Beeswax candle dipping = Aromatic sculpture meditation

We are interested in bees as pollinators and part of agricultural life cycle (bringers of flowers, fruit and vegetables). On those auspices, we took a class on Beeswax Candle Dipping via the Driftless Folk School.

Candle types: Dipped beeswax candles

Candle types: Dipped beeswax candles

Instructor Martha Buche had the wax already a-melting so the classroom smelled great as soon as we began. As a sculptor I have worked with wax in other processes: making plaster mold castings into which glass or bronze was poured, doing a bit of carving and shaping directly into the wax before they were burned out to make the permanent castings. I had never worked with wax by dipping it. Martha also has a formal art background, and shared with us a bit about her non-wax sculptural work.

Beeswax chunks and candle wicking

Beeswax chunks and candle wicking

The process of building up wax thickness slowly but surely via layers was a gentle and subtle reminder of the power of time. The process of dipping – circular paths around the melting table, slow enough to let wax build along the wick – was a form of meditation

Candle dipping sequence

Building up beeswax slowly along the wick, through a series of dips into hot liquid wax.

Discussions ran from art to agriculture to homesteading and DIY – the practice of making candles with beeswax touched all of these areas.

Beeswax candles hanging to solidify

Beeswax candles hanging to solidify

We speculated what it would be like – in a longer class – to harvest the wax and then make the candles, starting earlier in the wax-making process by getting to know the wax-makers: the bees. Discussion got fanciful and spun our theoretical class into a week-long workshop in which attendees would learn beekeeping, harvest wax and make candles, harvest honey, and turn some of the honey into mead!

Seph and I each made several dipped beeswax candles during class, in an assortment of lengths and thicknesses.

Seph and I each made several dipped beeswax candles during class, in an assortment of lengths and thicknesses.

We learned that this class was conducted on January 31 specifically because the first few days of February is a significant time of renewal and new beginnings in several traditions, including Candlemas, Groundhog Day and St Brigid’s feast day. In recognition of the day being a good time to celebrate new things and affirm intentions for the coming year, we all made wee promise candles and lit them in a circle.

Wee "promise" beeswax candles

Lighting “promise” candles on Candlemas to reaffirm and set intentions for the coming year.

The class engendered a sense of restful contemplation which will not leave me any time soon, and spurred new insights into how different art processes – welding, grinding, drawing, painting, writing, candle dipping – engender different “head space” for me, from meditative to agitated watchfulness.