If you read yesterday’s post you probably got that I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of sculpting wax. Now, don’t get me wrong–I did waxwork for jewelry for years, so I know how. But translating into the scale I’m working with glass? Forget it.

I am a huge fan, though, of sculpting in clay. That’s why I’ve spent many hours figuring out how to cast my glass sculptures without a sticky, crud-colored drop of victory brown wax in the house. It worked.


emergentssand2Which is probably why I was visited by the wax missionaries. They arrived, disguised as houseguests and fellow artists, just as I was pulling two Emergents studies (Dogwoodman and Hostafading) out of the kiln.

The casting glass, a mixture of BE Light Peach Cream and BE Crystal Clear powder, centered with chunks of BE CC for light transmission, had performed like a champ. I had two honeyed, gorgeous alabaster pieces that glowed from within, exactly as planned.

emergentsand1Unfortunately, in getting the wax out of the undercuts I’d violated Casting Rule #1: Never futz with the surface of the mold.

Disrupt the ultra-smooth skin that develops when you invest your model with Ransom & Randolph’s R&R910, and your cast will look as if you poured superglue over it and tossed it into a sandstorm.

The clay had dried a tad too long when I invested it, and instead of pulling it out in wet, plastic chunks I’d had to scrape it out, bit by bit, with dental tools. Impossible NOT to mar the surface, ergo, I also got the sandstorm effect.

Drat. (Translation: “Go find a sandblaster”)

The wax missionaries shook their heads. “You know” said one gently, “If you’d used wax in your mold…”

I gritted my teeth and recited the anti-wax credo:
“Hmmmmm,” she said, silently invoking the gods of wax.

Suddenly, strange things began to happen. I ran out of clay when I was SURE there was a big box of it in the garage. Out of the blue, my guests discovered that their own (huge) sculptures couldn’t be de-kilned in time for an important gallery opening, and they desperately needed to make more.

And the little voice inside my head took over, the one that likes to say stuff like, “SURE, you can park here without getting a ticket,” and “The IRS doesn’t care about little things like THAT.”

It said: “You’re welcome to use my studio to make more. You can show me how. It’ll be fun!”

Upshot: I got a terrific chance to help a talented and incredibly skilled sculptor build a model from scratch, refine it, invest it, steam it out, fill it with glass and cast it in my kiln.

It’s in there now (will be in there until August 9, in fact), and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Learned a lot. For once, the voice was right. Of course, it left out the dulcet-toned missionary part of my instruction:

“Because I’m using wax instead of clay, see how it comes right out of there?”
“Doesn’t that wax give a lovely texture? Isn’t that wax just wonderful?”
“See? If you have a soldering iron that wax just flows and you can shape it SOOOOOO nicely…”
“The great thing about wax is it’s so flexible, you can bend that shape without breaking it.”
“I don’t think I could do this if it weren’t for the wax.”
“Boy, when I make these pieces I really have to thank whoever invented wax.”
“It’s sooooooo easy to fix your mistakes when you’re using wax, isn’t it?”
“Let me just make a wax for you so you can play with it and see how wonderful it is.”

I haven’t gotten that many broad hints since my ex-mother-in-law played baby-of-the-week for our Sunday dinners. (We’d arrive at the house to find a just-delivered mother on the living room sofa. “Why don’t you hold the baby for awhile, dear? There–isn’t that an adorable baby? Don’t you just ache to have a cute little baby of your very own?”)

So I not only got a terrific education in growing the scale of my sculptures, from acknowledged masters in the art…I also found my position on wax, er, softening. Grudgingly, I played with the wax.
WaxHostabowlOK, so it wasn’t horrible. In fact, it was kinda nice the way it didn’t dry out if I left it on the table without water schpritzes and plastic wrap. And there was something kinda satisfying about carving it.

And yeah, it was kinda cool the way it popped right off the damp plaster. And, well, there’s this idea I’ve been tinkering with that would be a real pain to do in clay…

So. I actually bought a block of wax and a crock pot. I’ll go find the wallpaper steamer and the other stuff I need this week. If it works, I guess I get used to wax in the carpet.