SOAP LAKE, Wash. – Brent Blake towers over the ancient and mysterious structure, looking for the Neanderthal throwing a rock.
It’s the only plastic figure performing the action. When Blake finds it, he places it atop one of the soap bars that comprise Soaphenge.
The concept is one Blake came up with several years ago, shortly after the idea to locate a giant lava lamp in Soap Lake occurred to him.
Blake built a model using Lava soap to correspond with the lava flows of the region and including the Neanderthal figurines to simulate ancient peoples fighting over territorial issues.
His concept is a Stonehenge, with giant bars of soap filling in for the standing stones of the England structure.
“We’re actually in Soap Lake, so a giant bar of soap seems to be the appropriate component to create a ‘henge’ for Soap Lake,” Blake said.
He’s in the process of looking around Soap Lake for piece of property where the structure could fit as a place for people to go, visit or have a picnic lunch, watching the sun and shadows interact with the artwork.
“The concept is to build this, not at a huge scale, but maybe each of the bars of soap is roughly 4 feet by 8 feet and about 2 1/2 feet thick,” Blake said.
The structure would not be comprised of actual bars of soap,
“That would be fun,” Blake said with a grin. “But if we construct it to look like real bars of soap, and it had a structure to where it would weather the elements, be structurally sound and highly susceptible to graffiti, but we don’t really want to talk about that, we don’t want that to happen.”
Blake postulated the bars would be made of lightweight concrete, with the word “SOAP” cast into the material.
“There’s henges all over the world constructed to sort of be something sort of fun and unique,” he said. “It just was an idea. Stonehenge is, frankly, a fascination to me.”
Blake would want Soaphenge built with imperfections, the better to mirror the real Stonehenge. A Stonehenge in Maryhill is too perfect for his liking.
“It’s built without imperfections; it’s built without any pieces out of place,” he said. “If we did something like this, it would need to have pieces falling over, some of them broken, so it looks like an aged henge and has been around for thousands of years.”
The Neanderthal figures probably would not factor into the larger scale.
“The social interaction would be all of our visitors, tourists and that sort of thing who would come and enjoy it, wander in and out of it, and just have fun with it,” Blake said. “This sort of has a sense of humor about the whole concept, and there’s no attempt here to be too serious. Just basically something to have a lot of fun with. There’s no question that if we had it built here, people would smile as they approached it.”
The concept is also an affordable one, Blake added, estimating each bar of soap structure would cost $500 apiece.
“It’s certainly an easy, doable project,” he said.
Blake held the Soaphenge idea in reserve in case something went awry with the “big” idea, the lava light. While still involved with the latter project “on a peripheral sense,” the lava lamp project effort belongs to the city of Soap Lake, Blake said.
“There’s a huge, obvious importance to get it done, get it up and have it erected,” Blake said of the Lava Lite, currently stored in a warehouse on property owned by the Port of Ephrata. “The mayor and the City Council are working very hard to make that happen. I am highly assured it’s going to happen, and the sooner the better, in my opinion.”
The lava lamp project had its opponents, but Blake believes Soaphenge is bound to garner a positive response.
“It’s not offensive in any way,” he noted. “Soaphenge is a totally appropriate monument for Soap Lake. Ideas are always open to criticism, I’ve been subject to some of that, but at the same time, there’s good that comes from these kinds of efforts. The PR has always got a positive side to it.”
Blake has only built the model and not approached city officials or anyone else about it, although he’s looked for an appropriate piece of property on his own. It’s a matter of getting interest going and putting together a team to make it happen, he believes.
Blake thinks it’s a good idea for communities to generate ideas for festivals and events.
“Each community is trying to find something to draw people to their communities,” he said. “These sort of wild and goofy ideas don’t hurt either.”