Artists of the 21st century don’t paint with watercolours. Their tools are dazzling lustres and PET-free glitters, vibrant colours from the deepest metallics to the softest pastels. No easel or sketch pad for a canvas, but a freshly drawn bath, still as glass, in anticipation of a sodium bicarbonate explosion.
In case you hadn’t noticed, #BathArt has taken off in a big way. “The rise of photo-led, social channels like Instagram means we can engage with a community of people who enjoy bath bombs and want to share photographs of their experience,” explains Lush’s Digital Director and Product Inventor, Jack Constantine. “When we noticed that people were using the hashtag #BathArt, we wanted to join the conversation and challenge ourselves to make even more spectacular visual displays for people to enjoy.”
The bath bomb; a ball of perfume, bicarb and essential oils, was first created by Co Founder and Product Inventor Mo Constantine back in 1989. In subsequent years the bath bomb has evolved significantly, taking many dramatic shapes and forms.
The rise of bath art has led inventors to push new boundaries and inspired by the stories told through perfume, Jack explains, “this latest range has been about how we can tell stories through bath art. They explore unusual topics - new bath bomb Metamorphosis, for example, is inspired by journeys and change. You start with one fragrance and a layer of black, and then another layer of visuals and perfume comes through. The perfume inside is called Dawn and it emerges with this burst of colour - pinks, oranges, yellows - which represent a new era.”
Complex fragrance narratives are envisioned in unfurling hues and fragrance. “They’re more like pieces that live in an experiential gallery,” says Jack, “Metropolis, for example, has a light in the centre that changes colour as it touches the water - it’s very much an art piece, while Over And Over is half coated in bath melt so it rolls over in an explosion of pink and neroli. Chuck that in the water and move on with your life. It’s all about combining benefits on the skin and mood with visual displays to tell stories.”
Events like The Creative Showcase are held to unveil what Lush Co-founder Mark Constantine calls ‘‘a culmination and a celebration of a long period of activity.” The birth of #BathArt is a key example of the creativity Mark’s talking about. After all, today’s Instagram-worthy bath tubs, filled with dazzling patterns and peaks of coloured foam, have only been possible through years of experimentation and innovation. “Bath bombs have always been made with ingredients which have great benefits but we’ve added an element of spectacle which means every single experience is unique,” says Jack. “We’ve experimented with a multi-layered technique - putting two colours together and seeing what we would get out of it - and also developed a new, secret formula, which allows us to create lasting, coloured foam.”
The development of the latter, in particular, has clearly been a big breakthrough. “The layer of foam creates a canvas on the bathwater,” says Jack animatedly, “and that means that you can visually display a set of colours. My background is in graphic design and so I work in a very visual way, looking at introducing colour combinations, lustres and glitter. The surface of the water became a new canvas: a layer of foam you could visually display a set of colours coming out. It felt like creating a firework display.”
Customers today increasingly want a sharable experience - one which is both satisfying and visual - and smartphones give bath lovers the chance to capture their favourite moments. Everyone has the opportunity to be a photographer, and every space has the potential to be a gallery. It’s fitting then that while years of scientific experimentation have led to the development of today’s immersive bathing experiences, Jack maintains that art is at the forefront of what Lush does. “Any creative act is an act of self expression,” he explains, “you have to put your heart and soul into it and always challenge yourself to do better.”