Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Part 3 of Reproducing a Victorian Tile.

Ok - I've got the original tile, or at least a photo of what needs to be carved. I've formatted the image to a larger size to compensate for the shrinkage of the clay body. Now I need the materials for creating a reproduction of the tile. There are many different materials that can be used to create the master tile that moulds will be made from. Some include clay, plasticine, plaster, beeswax, jeweler's wax.....I prefer "holy wax".

My Mom helps clean her church - St. Augustine's in Lansingburgh, NY - and has been saving the candle discards for me for 30 years now.

I have many, many, many boxes of candles of all shapes and sizes - but a LOT of these  partially used vigil tapers.

I use this great old electric pot to melt my wax in, and set it at about 200* F to melt the wax. There's always some "starter" wax in the bottom left over from the last pour.

I add more candles to fill the pot up about 1/2 way full. It's about a quart of wax altogether.

I use a wooden kabob stick to stir the wax - everything melts together in about 10 minutes.

At this point I usually add a red candle to color the diluted wax. It took me about a year to decide what color I liked to carve the best. A light "emberglow" seems to be the easiest and most soothing on my eyes. I used to carve a light tone of lavender, but the wax moved itself towards more honeysuckle tones all by itself, and I let it go where it wanted to. I did discover early on that blue and green didn't work for me at all. And - never, ever, ever, add scented candles to the mix - big mistake.

When the wax is just about all melted I add stearic acid - about 1/2 cup to 1 quart of wax - but try it out for yourself to find the mix you like. It makes for a harder, more durable wax (but it won't save the wax from melting in the mid-day if your head is made of it, watch out.....inside joke for my dear husband). Also - if you leave your wax carving on the dashboard of your car - it WILL melt.

Pulling out the wicks from the melted candles.

I pour my wax, and have been for 30 odd years - into this enameled pan. It has a very smooth surface and is easy to level when I pour the wax into it. I heat it up over the hot wax for 3-4 minutes, so that when I pour the wax into the pan it melts smoothly onto the surface rather than cooling immediately and leaving pouring marks. Learned that one the hard way.

I lay the pan onto paper or cardboard, which helps to insulate it from cooling too quickly.

I unplug the electric pot and slowly pour the wax into the pan.

The wax is transparent until it begins to cool. At this point I level the pan out with folded pieces of paper. The black line around the pan has always served as a great leveling line.

I usually let the wax sit overnight to cool. It becomes opaque as it cools, and pulls away from the pan slightly. If I want to carve the same day, I'll put the pan with the somewhat solidified wax into the refrigerator or freezer. Cooling the wax quickly creates a very interesting textured look and feel to the back surface, but I prefer a nice smooth back. I always carve from the front - or the surface that has been against the enameled pan.

The wax just pops right out of the pan.

Almost as good as a large slab of dark chocolate...this baby is ready to be carved upon!

So - there you have it. Now that you know how to prepare a slab of wax for carving..what are you waiting for? Send me photos of your wax slab and what you're working on, I'd love to see!

Next up - I might have to add a bit of somewhat related art history here...or maybe I'll just jump right into the thick of it with the tools I use and how I start the art.

Stay tuned!

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Blogger Michele D. said...

Another wonderful installment of Project Reproduction! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your process. It's a great help because I'm trying to do something similar but with clay instead of wax. I'm such a clay nerd (clerd?). I anxiously await your posts everyday. (No pressure)

Keep 'em coming!

November 9, 2011 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Josje said...

Wonderful, wonderful! I really enjoyed this! It seems like a very calming process, the melting of the wax, the pouring and then this beautiful virgin slab of wax you end up with. I will certainly have a go at this myself, even though I don't know how to carve.
Now I have to find a church, some candles, an enameled pan....

November 10, 2011 at 4:56 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I'm really enjoying these posts too. I'm just fascinated. Can't wait for the next installment either.

Your years of experience show in the effortless way you work and explain the process. Excellent! Thank you for sharing! Melissa

November 10, 2011 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger laura weant johnson said...

linda, this is a wonderful series of posts! what temperature to you fire the antique tiles to, in order to get out the grime? i have several i'd like to try this with, never would've thought of that! i think i'm going to add wax carving to my list of january projects!

November 14, 2011 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Linda Ellett said...

Hi Laura - Thanks for stopping by!!

You do need to be careful when refiring the tiles, as invisible cracks will appear and cause the tile to split. I usually only refire when the tiles are already broken and I need to see detail that's hidden under grime. I've had the experience that the varnish or paint that is on top of the tiles that I haven't been able to clean off reacts with the glaze to cause blistering.

I've had great luck with cone 06 - 04 to start with. The ones in this post were refired to cone 05 - but the color seems to have shifted more toward brown than maroon from the unfired one. Color shifts are very common.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!!

November 15, 2011 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this is such a great post. Very inspiring and generous of you to share all those hard earned techniques and tips. Your tiles are gorgeous! Off to find some candles...........!!

December 13, 2011 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Linda Ellett said...

Hi Anonymous!
Thanks for your kind words......and I look forward to seeing what you create from your wax!
L'esperance Tile

December 13, 2011 at 12:44 PM  

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