Working with wax to make art

It’s an unusual art form – dripping hot wax to create images – but one Tauranga woman has embraced it with gusto.

Local artist Jo Pedersen has been exploring the art form for several years, and says it adds a different dimension to working with acrylic or oil paints.

A self-taught painter, she initially worked with traditional painting methods, such as oils and acrylic.

“After I’d explored those mediums, I heard about a workshop in the UK (where I was living at the time) about using encaustic wax, so I went along to one or two classes and decided to go from there myself.”

The proper name for it is ‘encaustic wax’, which basically means hot wax.

“So you’re painting with melted wax essentially. You have pigmented wax for colour, or you make the wax and pigment it yourself.”

The use of wax means the paintings have a layered, raised feeling, and therefore have an appeal both visually and in terms of touch. Some paintings can have up to 200 layers of wax.

“I tend to work with texture a lot. It’s different to how you would normally paint. You have to work quite quickly, with the way the wax dries.”

Since it’s hard to try and paint realism with wax, her style is abstract-expressionism. What makes it unique is that, because the way the wax falls, each painting is a complete original.

“No one can actually reproduce that exact same image.”

Although the medium is small in New Zealand, her work has generated a lot of intrigue.

“People have been very interested. I started selling in London, and was part of an installation in the London Underground. I decided to move back to New Zealand at the end of 2014, where there aren’t many wax artists. It’s a niche market.”

Naturally, people are fascinated with the process. Recently, Flagstaff Gallery in Auckland took one of her larger panels, ‘Manifestation’, while some of her work is on display in Tauranga at Macandmor Gallery in the Goddard Centre.

For people interested in taking up the art form, she says there are workshops around New Zealand that cater for it.

“I might consider teaching in the future, too, but not at present.”

Maintaining an international presence is important for any aspiring artist, and Jo has her sights set on Australia next, mostly as a market. But she hopes to remain in the Bay and use it as base from which to work.

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