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Montreal Families

Soap-making workshops shower the senses

Human beings tend to be creative in the shower; when warm water embraces our skin, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which is responsible for creativity. My own daughter’s love affair with bath, fragrance and colour began in the washroom but was sealed when she discovered a Bath & Body Works store. Her eyes lit up at the multi-hued bottles of shiny soap lining the walls. Her imagination was further piqued upon discovering that abstract things such as “A Perfect Beach Day” had its own aroma. (I didn’t have the heart to break it to her that beaches didn’t quite smell like that).

So when I discovered Tan Tan Kat, a Montreal-based company located on St. Denis St. that specializes in soap-making workshops, I figured it would be right up my daughter’s alley.

Walking into this store is a titillating feast for the senses. Soaps in every colour of the rainbow together with ambrosial aromas waft past your nose as you step inside. Three years ago, owner Kat Tan, a psychology major, combined her love of teaching with creative arts to come up with her concept.

“I believe everyone is born creative, but we tend to forget just how creative we really are,” Tan explained. “I wanted people to tap into that part of themselves, particularly kids.”

The workshop was designed to be as unstructured as possible. Tan uses this hands-off approach to inspire children to create beautiful things on their own rather than feel like they are being taught.

We begin by choosing the all-natural bases for our soaps. They are either made of coconut oil-based glycerin, which produces clear soap or shea butter-based glycerin, which produces an opaque-colour. The soap-making process is safe as it utilizes the “melt and pour” method versus others where you heat up large vats of lye and fat.

The soap base is placed into a measuring cup, which is then heated up in a microwave for a few seconds. Once the base has melted, you mix in your desired colour, which is blended using non-toxic food colouring. Charts are posted everywhere to show various colour combinations. My daughter’s favourite colour is blue, so of course, most of her soaps were in varying shades of aquamarine.

Next, you add fragrances, which run the gamut from whimsical orange popsicle to more organic scents such as lavender or green apple. Finally, you choose a shape.  The moulds come in every shape imaginable and range from simple brick shapes to more elaborate ones like your favourite Sesame Street character.

The final step is pouring your liquid soap into your chosen mould. The soap takes about five to 10 minutes to harden. Once it does, simply pop it out of the mould and voilà – a bar of soap has been created.

This extrasensory workshop gets children’s creative juices flowing as they purposefully blend colours, develop their own fragrances and choose shapes for their creations. It’s also a foolproof way to get kids to experiment and try new things without fear of getting it perfect. If you are less than satisfied with your soap, you can simply return it to its original liquid state by reheating it in the microwave and starting all over again.

My two “soap artisans” went home with a bag of neatly packaged fruit-scented bricks, some cookie soaps, Hello Kitty bars and “soap-sicles.” And these days, I never have to ask my kids twice to take their bath.

Soap-making workshops/kits

Tan Tan Kat

A soap-making workshop costs $25 per adult and $5 for kids under 10 (accompanied by a paying adult). Soap-making birthday parties are also available. 3920 St. Denis St., Montreal 514-451-3888. For more information, visit tantankat.com

Chateau Ramezay

This museum occasionally features seasonal soap-making classes. Consult the course schedule for future classes.  chateauramezay.qc.ca

DIY Soap making

Homemade soap-making kits can be purchased at Omer de Serres for $29.99. The glycerin soaps are made using the “melt & pour” method. Suitable for kids ages 7 and up.

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