Published on June 12th, 2015 | by Julie Finn1
How to Make a Mixed-Media Collage with Beeswax
Grab some beeswax. Today, I’m going to show you how to make a mixed-media collage from beeswax and almost any paper that you want.
Add mixed-media collage to the long list of the many uses of beeswax!
With beeswax, you can make a mixed-media, collaged art piece that’s almost entirely glue-free. The beeswax gives the surface an antiqued look, and you can play with its translucency and its ability to have pieces embedded within it. You can layer materials indefinitely, and you can use surface embellishments such as washi tape, acrylic paint, or glues right on top of the beeswax without fear of slipping.
Here’s how to make a mixed-media collage like in the photo above.
(Yes, it’s fanart. Yes, I am THAT woman, the one who makes fanart. I have another mixed-media collage of dinosaurs that I can show you another time, if you prefer something different.)
How to Make a Mixed-Media Collage with Beeswax
You will need:
– beeswax. There is definitely a honey farm near you. Check your farmer’s market or nearest natural grocery.
– crock pot. The absolute best way to do this is to thrift yourself a crafts-only crock pot. If you don’t want an entire extra crock pot around, however (not even a small one?), then you can ebay a second bowl for the crock pot that you already own, and designate that one crafts-only.
– paint brush. Use an old one that you can keep just for beeswax projects.
– surface. A textured, slightly porous surface will take well to beeswax. I use both stretched canvas and building blocks pretty interchangeably, and unfinished wood scraps or pallet boards would also work well.
– papers and other collage elements. Any paper without a shiny coating will work for this project; the beeswax won’t be able to penetrate gloss coatings, so think book pages over store-printed photographs. Also remember that the beeswax will be liquid, so pre-test anything dicey to make sure it’s colorfast before you use it.
– heat gun. You can use a blow dryer for this, but you’ll have to hold your papers in place really well and watch out for spattering beeswax. Those blow dryers really blow!
– embellishments. Acrylic paint, washi tape, 3D pieces and anything that you’d put on a collage all work fine in this project.
How to do it:
1. Melt beeswax. A crock pot with a temperature dial is the nicest, so that you can keep your beeswax hot but not *too* hot (beeswax WILL brown), but even without, you can simply regulate temperature by unplugging the crock pot for a few minutes at a time every so often.
2. Paint a couple of layers of melted beeswax onto your surface. I like to paint my beeswax on pretty thickly, and then melt the excess off at the end, so feel free to also take a heavy hand with this, and literally just paint beeswax onto your surface. By the time you finish with one coat, the wax will be dry enough for a second coat.
3. Lay a single layer of paper on top of the beeswax. I like to completely cover my surface with background paper, so that’s what you’ll see on this pieces. Although edges can overlap, most layering should wait, because the beeswax won’t melt as well through two or more layers at once.
4. Use the heat gun to melt the beeswax up through the first layer of paper. Lay your piece flat. Use your paintbrush to hold the paper steady, then aim the heat gun directly at it. Within seconds, you’ll see that the beeswax on the surface below is melting and beginning to wick up through the paper. Use the paintbrush to hold the paper steady, press parts down if they don’t want to lay flat, and smooth out excess beeswax from under the surface of the paper.
Repeat with all other papers in that first layer.
As you work, you’ll undoubtedly notice thick pools of beeswax building up in spots. Ignore them for now.
5. Add the next layers of papers. Eyeball your overall design, and begin to place the next lowest layer of papers by painting more beeswax over the spots where they’ll sit.
One at a time, place each piece down, hold it steady with the paintbrush, and again melt the beeswax through that piece with the heat gun.
Repeat for all further papers.
6. Add embedded embellishments. Most 3D embellishments will need to wait until after you’ve melted off the excess beeswax from the piece, but if you have embellishments that you can embed into the beeswax, such as thread or glitter, you can add them now. Just steer around those spots when you’re melting off excess beeswax in the next step.
7. Melt off the excess beeswax. This step is a little time-consuming, and it’s noisy, so you have to pause your Gilmore Girls rerun while you do it, sigh.
Set your piece up over your crock pot, making it as vertical as possible (I’m resting my canvas against the wall for this step).
Now, you know all that excess beeswax? You’re going to melt it off!
If there’s a spot where the paper can’t be clearly seen through the beeswax, then you’ve got too much beeswax there–unless you like that look, that is!
To melt off the excess beeswax, start at the top of your piece, and aim your heat gun both at it and down.
As you work, you’ll see the excess beeswax liquify, and begin to flow down the piece. Keep working your way down with the heat gun, and you’ll continue to take all the excess beeswax with you:
This can be a little tricky, because if you melt too much beeswax away, you’ll lose all your papers, of course, but if you focus only on the pools of excess beeswax that are visible on the surface, you should be fine.
If any edges do come unstuck, remelt them just a little and hold them down until they stick back again.
Most of the excess beeswax will drip back into the crock pot, but you can peel up anything that’s fallen outside of it and drop it back into the crock pot for next time (here’s an easy way to collect and save that beeswax without having to store it inside the crock pot).
8. Add 3D embellishments. After you’re done playing with the beeswax, you can add any embellishments that you want to sit on top of the surface. On this piece, I painted the sides of the canvas with acrylic paint, and then brought a bit of that paint around to the front to frame it. I added washi tape, white glue and glitter, and used epoxy glue to stick on a couple of buttons. I would like to add more red embellishments, but since I like to use mainly found items and didn’t have any to hand, I’ll be on the lookout for small red bits and pieces and can add them to the piece as they’re discovered.
Note that your papers and other embedded embellishments are going to end up a little darker, saturated with beeswax as they’ll be. You can see in my first image that my Thing is a little too dark for my tastes, but otherwise I think that it turned out to be a fine homage to some of my favorite differently-gened superheroes.