What is encaustic?
Encaustic is an ancient Egyptian art form that involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. Encaustic originates from the Greek word enkaustikos which means to “burn in”. I’m still not sure how the Egyptians managed to paint the Fayum portraits, since I use tools run electricity and butane rather than open flame. Today’s encaustic medium is a mixture of pure beeswax and damar resin.
What about metal allergies?
“Steel is a metal alloy, a mixture of iron and up to 2 percent carbon,” according to Brenda Schweder in Steel Wire Jewelry. This means that it is nickel-free, preventing any allergy issues. Upon a surcharge of $4, I can swap out earring findings with sterling silver. My 16 and 18 inch necklaces have sterling silver clasps, and the clasps of other necklace lengths are nickel-free.
Will it rust?
I use a microcrystalline wax finish on all parts that aren’t covered with encaustic medium. I don’t recommend wearing these in super humid weather, but rainstorms happen and in that case you can just wipe off any rust that might occur. Some of my collectors enjoy the worn patina of their pieces.
How do your stakes hold up outside?
I am actively testing a dragonfly and ladybug outdoors, and thus far have not seen major issues. Like any metal piece outside, rust will accumulate in small sections. To me, that is just part of the patina. I am experimenting with fuller coverage on steel sections, so if you prefer a sealed stake, I can be more liberal with encaustic medium as well as the patina alcohol inks designed for metal.
How soon can I get my custom order?
For custom orders, I need a lead time of 3 weeks to ensure I have the time for troubleshooting (the wire doesn’t always want to play my way) and to source custom materials like birthstones.
How long does shipping take?
I currently process orders within one business day of placement. Priority mail will take 2 to 3 business days. I am still evaluating shipping plug-ins for the shop to where expedited shipping might be a possibility. I also hope to have International shipping available soon.
I discovered encaustics through Suze Weinberg who was using her melting pots for beeswax in addition to the UTEE I had been working with. I loved how the beeswax interacted with paper, creating a translucence to the greeting cards I was making at the time.
In January 2010 I took a class at the Evanston Art Center where we played with some encaustic techniques that had me hooked on this medium. A wax and wire workshop with Crystal Neubauer had me venturing into small sculptural pieces, and the demand for my wax and wire creations since has led me to focus on wire wrangling as my primary art form.
What materials do you use?
I order from Clairvoyant Encaustics, and also use pigmented encaustic paint from R&F and Enkaustikos. Clairvoyant Medium is encaustic medium manufactured at a ratio of 5:1 or 8:1. It is a combination of purified white beeswax and damar resin, molded into one-inch cubes for ease of use.
My steel wire comes from the hardware store, after which I clean it with sanding paper. I also have ordered lower-gauge annealed wire from Brenda Schweder.
My setup is a pancake griddle on which the wax melts in tins. Once the wax is liquid, you can apply it to a variety of surfaces and paint with it. It can be manipulated with a heat gun or torch on the surface, and one can create patterns and marks while the wax is still hot. For my steel wire creations, I use a gemstone-setting tool with an iron attachment, but a quilting iron will do as well. My pliers come from the craft store, and I use cutters from the hardware store, but am looking into investing in steel wire appropriate tools.
I use Now That’s a Jig! for my angels, dragonflies, frosties, ladybugs and mini-books, followed by a lot of hand-forming after those base shapes have been created.
My bead and ephemera collection stems from a lifelong love of craft supplies. Papers, embellishments and other embellishments have been collected as gifts, from antique and art supply stores, and from many art fairs. I source birthstones locally at Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop and Ayla’s Originals, and also peruse the Bead & Button Show once a year.
How long does it take to make a piece?
Honestly, my work has percolated in my head for some time by the time it comes out of my hands. Over the past few years I have developed more arm strength to bend wire more easily, but initially a piece could take a full day. Now it depends on the wire’s personality and my inspiration. During the holiday season I can produce a few wire forms in a day, but the waxing is still very time consuming detail work because of the tiny nooks and crannies the paper needs to adhere to.
Can I take a workshop?
Wax and wire is the brain child of Crystal Neubauer, who occasionally offers classes. I have done a few demos but haven’t ventured into teaching yet. Encaustic workshops are offered throughout the U.S. and overseas. You can check for some leads at FUSEDChicago.com.