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Carving Soap: Image


Carving Soap: Text

Inspired by soap carvings made by people in prison and detention centres 

Carving Soap: Text

Workshop Description

Participants will use simple available materials to create tiny sculptures by scraping and carving a bar of soap

Carving Soap: Text

Workshop Aims

1. To learn how every day materials can be used to make art 

2. To create a series of small sculptures made from soap 

Carving Soap: Text

Workshop Activities 

1. Look at images of soap carvings and discuss how people in prisons and detention centres have used what is available to them to make art, including bars of soap.

2. Give each participant a bar of soap and a selection of simple carving tools, for instance pencils, cutlery, tooth picks, etc. Demonstrate how different tools can make a variety of marks, and how to engrave and carve the soap using these tools.

3. Encourage participants to come up with a shape, image or pattern they would like to try and carve or engrave. Begin by lightly marking out with a sharpened pencil how this will fill the piece of soap. Start to press harder with the pencil or other tools to create deeper groves. Remove sections of soap to form it into a new shape or simply engrave the whole bar.

4. Place completed soap sculptures together to display. Ask anyone who feels comfortable to share what they have made and why.

Carving Soap: Text

Materials Required

  • bars  of soap, plain with no existing markings on them 

  • range of simple available objects to use as makeshift carving tools 

Carving Soap: Text

A specific theme or subject could be set, or participants could be left to use their interests or imagination to design the sculpture. Many of our group attempted a face or portrait. The main thing is that the participants enjoy the therapeutic process of carving the soap rather than feel pressured to make a particular item. 


Soap can be heavily carved and shaped and made more 3D by removing large sections of the soap by repeatedly going over the same grove. Cutting a large section with a knife can result in the soap fracturing in an unintended place and splitting the sculpture in half, so slow and gentle carving is better than taking short cuts. Emphasise that these can be done over a long period of time, for instance by an incarcerated person with little to do. Alternatively the soap artwork can be approached more as a surface engraving, adding words, patterns and details to cover the whole bar. 

Carving Soap: Text
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