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Nelson artist turns beeswax into artwork

Erica Konrad will teach SelfDesign high students how to turn beeswax into art. - submitted photo
Erica Konrad will teach SelfDesign high students how to turn beeswax into art.
— image credit: submitted photo

Amid all the controversy surrounding keeping bees in Nelson, local artist Erica Konrad is dependent on bees, not for honey, but for beeswax for artwork.

Encaustic, coming from the Greek word encaustikos meaning “to burn in,” is an ancient method dating back to fouth century B.C. The procedure of applying molten wax to various surfaces is perhaps best known from the Fayum funeral portraits painted in the first and second centuries A.D. which can still be seen today in London and Cairo. The longevity speaks to the incredible durability of this art medium, mainly the beeswax being impervious to moisture resulting in a long life span.

Encaustic is now increasingly popular as a medium. It is a mixture of beeswax and damar resin (sap from a tree) which is mixed together to make medium, then colour is added to make encaustic paint. This is used in a molten state (heated), and then fused with a heat gun or torch into a continuous layer and fixed to a rigid absorbent support, usually wood.

Konrad uses encaustic as a medium in her artwork and will be sharing that knowledge, through a free workshop, with students from SelfDesign High, on February 8.

Konrad has been working on a body of work titled “The Waggle Dance,” related to the dance bees do to communicate vital information — the metaphor representing our maintenance of community through the action (flow and preservation) of this symbolically rich material.

She will teach the SelfDesign students the process of encaustic and then encourage their expression of community through the use of wax medium. The artwork will be mounted on panels and displayed at SelfDesign High.

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