Two delightful workshops by requests

I got to teach not one, but TWO workshops-by-request this week! The little studio was a busy place.

The first workshop was on Sunday, and it was a family affair. My friend Marilyn had gifted her son and daughter and their spouses with an encaustic collage workshop. They all brought photos that were near and dear to their hearts to incorporate into their compositions.

We did a practice collage first in which we discussed basic composition and safe beeswax techniques. In their second collage, the made personal statements with their artwork. My favorite was a photo of their Grandmother Winnie standing in the snow in her bathing suit! (If you can’t see the images below, click here)


I loved working with this family. The men seemed especially adept at expressing their feelings through their art. Marilyn’s husband created a beautiful collage of his mother and her sister. We all got a bit teary as he talked about them during our critique time.

Thursday’s workshop was quite different. Another talented friend arranged it for her writing group. We made talismans with paper blessing beads – the secret notes the writers wrote on the inside of their beads must have been glorious! But the words were rolled, waxed, and gilded, never to be revealed!

Making these beads is everyone’s favorite part. It’s meditative and relaxing, surprisingly easy, and unexpectedly beautiful.

Here’s the video (If you can’t see it below, click here):

Wax and Clay Talisman Workshop from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I’m going to make a list of available workshops-by-request on my website, and if you want to get a group of four to six together, I think you’ll enjoy it.  Special thanks to Marilyn and Pamela for arranging for these enjoyable and creative afternoon workshops!


Bee beautiful – construction problem solved

These little “Bee dishes” that I make for Marta Stafford’s gallery have proven to be popular – yay!

I donate a dollar from each sale to the Rodale Institute’s  Honeybee Conservancy. Besides the fact that bees are vital to the environment in so many ways, they also give us sweet-smelling beeswax, which is vital to encaustic artists!

These bee dishes are made from irregular small slabs of clay, stamped and patterned, and then draped over something” so they will dry in a slightly concave shape. I had never been able to find a suitable round object to drape them over.

I tried half of a plastic Easter egg, wads of tinfoil, cotton balls – nothing really worked.

The “something” had to be round on top, flat on the bottom, and relative smooth so the design would not be messed up when it was laid over the mold.

It also had to be heat-proof so that I could dry them in the oven and sand the bottoms before they went into the kiln.

Slab form in progress

I finally had an “Aha!” moment about the forms for draping the clay – I am a potter, after all, so could make the “something” myself!

Bee drape molds made of white clay

I rolled some white clay into balls, and formed two dozen small pinch pots to function as little individual drape molds. I fired them, and just tried them out yesterday. Voila! Perfect!

White clay formed into small pinch pots to be used as drape molds

a Bee dish draped over the white clay form

So the white clay mold worked great – it kept the dish from flattening out, and heated it from the inside while it was drying in the oven before sanding.

Bee dish with bottom sanded to flatten it slightly

When I unloaded the kiln, all the little dishes were nicely concave and were ready to be finished with walnut ink and metallic wax – the small hand-formed clay drape molds worked!

Bee dishes fresh from the kiln without their walnut ink enhancement

Bee dish as a ring holder

A lot of making art is about engineering and problem-solving, whether you’re painting or doing assemblage, fiber art or photography. Construction and composition are vitally important, and figuring it out is fun.

Here is the new crop of Bee dishes – Marta sells them for $12 and part of the money goes to a very bee-you-tiful cause.  Hooray for artistic problem-solving!



Free-for-all encaustic inspirations by Nancy Crawford

 What artist doesn’t get frustrated when other obligations keep you out of the studio?? Argh. Lately, I’ve been living vicariously, stealing a few minutes on Pinterest or You Tube to take mental notes on what I’ll do when I have time to get back to serious art-making.

One of my “band-aids” for frustration is Nancy Crawford and her wonderful short YouTube videos on encaustic techniques. She is as generous with her methods as Jane Davies is with her painting videos.

Take a look at Nancy’s work. I absolutely love her style and the way she layers the wax. Of course, anything that involves collage and beeswax is manna to my soul!

