learned our techniques from Elena Nedechina of Laboratory Milaniya in Russia, Cinzia Adolfi in Italy sponsored the grand prize for the advanced category, Alex Kelly of Custom Soap Stamps in the U.S. sponsored the grand prize for the regular category, Voyageur Soap & Candle Co in Canada sponsored the rest of our prizes, and we had 206 members join the challenge from 20 different countries! Cinzia Adolfi and Alex Kelly are both custom stamp experts. If you need a custom stamp created with something other than plant material, they are both excellent artists. If you are looking for botanical materials, Voyageur Soap & Candle Co has what you are looking for, and so much more!
Elena Nedechina has been creating bas-relief soaps with plant materials (meaning the plant material is raised off the surface of the soap) since 2010, but recently perfected the technique with the help of English artist Rachel Dein. She was gracious to share her techniques with us for the advanced category. Elena also created a counter relief method for stamping an impression of the plant material into the soap for the regular category. She says, “This technique allows you to get a unique result. Each soap of each soapmaker can’t be exactly the same as there can’t be two exactly same flowers.” You will see this is completely true by the results of our members! The goal was to create three unique soaps with local plant materials – not an easy feat when much of the world is currently frozen and covered in a blanket of snow – but the members came through, and some had to get a bit creative! Several mentioned a new appreciation for nature as they were looking for their specimens, and find themselves still looking for ideal plant material when they are out in the wild.
We have three voted winners plus one Sponsor’s Choice winner chosen by Voyageur, as well as four recognition awards given by me (Amy Warden) in each category. You’ll see several people receiving more than one award this month, starting with the advanced category:
Grand prize goes to Diane Holt in Washington State, a brand new member to the Club this month! Her soap, A Walk in the Forest, is a true inspiration and beautiful representation of the bas-relief technique. The placement of her plant materials is complete artistry:
Diane wins a custom wood stamp from Cinzia Adolfi – congratulations!! Be sure to click on the photo of her soap to see her Facebook post with photos of even more beautiful soaps that she created with this technique.
Second place is awarded to Helene Glemet of ChezHelene in Canada, long-time member of the Club, for her Botanical Beauty soaps which are made with all natural colorants. Helene captured some unique and beautiful plant materials:
Helene wins a $35 gift certificate from Voyageur – woo hoo! The photo of her entry is linked to her Facebook post where she shows more photos of her soaps and the botanical materials they came from.
In third place we have Emily Scherer of EJ’s Farm in Colorado. I have also awarded her Best Technique for her entry, as her Nature Walk soaps show the most amazing details from her plant material, and she has demonstrated excellent skills in working with the mold materials to create such detail and smooth background to her soaps:
Emily’s prize is a $25 gift certificate from Voyageur – fantastic! Her soap photo is linked to her Instagram post with more information about her soap, as well as another photo of other soaps she created with this technique.
Tammy Evans from Voyageur has chosen Debi Olsen’s Aspen Splendor soap for their Sponsor’s Choice winner. Debi hails from Colorado and celebrates the gorgeous aspen trees in all their autumn glory in her soap. Tammy says, “Aspen Splendor reminds us of a beautiful Monet painting. Rich in colour and texture, Debi’s creativity is amazing in how she used the twigs to create her birch tree mold and then layered white and black soap to make them true to life. Very talented artisan!”
Debi wins a $20 gift certificate from Voyageur – great job! Click on the photo of her soap to see her Instagram post with all the photos of her process in making this soap.
Finally, there are three more recognition awards! Best Use of Color goes to Pam Carver of Spatial Ingredient in North Carolina for her exquisite use of color in her Muse on Cedar soap. You can see the nuances of color that she used not only for the branch parts of the cedar, but also the greens. The color placement is absolute perfection as well:
Click on the photo to see Pam’s post on her Facebook business page about her soap.
Best Presentation award goes to Irina Beketova of IB Organics in Texas for her incredible photography skills in capturing the mirror images of her soap, Enchanted Leaves, with such clarity. The deep blue background gives excellent contrast to the soaps, while highlighting the blue parts of the soaps.
Read more about Irina’s soap by clicking on the photo to see her post on Instagram.
Best Soap Newbie award goes to Dena Mehling in Colorado for her Floral Cameos soaps. Dena has been making soap for less than a year, with less than 50 batches under her belt, yet continues to show excellent soapmaking skills! Her wedgewood inspired soaps have beautiful color and detail with smooth backgrounds and excellent presentation:
The regular category only had 10 entries this month, but still very outstanding soaps! Congratulations to Patty Maloney in New Jersey for her grand prize winning When Nature Calls soaps! The plant impressions show such incredible detail in her soaps, and the black impressions on the colorful soaps really accentuate the botanical patterns. I also chose Patty’s entry for Best Presentation, as the colors of her soaps really pop against the dark background and there are no specks of wayward soap to be found. The soaps are clearly focused and centered in the photo:
Patty wins a custom soap stamp from Custom Soap Stamps!! Be sure to click on the photo to read more about her entry on her Facebook post.
Second place goes to Meredith Newberry of Good Neighbour Soap in Canada for her Relief From Winter soaps! Meredith is a brand-new member of the Club and demonstrated her mad soap stamping (and foraging) skills with her gorgeous black and white on gray soaps. I have also awarded Meredith the Best Technique award as she has shown excellent detail to her stamps, and also given a nice, deep impression in the soap:
Congratulations, Meredith! You’ve won a $35 gift certificate from Voyageur! Check out Meredith’s Instagram post about her soap by clicking on the photo.
Third place is awarded to Tamara Bockius of Maui Seeds in Hawaii for her “My Maui Garden” soaps. Fortunately for Tamara, she has access to some really gorgeous plants in her tropical climate and she really came through with gorgeous colors and impressions in her soaps:
Tamara wins a $25 gift certificate from Voyageur. Her photo is linked to her Instagram post with more information about her soap.
The Sponsor’s Choice winner for the regular category is Rhodana Fields in Maryland for her First Impression soaps. Tammy says, “It’s hard to believe that Rhodana has only been soaping for a few weeks now. She is truly a natural! Her choice of plant textures, paired with the colour of her soap and choice of mica show off the plants natural beauty and detail. If this is what she can create after only a few weeks of soapmaking, we are excited to see what she creates in the future. Exceptional work!” I completely agree, which is why I also chose Rhodana’s entry to receive the Best Use of Color award. Her soaps show a variety of color, yet they are all tied together by the botanical theme:
Rhodana wins a $20 gift certificate from Voyageur, and you will definitely want to click on her photo to see more details of her work on her Instagram post!
Finally, Best Soap Newbie award goes to Lisa Edgar in California for her Winter Life soap. Lisa did a great job of creating some excellent impressions of winter botanicals in her soaps with a simple background:
(Photo not linked)
The rest of the entries are posted in the order they were voted at the bottom of this post. Next month we will tackle Glycerin River Designs with pro tips from Clara Lindberg of Auntie Clara’s. Here’s the soap I created for the regular category based on her tips:
Registration opens Monday, February 4 for the February challenge! You will also have the option to sign up for March and April at a discount if you wish. More information on the Current Challenge page.
And now, here are the rest of the entries for January: