Good Clean Fun – Soap Carving!

Face Facts
Friday Fiction: The Demon's Librarian

Soap Sculpture coverSoap Sculpture
Gaba
1969

Submitter: Okay, first off, I always thought soap-carving was something of a joke–something that you hear about, but in which nobody ever actually engaged.  I think the only real reference to soap-carving I ever saw was a “Peanuts” cartoon where Linus was describing to Charlie Brown the elaborate carving of a tall ship he had done, “It took me three days to get the sails right,” and Lucy walks by vigorously lathering up her hands, then cavalierly tosses the remaining soap over her shoulder to Linus, who says “I had planned to show you a replica of a nineteenth century schooner.  Would you settle for a canoe?”

This book dates to around that time period.  It turned up on the sale shelf of my major city’s library, having apparently been purged from the “red dot storage”.  Get this–forty-two years later, it STILL had a “NEW” sticker, in tattered shape, on the cover!

And the cover photo!  It’s excruciatingly badly done, with red dots sloppily applied after the fact in printing.  The overall effect is that of exaggerated lipstick on the mouth, and between that, the eyes, and the headdress, it looks too scarily like a “Mammy doll” for my comfort!

Holly: It is possible that there are soap carvers out there.  I’ve never met one, but it’s possible. The subject isn’t a horrible one for public libraries, but a quick Amazon search shows plenty of newer books than this one.  If you feel like there are soap carvers among your library users, at least get a newer book on the topic.

gay bath soaps for gifts

soap sculpture of a sled

16 comments

  1. Ok, I’ll go right there and say that the ‘Gay Bath Soaps for Gifts’ is cracking me up. Especially with regards to the ‘Speediest and Safest’ pic below it. You’re right about the cover looking like a ‘Mammy’ doll, too.

  2. I remember soap carving back in the day, when I was in 4th grade. They actually let us bring knives to school. Those were definitely different times.

  3. Definitely agree this is a moldy oldie. However, it piqued my curiosity as to whether anyone older than 12 is carving soap. A Google search shows there’s enough interest to warrant videos and tutorials on soap carving, and some of the image search results are stunning. I also checked our consortial catalog, and found that the two books listed had no circs at least in the time of the current catalog system. I guess today’s soap carvers aren’t getting their instruction from books — at least not from these ancient library books.

  4. I never heard of soap carving outside of some prison break movie I saw once as a kid. Guy carved a gun out of soap and dyed it with shoe polish, then used it to take someone hostage and break out.

    I didn’t think Mammy with the cover. I thought “Undead Scarlet O’Hara.”

  5. Haley Dunphy carved a smartphone out of a cake of soap, dyed it black, and used it to fool her parents into something on a episode of “Modern Family” last season. So maybe soap carving isn’t dead after all.

    And yeah, that’s Zombie Scarlett on the cover.

  6. That “speediest and safest” looks more like a gay photo of soap carving to me… Just saying…

  7. We used to carve soap when I was a kid (back in the ’60’s). I bought a 10 pack of Ivory (the soap of choice back then) because I thought it would be a good hobby for my son. HA!

  8. Like Jami I’ve never heard of soap carving. Elementary school or otherwise. Perhaps it’s a regional thing (I grew up in Mich 60s/70s).

  9. In Woody Allen’s movie “Take the Money and Run” (which was probably released about the same year as this book), his attempt to rob a bank with a gun carved from soap is foiled when it starts to rain and the “gun” starts lathering in his hands. At the end of the movie, Allen is in prison when he looks up and asks, “Is it raining outside?”

  10. “speed and action expressed in a still life” priceless. Who is the artist of this soap carving masterpiece?

  11. I had to do a soap carving for a 6th grade book report. It was for the book The Incredible Journey which is not an awful library book at all. I had to do the two dogs and the cat. I seem to remember my dad doing it for me. I can’t smell ivory soap without thinking about that project and that was about 15 years ago. Love your site.

  12. I vaguely remember some soap carving project from school (60s), but since I never met an art project I couldn’t screw up, I seem to have suppressed most of the memory. What I do remember is being told specifically that Ivory was the only soap suitable for carving.

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