Encaustic Workshop at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle


Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle and Cary Visual Art recently teamed up for the latest Public Art In Focus artist-led workshop. Local artist Lauri Arntsen met with a small group of “Bigs” and “Littles”, as they are called, one Saturday in late April to make encaustic tiles.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a national non-profit that pairs at-risk, low income, or otherwise underserved children and adolescents with adult mentors. The organization has been around for over a hundred years and operates in all 50 states- as well as in 12 other countries around the world. Through one-on-one mentoring, the children in BBBS are provided with solid, enduring relationships that empower them to succeed.

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle mentoring is offered in one of two ways- volunteers can spend either 8 hours a month at the child’s home or they can meet at the site for a total of 4 hours a month. Some of the programs at this branch of BBBS include Saturday STEM courses, healthy living and exercise classes, and events like the annual back to school picnic and holiday parties. The workshop was the first event of its kind, and the first collaboration between BBBS and CVA.

Encaustic is a method of painting with which not many people are familiar, but has been used for thousands of years. It involves the use of hot wax applied to a surface to seal pigment or, in this instance, pieces of magazine, newsprint, and colored paper. Most of the people who attended the workshop were newcomers to encaustic, although one pair was experienced with collage and spent quite a bit of time meticulously cutting and gluing their pieces of paper to the tile.

Andie Thomas-Young, the Vice President of Programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters was present at the workshop to observe and participate. She said many of the people in attendance didn’t know what to expect, but Lauri acted as a mentor and executor and broke the process down in to parts that were easy to understand. “She made us feel empowered and like every piece was of value.”

What’s exciting about this process, according to Lauri, is that after people are done with the base image, they must paint over it completely with the wax- meaning they must take everything they’ve worked so hard on and cover it up.

“I told them ‘Don’t be afraid- this is part of the learning process,”’ said Lauri.  “As an artist you have to learn to take chances. Life is like that as well.” Afterwards they begged to do another one.

Each tile takes about 30-40 minutes to create, and by the end of the workshop everyone had made two to take home. Andie said she has kept hers in her office.

“We truly enjoyed it and look forward to further events with Cary Visual Art”.





Thursday, May 7, 2015
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