Nancy Crawford

Nancy Crawford

Here’s a link to her You Tube Channel

Nancy’s work inspired me to teach a workshop last year called Wax and Words. I modified her techniques a bit with stencils, stamps and scribbles – the results were super! I need to revive that workshop this winter at the new Little Studio. All I need is more time to do it!

If you just want a sample of Nancy’s great tips and have two minutes, here are three quickies to get you inspired when you don’t have time to do the work yourself.

Encaustic Technique 13 Transparentizing Paper

Encaustic Technique 12 Hot Wax Stylus

Encaustic Technique 7 Metallic Powder

Hope you’re enjoying this cooler weather in South Texas – it’s almost beginning to feel like Thanksgiving!



A great encaustic share

Working on an encaustic collage in my small studio space

You all know how much I enjoy teaching workshops with beeswax and collage, and some of you have my eBook about this, called Behind the Veil. One of the main points in my book is the fact that you don’t have to spend big bucks and have a giant studio to work with wax as an art medium.

I am happy to report that there are lots of other people who are using a simple setup for exploring this fun technique. One of the best I have come across recently is artist Laly Mille. She is incredibly generous in sharing her techniques, so rather than re-inventing the wheel, I want to pass along her information to you. Click on the image below –

Laly gives you a one-page overview with two excellent videos, including this one:

Honestly, you can almost smell the beeswax when you watch this! She also has a simple but complete list of materials as well as sources on finding them.

I am so grateful to artists like Laly who share their experiences and knowledge freely so that we can all create together. I’m headed back to the studio to heat up my griddle and do some beeswax layering – Laly has inspired me 🙂



Thoughts on a studio anniversary.

A year ago – almost to the day – I said goodbye to my studio in Carousel Court. It was a hard goodbye. The space had been a gathering place for workshops, art shows, Show-and-Tell Saturdays, poetry readings – many things to remember and cherish. I truly miss that place, but it had become a huge responsibility, too big (and expensive) for one person to keep up forever.

Here’s a look at one of the early workshops there with beloved guest artist Sherrill Kahn. It was so much fun!

A month after I closed the doors forever, I found a smaller place just down the street from my new house. It has four rooms, lots of storage space, and reasonable rent.

Some of you have been there – thanks! Because of downsizing, and new responsibilities at the Art League, my workshop schedule had to be adjusted downward. Arg!

But ironically, on this anniversary weekend, I had two workshops at the new little studio, both of which were delightful (and neither of which was on my website calendar).

The first one on Friday the 13th was organized by six friends who wanted to learn some encaustic basics. They contacted me, and we scheduled it at their convenience.  We did a variation of the “Behind the Veil” vintage photocollage workshop. We worked with layered beeswax, oil paint, book foil, walnut ink – all the fun media that gets good results. Here’s a video of that “workshop-by-request” gathering:

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Encaustic Collage by request from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The second workshop on Sunday was my old favorite, Creating Spirit Dolls. I have a group of friends who went with me three years ago to Whidbey Island when I taught with Joanna Powell Colbert. They had been wanting to learn to make spirit dolls, and so we did it! Here’s that video – it’s so interesting to see how different everyone’s turned out.

Making Spirit Dolls at Lyn Belisle’s studio in San Antonio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I love teaching workshops! And as I look back on this year, I’m feeling the loss of those gatherings at the old studio. In the new place, we are limited to six people in a workshop, but that’s actually a good number. If you have a group of four to six people who’d like to learn mixed-media together, let’s talk. Workshop-by-request is a great concept.

