Getting Artsy with Beeswax
Deep golden hues, a smooth, flawless finish, and a bright, warm glow are just a few reasons we find beeswax candles beautiful. But beeswax has even more stunning potential aside from candles. Can you imagine painting with beeswax? What about making jewelry? Some amazing artists are using beeswax to create works of art that we simply must share with you. Many of them live right here in Central Texas.
Fabric artist RJ Oehler creates absolutely stunning paintings made out of…yarn. That’s right, yarn. How is this possible? Yarn painting is a modern art form developed in the past century by the Huichol Indians of Central Mexico. The binding ability of beeswax is used to press brightly colored yarn to a baseboard. Inspired by the desire to pass on religious stories, Huichol artists create beautiful, narrative-driven pieces that connect their people to their gods. When Oehler was first introduced to traditional Huichol yarn painting, he was hooked. He immediately began experimenting with patterned storytelling. Things he saw in his daily life made appearances in his work. Whether it was a mockingbird on his windowsill, a vivid dream, or a close friend, Oehler found inspiration from his surroundings. Now, he has progressed from narrative-driven pieces to abstract, geometric paintings. Rather than creating literal stories, Oehler finds excitement in experimenting with different forms.
Bee Comb Sculptures
Did you know bees are artists, too? Canadian sculpture artist Aganetha Dyck works directly with bees to create honeycomb sculptures. Dyck takes damaged objects and prepares the broken areas for the bees to mend. She then places the sculptures in a beehive, and the bees work their magic. After that, it’s just a matter of time (in fact, it can take years). The results are truly mesmerizing.
Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, has roots as far back as 100-300 AD. The oldest known encaustic paintings are the Egyptian Fayum mummy portraits. What makes a painting encaustic is the use of heat throughout the process. Artists will heat a beeswax mixture to create layers on a wood panel or canvas. Because of its excellent binding ability and its malleability, beeswax can hold a variety of pigments and be manipulated to form various shapes. It’s an interactive art form allowing artists to go back and rework paintings after the wax has cooled. In many ways, encaustic painting is as much a sculpting process as it is a painting process.
Many artists use encaustic painting to combine several media into one artwork. For example, Austin artist Norah Levine uses her own photographs in her encaustic paintings. By combining the personal aspects of photography with the curious texture of wax, she creates beautiful works that are unique to her. Another Austin favorite, Sarah St. Laurent, incorporates nature’s processes into her art. In her most compelling works, Sarah preserves the process of rusting with wax. It is really amazing to see the rust preserved, as if it’s been frozen in time.
Beeswax is used in jewelry making? Yes, it is! Anna Gieselman, founder of Bee Amour, uses a thousand-years-old technique called lost wax casting to make beautiful jewelry pieces. She takes real honeycomb from her beehives to create the shape, then encases the honeycomb in a plaster mold before melting the beeswax away. With the beeswax gone, Anna is left with a hollow mold. Once these molds are ready, she can pour metal to create jewelry pieces. Lost wax casting has been used in metal casting around the world. Beautiful metal statues, religious images, and ornaments have been found in almost every continent in the world. At Bee Amour, you can find necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings and more. My personal favorite and a wardrobe staple are Bee Amours’ cast honeycomb earnings that never fail to bring in compliments.
Aren’t you excited by all of the creative possibilities? Beeswax and honeycomb are part of some of the most beautiful artwork in the world—and they have been for thousands of years. To learn more about supporting local bee-friendly artists, connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.