Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Soapers often have a lot of scraps, ends, dented bars...what to do with all of them??? We can make confetti soap. We can sell them as seconds. We can chuck them in the garbage.

However, what we should do is help support Clean The World. Their goal is save the millions of lives lost each year to acute lower-respiratory infection and illness by distributing recycled soap with the appropriate educational materials to sustain good personal hygiene practices. To do this they collect soap and shampoo scraps, rebatch it, sterilize it, and distribute to people that are in need.

Right now, they are moving supplies into Haiti. Clean the World is concentrating on moving hygiene products and medical supplies into the Haiti Relief Effort. You can help by donating funds and/or hygiene and medical products to Clean the World.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Exploring the Encaustic Technique

By Susan Foss

My first experience working with encaustics came in the winter of 1999. Intrigued by what I had heard from acquaintances, I enrolled in a workshop given by R&F Handmade Paints in Kingston, NY. Although the materials themselves were not new to me, the combination and technique was. I have always enjoyed working sculpturally with wax, and using the lost wax process for casting silver jewelry, and was no stranger to pigment and collage. However, my initial impression of the technique was less than enthusiastic; encaustics seemed to require an incredible amount of work to get paint on a surface.

I persisted because I just loved the artwork I was seeing. Within a few sessions, I fell in love with the process as well. It is a multi-sensory experience that begins with the magical transformation which takes place as the hard cube of colored wax melts onto the surface of the heated palette. Excitement builds from the moment I dip my brush into the brilliantly colored liquid. the smell of the beeswax is heavenly and the finished piece maintains this scent. The lustrous surface of the finished work calls for you to touch it. It is tactile - smooth, bumpy, sculptural; a feeling not unlike that of human skin.

The encaustic process incorporates painting, sculpture, collage and printmaking, thus tying together many aspects of two and three-dimensional disciplines. Encaustic painting dates back as far as the Fayim portraits of the 1st and 2nd centuries, A.D. The word "encaustic" is derived from a Greek term meaning "to burn in". The primary encaustic painting method calls for molten wax mixed with pigment on a heated surface. The paint can then be applied to surfaces such as wood, clay, plaster, traditional gesso covered boards, paper coated wood, and so on. Traditionally, a heat source is then passed over the surface, which causes the colors to fuse to each other and create a bond.

One of the many joys of this technique is the way one can interact with the wax. At times, it seems to have a mind of its own. As the wax is being fused, it may drip or move in a way not intended by the artist. This creates an active relationship between the artist and the material. The material itself challenges you to work in the moment and be present to the medium and its properties. Will you scrape away or otherwise remove the unintended effect, or incorporate it and see where it wants to take you?

In order to produce fine lines in encaustic painting, a pointed tool is used to incise the wax. Oil paint can then be applied over the incisions and wiped down, giving the paint an etching-like quality. The wax can also be applied in thin glazes or built up to thick impasto layers. Because of the adhesive qualities of the wax, it is an excellent method for collage. Paper, string, fabric, dried leaves or petals, and many other objects can be dipped in the encaustic paint and fused to the painting. Drawings can also be enhanced by the application of a thin, clear or subtly tinted encaustic layer. The drawing remains visible, with just a hint of dimension and color added.

Having been an artist all my life, I have found it very exciting to work with a new medium. One that incorporates the techniques I have traditionally used to express myself through my art. Encaustic painting enhances that expression in a unique and engaging way and the work I have done since has reflected the broadened approach to painting that my work with encaustics has made possible.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Green Packaging

So we start off a new year and a new decade with good intentions. Perhaps one of those is to consider ways to green up our daily living practices. As I've looked more closely this past year at where our food comes from, ways that I use and waste energy, etc., I"ve also thought about my art and its impact on the environment.

Take the simple process of getting a pin to a customer. What are my options for packaging? Factors that might go into my choices would be where my materials will come from - how far away? Are they made from recycled products? Can they be recycled themselves? What is a fair trade off for aesthetics and practicality vs greenest option and cost?

So far I use hang tags that are printed locally, using non-recycled card stock. I couldn't find a good card stock that had recycled content without buying much larger quantities than I'd ever use.

I do use cardboard gift boxes made from recycled paper. But they are sent from California - and perhaps somewhere else before that. A lot of fuel goes into delivering them to me!

Then I mail them out to customers. I'd been using bubble mailers till I read about other solutions on Etsy threads. Since then I've been looking for the old fashioned padded mailers that are recyclable, but in the meantime have been wrapping the box in bubble wrap and putting it in a regular mailer. This way, at least, the bubble wrap can be reused if someone cares to - and the mailer can be recycled. Recently I did find the padded mailers I'd been looking for at Target's. They're made by 3M so now the task is to try to find a wholesaler to buy them from so the cost will be a little more reasonable.

I write this not having the answers, but hoping to get a fruitful dialogue going, so that we can all move ahead in our businesses, knowing that we're doing what we can to live carefully.