I’m also going to expand online workshop offerings through some new ebooks with videos, starting with the popular “Postcards to Myself”. I got the nicest letter from an Etsy buyer yesterday, which gave me some encouragement:

“Dear Lyn,
Please continue making the e-books for people like me who live in another state and want to learn and experiment…am so excited…youre such an inspiration…thanks for sharing…and with your open heart all that you share and give will come back 10 fold to fill your heart and spirit as you have done for myself and others.”
  Jacque in Washington State.
Finally, I have high hopes for the studio space at the Art League on King William Street. With good luck and some anticipated financial support, that studio may become the kind of gathering place that the old Carousel Court studio was. We’re having a workshop there on the 29th, and there are still two spaces left. Join us and give us your ideas and feedback

Workshop at the Art League Studio on King William Street

Looking back, it’s been a crazy, exciting, challenging year and one that has confirmed how much I love teaching and learning with all of you, no matter when, where or what! I hope to see you soon. Thanks for your support and friendship 🙂

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.”

― Socrates




Wednesday all-day workshop with NEISD art teachers

The workshop schedule/format at my studio has changed for a number of reasons – smaller space, my increased responsibility as president of the San Antonio Art League, and just general life changes – but I’m always happy to accommodate special groups like yesterday’s art teachers from North East ISD.

They had requested an all-day session that would give them six hours of CEU credit and jump start their school year with some new ideas for themselves and their students. We decided on a workshop that was similar to the one I taught in Provincetown. It has a little bit of everything – composition, storytelling, photo manipulation, mark-making, encaustic and collage.

We worked hard from 10-4 in the studio, and each participant created a beautiful portfolio of four five mixed media works, one of which was chosen to be matted. Want to see photos from the day’s workshop? Start scrollin’ down and see it step-by-step!

Mixed media stash ready!

We prepare the substrate by taping the edges with blue painters’ tape for a clean border

Once the composition is in place, we veil with white paint

. . .and then use an old credit card to scrape off and reveal chosen sections

Notice how the placement of the objects makes a unified composition

Some quiet work time —

First works are pinned up to the wall for discussion – lookin’ good!

Suggestions are marked up on one of the example handouts

Melissa adds her work to the critique wall

There’s a lot of good image alteration in this one

One of my favorites – subtle and painterly

Although these pieces are studies rather than finished works, they are quite lovely

After lunch, we start working with beeswax, incorporating some simple encaustic techniques

Book foil is a bright addition to the wax layer

Remember this piece from the morning session? It’s layered with beeswax.

This mixed-media collage uses family photos and letters enhanced by beeswax

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and you can make art without messing up a studio!

Each person chose one piece to may and display at the end-of-class critique

This is Melissa’s strong work that you saw earlier, this time with beeswax added – notice the vertical blue line and the fantastic marks

Grizelda pulled together a lovely collage of vintage family photos and memories

S’lena’s work is perfectly balanced between image and pattern – the faint writing in the background is a secret layer of history that only she knows

Susan’s work evokes Renaissance themes . . . it’s horizontal rather than vertical

This piece is mine, and is the demo piece I did as I worked along with the others

Happy art teachers, beautiful work, and proud teacher –

I think this workshop format is perfect, at least it was for us. It worked because:

  • We had all day to really explore and immerse ourselves – we even ate lunch at the work table and discussed the process
  • Four to five people is the right number for this space – good dynamics, intimate atmosphere
  • The workshop topic had lots of structure, but also lots of room for exploration with many techniques that could be extended into individual work

This may be the new workshop model at Lyn Belisle Studio. Let me know if you have a small group who might like to spend a day with me making art.

In the meantime, I’ll be teaching a “Postcards to Myself” workshop at the San Antonio Art League on Sunday, August 29th as a fundraiser and introduction to the Art League. I’ll put the details up this weekend and post it on Monday.

Special thanks to all of the teachers who worked with me yesterday – art education is in good hands with you to guide and mentor creative kids!


Indigo paper kimonos: a tribute to Boro

A Vintage indigo-dyed Boro fabric kimono from 20th Century Japan, lovingly patched and preserved

I’ve just finished the three pieces that were inspired by the indigo dyed mulberry paper described in my last post. I had wanted to return to a kimono-like construction, and about halfway through the process of piecing the papers together, I realized that this was much like constructing a vintage indigo Boro kimono.

