March 24, 2010

Tutorial - Encaustic Wallpaper Medallions

So tonight I was experimenting with melting crayons together, to make new, random-color crayons (in an effort to help myself use more colors that I never use). I didn't quite get as far as making the actual crayons for myself, but I *did* have a heck of a lot of fun making "Encaustic Wallpaper Medallions."

I have long admired the look of the "encaustic" pieces, wonderful paintings with melted layers of beeswax - however I don't have all of the equipment that goes along with that type of artwork, so here is a low-cost, very easy, and super fun method of creating wonderfully sophisticated and artsy-looking pieces.

Here are the instructions:

You will need:
  • Electric Griddle (Check your local thrift store if you don't already have one! It's good to have one dedicated to crafting.)
  • Vintage (or new) deeply embossed wallpaper, NOT prepasted, white or off-white (I have some for sale at in my etsy store.) You want the designs to have a nice frame within them, or border, and you'll want the designs to be embossed deeply enough so that it acts as a reservoir for the melted wax.
  • Twinkling H2O's or Pearl-Ex watercolor paints (optional)
  • aluminum foil or non-stick craft sheet
  • Crayons - LOTS of them, with the wrappers peeled off
  • Old paint brush
  • Tongs, or something to hold the paper in place as you work on it, and to lift it off the griddle with when you are finished

  • Cut out sections of vintage wallpaper to paint. My wallpaper has both circle medallions and squares, so I cut out a few of each.
  • Optional - Paint your wallpaper with Twinkling H2O's or Pearl Ex watercolor paint - using however many colors you'd like. This makes a shiny, sparkling, yet translucent layer of color, which is nice in areas that show through where any wax isn't applied. Allow to dry thoroughly.
  • Set up your electric griddle in an area where there is circulation, either on a deck or on the stove where you can turn on the fan directly above the griddle (to prevent breathing fumes).
  • Pre-heat electric griddle to about 260 degrees.
  • Line your worksurface on the griddle with a non-stick craft sheet, or a large piece of aluminum foil.
  • Place your piece on the lined griddle, and allow it to heat up for a few seconds.
  • Select a few colors of crayons for the piece you will be working on, and organize them from light to medium to dark.
  • With the lightest colors, begin coloring on your medallion with crayons (it helps to have the wrappers already peeled off), filling in background areas. Gently push against your piece with the crayon, and you will see the wax melt down onto your piece - after some practicing, you'll get the hang of how quickly to move your crayons around and still allow nice layers of colored wax to form. Don't worry about any imperfections - they add to the charm! And resist the urge to "fix" any lumpy or unfilled spots with your fingers - it will be hot!! Remove from heat, and turn down temperature setting on griddle if you see any smoking of the wax or your wallpaper. This means the temperature is TOO HOT for the wax - just turn down, allow to cool for a little bit, then try again.
  • You'll notice the wax will melt and spread out on your piece, filling in the flat bottom (embossed) areas of the design with a thin, liquid wax. Apply more color to fill in all of the flat areas, or purposefully leave some of this "white space" - if you painted beforehand with Twinkling H2Os or Pearl Ex watercolor paints, these painted areas can show through and add a really neat dimensional effect.
  • With the medium colors, start outlining embossed shapes. Go around them, right on top of the lightest colors, close to the shapes. The shapes that are raised will work like a template, allowing you to quickly trace around them. Allow the colors to mix and swirl together in places, and in spots hold the crayon down in one spot for a couple of seconds to "pool" the wax in areas and spill into the background areas.
  • With the darkest colors, hold the crayons sideways above the piece, using tongs or tweezers if needed, and rub the crayon horizontally down across the piece - as if you were making a crayon rubbing. This allows the very tops of the raised images to touch the crayon, and draw the wax down on top of them, without interfering with the color you've already applied in the previous steps.
  • Add more color in areas, or add accent colors wherever you feel it is appropriate - I found myself going around shapes 2-3 times and coloring over the raised images again and again - it can be addicting!!
  • My FAVORITE last step is to use one of the metallics, gold/copper/silver, and highlight various areas of the design. You could also use white or black for this.
  • Keeping the piece as flat as possible, remove from heat and set on a solid surface covered with a non-stick craft sheet to dry (deli paper would work as well).
  • Watch as your piece cools - the wax will become a little more opaque and solid before your very eyes!!
For the more adventerous - you could sprinkle some embossing powders, mica flakes, pearl-ex, or mini-beads into the wax as you work - these would all make really neat effects as well.

Once you have allowed your piece to cool, you can do SO MANY cool things with it. Add stitching, add additional layers of color, cut out sections, piece them together, attach to cards, journals, ATCs, decos, art quilts.... show me what you make!! I'd LOVE to see what you create!! : )

Here are a few photos of my own medallions, ready for further embellishing:

Please contact me with any questions! ; )

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