Soap Carving - Native American Projects
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Soap Carving

carving of animals with human faces
Inuit carving (ca. 1800 AD)

April 2016 - Do you want to carve your own small sculptures, the way Inuit artists did? Inuit artists carved animal bones, but it will be easier for you to start out by carving soap.

Get a bar of soap from the store - Ivory soap is good because it is white like bones. Trace around the edge of the soap twice on paper. Inside the two outlines, draw what you want your sculpture to look like on the front and on the back. What will you make? An animal? A bird? A fish? A person?

Use a sharp paring knife to sketch out your drawing on the front and back of the soap, and then start to carve away the soap that is outside your figure. If you accidentally cut something off that you wanted, you can stick it back on again by getting the edges wet and holding them together.

When you finish, you can get all of the extra pieces of soap wet and mush them together to make a piece of soap you can use. Smooth the edges of your finished piece by wetting your finger and running it over the surface.

Proud of your carving? Send us a picture of it and we'll post it on this page!

A day in early North America:
North America Scavenger Hunt
Building a Wickiup Shelter
Making succotash
More fun projects

Further reading about Native Americans

More about North America
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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