Boro is a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags” and it’s the term frequently used to describe lovingly patched and repaired cotton bedding and clothing, used much longer than the normal expected life cycle. The beauty of boro fabric is the highly sophisticated sewing and weaving techniques used by the women who made and mended it. The beautiful arrangement of patches and mending stitches was born of necessity and happenstance, and was not planned by the maker.

Boro fabric reminiscent of American patchwork quilting

Here’s the first of my three indigo-dyed mulberry paper “Boro” kimonos, below. Each scrap of hand-dyed paper, each beeswax-coated paper bead, played an integral part in the composition.

You can see some of the construction details in this close-up. There are sticks woven through dyed and waxed images and paper beads hanging down from waxed linen string.

The second kimono, below, is a bit more formal in composition, but is still constructed from tattered and torn indigo-dyed mulberry paper. I also used a bit of Korean print rice paper which I sprayed with walnut ink in order to give some color  contrast – very Boro-like.

In the detail, below, you can see how four of the waxed and gilded paper beads have been double-laced together and then tied into the focal ornament.

All of the pieces are displayed in 11×14″ shadow boxes. I took the glass off to photograph the works, but at the exhibit, they will be covered with glass to protect the collage elements. Everything is adhered, but there is still some movement of string and beads behind the glass when the work is tilted, which is fun

In this last detail, you can see a bit of the rust effect that terra cotta walnut ink made on waxed white mulberry paper. I love that!

In fact, I love each of these three pieces because they reflect the philosophy of Boro, which means “too good to waste.” If you are a collagist, you know what I mean. We hang on to the tiniest of paper scraps, knowing that they will find a place –  eventually –  that is just right.

If you’d like to know more about Boro, here is a very user-friendly article from the FurugiStar blog. There are some lovely pictures, as well, and an intriguing description of a bodoko, or “life cloth.”

I am so happy about the connection that my little indigo kimono pieces have to the Boro tradition, and I plan to continue to explore this connection in paper and in fiber. More soon!



Indigo + paper + beeswax = kimono construction

For a while now, I’ve wanted to go back to basics with some of my favorite simple materials:  paper, beeswax, indigo and walnut ink in new ways and combinations.

And I’ve wanted to revisit my beloved kimono format that brought me such joy and success in the past. Here’s one of those pieces, a large-scale origami construction called “Luna,” done in about 2003.

But I didn’t want to revert to exactly the same process. So I am experimenting with natural indigo and mulberry paper which I’ve painted and stamped with pure beeswax, much like the traditional batik technique, but on paper rather than fabric. As far as I know, no one is working quite this way, but I thought it would be a great material to fashion into small kimono constructions.

The new kimonos pieces are not completed yet – I’m still working on them for an exhibit in August (Susie Monday, this is the process I was describing to you) – but I thought I’d share what I’m doing with the indigo paper and beeswax surface design.

This is the indigo dye vat. I chose a rectangular container instead of a round bucket because I wanted to submerge the mulberry paper without crumpling it. (Mixing indigo is a whole ‘nother subject. Jacquard has a pre-reduced indigo that makes it easier.)

I used a heavily-textured white mulberry paper, and painted it with natural beeswax. Sometimes I stamped on the wax with random found objects. Here’s what it looks like before the dye.

And here’s what it looks like after the indigo dye bath process.

The varied blues are wonderful, and the wax gives the paper a very different feel. Here are some other samples, some with terra cotta walnut ink added.

One of the neat things about working with mulberry paper rather than fabric is that you can control how the paper “frays.” If you run a stream of water on the edges, the fibers fall apart, giving a wonderfully organic look.

I’ve sketched the kimono forms and have decided to add some of the paper and wax beads that I used in the Talisman Workshop. It will be a great combination – I hope!

Once the pieces are finished, I’ll post them here on SHARDS. In the meantime, this kind of creative play with paper and indigo is such fun! It’s even red, white and blue! Sorta.

Happy 4th, everyone!! Thanks for reading SHARDS.







