Cack-handed Kate

left-handed views on the world

On making art

You will probably only be interested in this if you receive one of my candles.  It was originally written in my notes on Facebook, 28/7/09.

Way back at the beginning of this year, Victor Hugo Roa, who is an artist in New York, sent out an invitation on Facebook. The idea was to make something for other people. Something, anything, for five people. So I volunteered straight away. But but but while I knew what I would do I am sorry to say I only despatched my intended contributions on Saturday. I have done some extra stuff as well and have finally allowed myself to open the framed photo Victor sent months ago – and very beautiful it is too: Thank You.

The candles are made in real eggshells. As such, each is individual and unique. They look like candles, but they are actually performance art. ..

The candles are made in real eggshells. As such, each is individual and unique. They look like candles, but they are actually performance art. ..

I have been making these candles for a very long time but circumstances have to be right for me to feel able to make them. I was asked to make them to sell in a very upmarket shop and I tried with total lack of success and couldn’t make any for several years afterwards. I will add more about how their history later, but for now just a brief description.

... They look like ordinary candles but they are hollow. They take 20-30 minutes to burn and each observer sees it from a different angle so has a unique experience. ...

... They look like ordinary candles but they are hollow. They take 20-30 minutes to burn and each observer sees it from a different angle so has a unique experience. ...

Making candles is usually a craft or even industrial process. Decorative candles usually only look good if they have a nice even finish and there is the safety aspect too if people try to burn them. By the way, if you have a decorative candle you’re tired of and want to burn, get a reel of wick, drill three holes in the candle and insert the wicks. Commercial decorative candles are almost always under-wicked.

I can make candles that burn properly but my egg candles are more than that. They are not meant to merely illuminate, they are meant to be watched as they burn. Very few eggs are actually egg-shaped, the candles are hollow, the flame dances, once it’s low enough the whole thing glows, the irregularities in the wax create patterns that I cannot predict and each person watching is at a different angle so sees something different. These candles are my performance art.

These are for Victor Hugo Roa, who started the whole "make art for others" snowball, and his muse Anita. Victor is committed to black-and-white in his photography. In two of these I used black "paint" from an old Feng Shui candle, for the others I used the charcoal from a water filter

These are for Victor Hugo Roa, who started the whole "make art for others" snowball, and his muse Anita. Victor is committed to black-and-white in his photography. In two of these I used black "paint" from an old Feng Shui candle, for the others I used the charcoal from a water filter

First of all I have to blow some eggs. This means I eat a lot of omelettes when I am in candle-making mode. Blowing the egg isn’t as time-consuming as it sounds because I need a reasonably-sized hole in the bottom of the egg. This is the only part of the process that isn’t as time-consuming as it sounds. The egg has to be thoroughly washed out and left to dry.

Then I have to choose some wax and melt it. I am working on feelings rather than logic so I like using wax that is already mixed so I don’t know exactly what is in it – there are various types of wax that can be used for candles. I like recycling part-used candles as well. Years ago a friend begged some used candles from a church and they kept me going in high-quality wax for years. The eggs don’t need a lot of wax.

I can only make candles for people I can see a colour for. In fact people who are really close to me don’t get many candles because I don’t see a single colour: they are too close. For my friend-who-has-everything’s wedding (the same friend who got the church candles even though she is a Buddhist) I made a set of two of each of six colours, using each colour to represent a different hope – peace, love, etc.

OK, I have the eggshell; I have the wax. I try to remember to roll a tiny drop of oil round in the eggshell because otherwise it is so very hard to get it off afterwards. I melt the wax and tip some into the shell, swill it round and tip out the surplus. I do this two or three times, peering into the shell to try to make sure it is thoroughly coated. All the while I am thinking really hardabout the person the egg is for. That’s it. Then I have to pick the shell off, trying not to break the wax egg, or catch it with my nail or the tip of the knife. It is very rare not to add some blemishes at this stage!

Then I need to make a hole for the wick. Trying to get this exactly at the top of the egg is, I have decided, impossible. The wick is actually a birthday cake candle. This is safer than trying to make a wick from scratch – there’s the real danger of these falling over while the candle’s burning. Birthday cake candles are very over-wicked to ensure they don’t drip at all, which means they can handle the extra wax. Finally, the bottom has to be closed. Sometimes it is possible to do this by careful positioning and melting of flakes of wax, but usually I have to make a little plinth.

The eggs on the left are for Lesley Richards, who has nearly 3000 friends on Fb. Lesley completely overturns stereotypes, since she is educated, intelligent and a cat-lover plus being a great fan of tattooing, so I wanted to achieve something delicate, with a hint of purple

The eggs on the left are for Lesley Richards, who has nearly 3000 friends on Fb. Lesley completely overturns stereotypes, since she is educated, intelligent and a cat-lover plus being a great fan of tattooing, so I wanted to achieve something delicate, with a hint of purple

Anyone who has seen the photos of the eggs will know I only sent to four people, not five. In fact, I did try to make candles in memory of our old friend Gabrielle, for her sister. That was on the first anniversary of her passing. But the candle simply refused to be made. It looked fine, nice and sturdy, but as I tried to remove the shell the wax simply collapsed. It’s not unusual for the wax to break off at the bottom of candles, but the way this went was quite extraordinary.

On the right, Dennis Williard's eggs. Dennis lives in upstate New York and until recently had the company of a remarkable ginger tom called Mike. Mike wandered in one day and stayed for a long time but has gone again..

On the right, Dennis Williard's eggs. Dennis lives in upstate New York and until recently had the company of a remarkable ginger tom called Mike. Mike wandered in one day and stayed for a long time but has gone again..

The other candles were for Facebook friends I haven’t met. And another oddity, every one had a flaw at the top. Again not unusual for eggs to have a blemish when the membrane inside the egg shrinks a bit but not usually at the top and it was all of them.

And later … In one of those glorious, spontaneous, out-of-the-originator’s-control-but-totally-in-the-intended-spirit moments, Dennis asked Lesley if he could swap one of his for one of her candles.  So I despatched all four to her and left it for her to chose.  I know she did send one of each to Dennis, but which she kept I do not know.

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24/10/2009 - Posted by | Art and crafts |

2 Comments »

  1. Ciao Kate!

    I’d love to read about your candles. I think you need some chick for yourself as well, and not only enjoy watching the neighbours.
    I am looking forward to see some photos of your egg, as they sound incredible.

    Hugs from the petting zoo

    Comment by Aina | 24/10/2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Aina and the petting zoo. Thank You!

    Yes, I am working on the photos – this is taking a lot of time, I should be doing something else now so will probably have to return to it later.

    Hugs, Kate & co

    Comment by cackhandedkate | 24/10/2009 | Reply


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