Today feels like the right kind of day for a second round of soap making.
Soap one cured beautifully into a pale green conical form with areas of white bloom. Todays attempt will be soap two, a luscious caustic coating that will form one of the outer layers of the small soap-mountain I’m building in the studio.
What is it about soap?
Its tactile nature, its ability to erase/wash away…
the transformation from liquid to solid- and from caustic to neutral… well, it will be a few more weeks before I can bisect the soap-monolith with a cheese-wire and give pieces of it away to everyone I know to wash with.
Soap is a particularly interesting symbol that might be used to demarcate eastern/western ways of thinking about the nature of being human.
Islam places a lot of importance on washing before prayer, while (historically) christians were known for being fairly unclean. The city of Rome certainly let its bath-houses, fountains and aqueducts fall into disrepair after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Could this have been partly down to a preference for wearing ones hair shirt on top of ones grime?
‘Vanitas is the Latin for vanity, in the sense of emptiness or a worthless action. ‘Vanity of Vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity’ (Ecclesiastes 12: 8). The implication of these words from the Old Testament is that all human action is transient in contrast to the everlasting nature of faith.’
The National Gallery, Online Glossary
Soap is one of the main products exported by Palestinians. The old city of Nablus is full of stone soap factories. The olive oil is heated in huge stone vats and the soap mixture is stirred using a wooden oar. The heat and smell must be overpowering.
The mixture is then poured out to cool on the stone floor before being cut into blocks and stacked in towers to cure.
I like to think of the soap making process as a way of solidifying the life-blood of the olive tree.