Try This Rainy Day Activity: Soap Carving

We love Joey Green’s book “Rainy Day Magic” because it is packed full of creative projects that you can do at home using common household items. As an added bonus, each chapter of suggested activities ends with a list of strange facts that we find irresistibly  interesting.

Here is an activity from Green’s book that we tried out during a recent rainy day. Carving soap is harder than it looks, mostly because the surface that you’re working with isn’t that stable. If you’re not careful when you go in to get fine detail, you get sculptures like the ones you’ll see in the images below.

Maybe our soap sculptures won’t end up in the Louvre, but they were a lot of fun to try. Who knows? The next time it starts raining we might bust out the Ivory soap and give it another shot.

P.S. After the sculpture lesson and our cringe-inducing sculpture photos, there are some fun facts that also come from Green’s book. Enjoy!

Products Used: Ivory Soap and Forster Toothpicks

Unwrap a bar of Ivory Soap. For best results, let the bar of soap dry for 24 hours before carving. With adult supervision, use a paring knife to cut away the raised edges and scrape off the lettering.

If you know what shape or design you intend to carve, you can carve directly in the soap, or use a Forster Toothpick stick to outline a rough sketch on the soap,. You can also sketch your idea on a piece of paper and then transfer it to the soap.

Using the paring knife, cut off the small pieces of soap that will not be a part of your design, leaving roughly a one-quarter-inch margin around your outline to allow for more detailed work later. When you finish carving, let the soap dry for a day or two.

Then polish the sculpture by rubbing it with a soft paper napkin. Your carving will float in a bathtub full of water, so consider carving boats, turtles or other sea creatures for more fun.

Soap Carving First Attempt
My first attempt at carving soap. Not quite white I was looking for.
soap skull two
My second attempt now that I am older and wiser (OK, a week later). Better, I think, but still kind of messy.

STRANGE FACTS ABOUT CARVING

♦ Seattle, Washington, holds a yearly SPAM carving contest. Each contestant is given one can of SPAM and fifteen minutes to carve it into anything they like (cars, animals, people’s faces, etc.)
♦ The statue of Ecuador’s renowned poet José Olmedo in the city of Guayaquil is actually a statue of English poet Lord Byron. The city of Guayaquil, unable to afford to commission a sculptor, purchased the statue of Byron from a London junk dealer and changed the plaque to read “José Olmedo.”
♦ The word bones is slang for “dice,” which were originally carved from bones
♦ Around 800 B.C.E., the Etruscans (the people living in the region today known as Tuscany, Italy) invented dentures, carving individual teeth from ivory, molding bridgework from gold, and extracting teeth from the dead to make dentures for the wealthy
♦ In 1935, during an exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, prankster Hugh Troy hung on the wall a velvet-lined shadow box that contained a piece of dried beef that he had carved into the shape of an ear with a sign that read, “This is the ear that Van Gogh cut off and sent to his mistress Dec. 24,1888”

Rainy Day Magic

Make your own Play-Doh! Make toy rockets from Alka-Seltzer! Create candles with Dixie Cups and Crayola Crayons! All parents have gone through the horror of bored kids trapped inside on a rainy day. They’re desperate to find fun things their kids can do to avoid that unending chorus of “I’m bored!” Now, the irrepressible Joey Green comes to the rescue with “Joey Green’s Rainy Day Magic“—a compendium of irresistible projects and games kids can make free from stuff you already have around the house!

Joey Green, the guru of offbeat uses for brand-name products, is the author of Supermarket Spa. He has been dubbed “a modern-day Heloise” by the New York Times and “The Pantry Professor” by People magazine. He is also the author of Polish Your Furniture with Panty Hose, Joey Green’s Amazing Kitchen Cures, Joey Green’s Gardening Magic, and more than twenty-five other titles. He is a popular guest on major television shows like The Tonight Show, The View, Today, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Dateline NBC.