Monday, September 14, 2009

Soap Sculpture

Ivory Soap ad from Lester Gaba's book "On Soap Sculpture" (1935)
image from the New York Public Library's website

Funny that my fellow guest-blogger Robyn posted about incredibly carved watermelons, because I had been wondering about incredibly carved soap. (I shoulda called this entry "Too Beautiful to Shower With".) My father had a really lovely, but simple soap sculpture on his desk of a kneeling nude he'd made when he was about nineteen. It made me wonder if there were many other examples of soap carving, or if it had been a fad at one time. Looks like it was...

I was led to the New York Public Library's website where they had a nice entry on Lester Gaba, who wrote several books on the subject, and created numerous examples of soap sculpture that are astonishing in their detail. I was surprised to find out that this fad was launched as a marketing scheme by Proctor and Gamble:
...soap sculpture as a fashionable hobby was launched by Proctor & Gamble as a means of promoting brand loyalty for Ivory soap. The man behind this campaign was Edward L. Bernays, who has been called the Father of Spin. Proctor & Gamble sponsored a series of competitive soap sculpture exhibitions in the twenties, and winners took home cash prizes. Within the first three years of the campaign's launch, prizes totaling $1,675 were given to winners among no fewer than four thousand entries (as reported in the New York Times, June 6, 1928).
Link to the New York Public Library's entry
Link to an excerpt from Gaba's oop book with several images scanned