Monday, November 9, 2009

Encaustic Sculpture Experiments - In Progress Wax Works by Jaime Lyerly

Three pounds of beeswax in cold pan. "Warm it up, Jaim!" "I'm about to!"
image © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

It has been a busy weekend preparing to teach Encaustic Technique at the San Diego Women's Caucus for Art Retreat this weekend, November 13-15, 2009 at Camp Stevens in Julian, CA.

I admit that I haven't been doing encaustic often within the last month because of my super busy school schedule and the fact that it has been 90+ degrees during the day! But now that it has finally cooled off here in San Diego, I couldn't resist doing some wax experiments even though I was supposed to be preparing medium for the retreat.

Preparing about 7 lbs of encaustic wax medium was one of my goals this weekend. This should have been the final result. Pretty cakes of clear medium cooling. This image was taken when I was making encaustic medium for the Escondido Municipal Gallery Workshop in July 2009.

Making encaustic wax medium, image © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

Saturday started off just fine with me melting 4 lbs of wax in my pan. It seems so good! (We need smell-a-vision screens for this blog post!)

Melting the beeswax to make encaustic medium. image © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

However as it melted, and I added the damar resin to harden it, the urge to USE the wax instead letting it melt overcame me. I thought about all I had been doing recently without my wax. I have been knitting and knotting fabric and rope pieces to be dipped in wax for my Art Actions. I won some fabrics from artist Carolyn Brown Sadowski. I have some vintage books pages that needed to be waxed, and some more books that my friend Starry just gave me. I rationalized that I haven't turned on my wax in a month and that I NEEDED to wax just a few things to get back into the swing of working with wax to teach at the retreat...

It was a lie.

I WANTED to use the wax for myself. So I did.

I ripped up a vintage book and tossed the pages in the beeswax bath. The damar that I put in was melting and sticky. I soaked these papers. I also dipped individual pieces of paper and shaped them. It was fun to experiment and get messy with the wax.

Old book pages in encaustic wax bath. image © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

After experimenting with the paper, I took out the fabric pieces. Dipping materials, especially things like fabric uses A LOT of wax. As I was dipping the fabric pieces, some of them made a sizzling noise. This tells me that there was probably a synthetic material in the fabric that had a lower burning temperature than my wax does. But these are all experiments; so I share my knowledge with you. If it sizzles, it is too hot! You knew that right?

Even though I burns some of the fabrics, they turned out more interesting than I expected after only one trip to the wax bath. They look like leather and I think they are so cool. The images are not the best, but they give you a taste of what they are like. Check them out below.

Untitled Encaustic Sculpture, in progress, fabric and wax, © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

Untitled Encaustic Sculpture Detail, in progress, fabric and wax, © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

Untitled Encaustic Sculpture, in progress, fabric and wax, © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

Untitled Encaustic Sculpture detail, in progress, fabric and wax, © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

Untitled Encaustic Sculpture, in progress, fabric and wax, © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

The last image I only covered partially in wax, which kept some of the original coloring while shaping the piece. I am not in love with these pieces, yet, but I am intrigued enough with them to ask for a second date.

One thing I know about them is that they need a place to hang out and lots more friends! I plan to do more experiments soon, but this time without any guilt of what I SHOULD be doing.

Warning: for all of you ready to start dipping object in wax - it "taints" or "dirties" your wax. The wax that I used for these items was clear refined beeswax. Now it is brownish yellow. Not a big loss, since now it has been labeled "collage wax."

Encaustic wax used for collage and dipping, image © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

After pouring my collage wax into the muffin pans, I cleaned out the pan and put in fresh pounds of beeswax and made some medium. Here they are cooling in their mini muffin pan.

Encaustic medium cooling, image © 2009 Jaime Lyerly

So I ended up making about 3 lbs of encaustic medium for the retreat and will finish making the medium later this week.

I am so excited to teach this weekend! It will be a full house, but I hope each student will get a taste of working in this exciting medium. I never tire about explaining, showing and working in encaustic.

For those of you not coming to the retreat, I will have some pictures up for you to experience it online. Let me know what you want me to post on my blog. I aim to please!

Until then, happy experimenting! Enjoy the journey! ~ Jaime Lyerly


  1. I'm afraid I'm not an artist. But this is very interesting! I love all the step by step pictures!

  2. AnonymousJune 06, 2010

    Could you do an online tutorial just to get us started. I'd love to see how to use the wax with an oil painting.

  3. So, when you started dipping the book pages and fabric in the melted medium, was that before you filtered it through cheesecloth? As i was reading I thought it might look kind of cool to have the bits of detritus from the damar resin stuck to the paper and cloth.


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