So I have this thing about wax. Love it for candles and jam jars and letters.

Hate it for sculpting.

This is odd, since I sculpt.

(And lately, I sculpt a lot.) But herewith I introduce the Antiwax Guild Credo:
Wax is sticky. Gets all over everything. Best way to get wax out of the carpet is to soak the stain in kerosene and set a match to it. Best way to get wax out of the grout in your kitchen tile is to move.

Wax is dangerous. You can leave a lump of usable clay in your studio for 30 years and the worst it will do is get hard. Or moldy. Or both. Leave a pot of hot wax on the stove for 30 minutes and you’ll think you’re the guest of honor at a witch burning. (i.e., never leave wax unattended. I know this from sad experience.)

Wax stinks. Ever burned out wax from a mold? I rest my case.

Wax just doesn’t FEEL like clay. Wax doesn’t give you that sensual “one with the earth” feeling that makes you want to sculpt. You can’t let wax dry to make it carvable, or add a bit of water for texture and sheen.

Wax is expensive. Price a 25-pound block of wax. Then price a 25-pound block of clay. ‘Nuf said.

Wax is too dark. Victory brown, the sculptor’s wax of choice, is so dark it’s almost black. For some reason I have a very (VERY) hard time visualizing the final piece in wax, or noticing nasty errors (until it’s too late, of course). Clay, especially the silvery Hanjiki porcelain I favor, shows every wrink and creasle, allowing me to fix mistakes before I pour the plaster.

Wax needs extra equipment. Lump of clay, set of fingers (and maybe an elbow) and you’re set. If you want to get fancy, buy some dental tools, a few cheap ceramic scrapers, snitch the rolling pin from the kitchen and tear up an old sheet. You’ve got enough to sculpt like Rodin.

(And please don’t say “Rodin used wax.” I’m on a roll here.)

Wanna work with wax? You’ll need all the above plus:

  • Wax cooker (crock pot, deep fat fryer, whatever) to keep the wax liquid without burning down your house.
  • Soldering iron
  • Alcohol lamp
  • Disclosing wax to help you find and fix the flaws in the wax you can’t see because the wax is too darn dark
  • Some kind of steaming equipment to get the wax out of the mold
  • Wax remover for getting wax off stuff (doesn’t work but you’ll buy it anyway)
  • Molds for forming clean strips and sheets and shapes in wax
  • Separate set-up to get the water and plaster crud out of de-molded wax so you can reuse it and avoid bankruptcy court a little while longer

Not to mention a separate studio space just for wax because (a) you don’t want to spend more time cleaning than making and (b) if you let wax contaminate your glass you’ve had it.

I’ve just spent the last two years figuring out how to do glass casting with my very detailed, very undercut sculpting style, without using wax. I’ve gone through a lot of techniques, lot of investment formulations, essentially developed a direct clay-to-investment method that mostly works.

Or so I thought, until I was accosted by the wax missionaries… (see part II)