Collage, Composition and old Cape Cod

Home at last from a couple of weeks on the East Coast, mostly Boston, but one of my other favorite stops was the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Thats where I taught Friday’s workshop on Collage and Composition. Almost all of the participants had been at the 11th International Encaustic Conference the previous weekend, so they knew their way around hot wax. But many of them had not worked much with collage, which surprised me.

We had a great time working with my “AB3” system of composition arrangement. I’ve included a cheat sheet about what that means at the bottom of this post.

When I submitted the proposal to Cherie Mittenthal, artist and director of the encaustic conference, I told her the title was “Composition Boot Camp and Kick-Butt Collage.” She liked the proposal but suggested I tame the name a bit. I did, but everybody still made awesome kick-butt collages, as you can see in the video, below.

Lyn Belisle: Collage and Composition Workshop at the Truro Center for the Arts from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The AB3 System gets you started by using Alignment, Breathing Room, and Thirds to plan your initial arrangement. Here’s what the Cheat Sheet says:

A=ALIGNMENT – The direction a picture, element, or shape “points” – the best alignment directs the viewer’s eye into engagement with the message or focus of the work.

B=BREATHING ROOM – Allow your elements to establish a dialogue with each other. Leave enough space that there is a contrast between “quiet” and “busy.”

3’s=THIRDS AND THREES – Use the nine-space grid that photographers use to establish good “bones” for your piece, and think in odds rather than evens.

One of my students, Mary, lived in Wellfleet, very close to the Arts Center. Bill and I told her that we had tried to find the Wellfleet Harbor and ended up on this weird one-lane road that took us to an even stranger dead-end island. Mary said that we had obviously gotten lost and ended up on isolated Lieutenant Island – check out the road through the marsh and the creaky wooden bridge we drove across. EEK!

Special thanks to Bill for all of the great photos that I used in the workshop video. Most of the time I take all of the photos myself while I’m teaching and I never get to see myself! And thanks to the super-nice kick-butt workshop participants.


Hot off the virtual press – the Talisman workshop eBook

Happy May Day! I wanted to get this eBook up and available by May 1, and — tah dah — it’s ready! This is my first “workshop” eBook, and, hopefully, it has the feel of being right there in my studio with me.

Beeswax, Clay, Paper & Fiber Talismans is an interactive PDF eBook that you download instantly from my Etsy shop. There are eight videos, including two on making the waxed paper beads, along with a whole bunch of instructions and resources.

As you read along, you can click on the video link and watch it, then return to the page. It’s a pretty cool format. If you’ve ever downloaded instructional mixed media eBooks like 21 Secrets, it’s the same idea. The book belongs to you to read and watch as many times as you want to.

Here’s a look at the table of contents – the pages are hyperlinked to each section and each video.

This Talisman workshop is based on the one I did in Washington State with Joanna Powell Colbert, described here in an earlier post. I talk about that here in the intro to the workshop from Page 8 in the Talisman eBook.

Introduction to the Talisman eBook from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

When you buy the eBook, you also get a discount on two talisman faces from my Etsy shop. But you don’t need these specific faces to make the Talisman – it’s just an option. I have never believed that you should have to have a specific brand or proprietary item to create a successful art project.

Workshops are a two-way communication, and if you get the Talisman eBook I will be here to answer any follow-up questions or take any suggestion that you think would make this book better. Just send an email to If I use your suggestion in a revision, I’ll credit you in the acknowledgments and send you the newly revised version for free. The nice thing about interactive eBooks is that they are easily edited.

You can get the Talisman eBook from my website, where you can also find the Encaustic eBook and all of my instructional DVDs, or you can go directly to my Etsy shop to purchase it. The book with videos is $18 and if you want two of the faces as well, they are only $7 for two with the purchase of the book. Such a deal 🙂

This has been a fun project – and it has helped me get more organized! Thanks for all of the encouragement on this. And it sure is nice to be back in Texas on such a beautiful day! Vacations are fun, but there’s no place like home.