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Back Issues
2012 - Summer Issue
Casas Bonitas
Art & Accessories
Article: Jessica Muncrief
Photo Courtesy: Sherry Ikeda,
                         John Schaeffer
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The origins of encaustic artwork can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks who heated colored wax to decorate ships and tombs. Fast forward 3,000 years and the intricacies of this process are alive in modern day artwork. Put simply, encaustic art can be defined as any form of painting that utilizes wax and pigment, but it is truly a much more detailed and personal process. The medium encourages layers, textures and the incorporation of other materials, tools and art forms. Creativity and imagination are unhindered, allowing the passion and deep visions of the artists to become tangible. It almost feels as if you are stepping into their dreams.

    Photo Captions

4.) John Schaeffer
     & Sherry Ikeda
  Sherry and John's work can be viewed and purchased at MVS Studios in downtown Las Cruces.

John Schaeffer

Sherry Ikeda

MVS Studios

Encaustic Art Institute
Artists John Schaeffer and Sherry Ikeda were immediately drawn to the encaustic medium when they first saw it during a trip to the Encaustic Art Institute just south of Santa Fe. They graciously allowed me an interview in which they adeptly express the true beauty, passion and meaning that lies behind this art form.

What drew you to encaustic art?

It was the feeling of mystery that you get with the wax and the amazing textures. Before I took my first encaustic workshop, I looked at encaustic pieces by several different artists. Immediately, my mind was spinning with ideas of things to incorporate into the wax and how to use the many different techniques. I even came up with some new techniques. There are endless possibilities, and the learning continues with each and every piece. That's what I love about it. It's a never ending journey of discovery.

JS: Look at a flower in the springtime. A bee hovers just above the stamens, and then as if in exhale, it lights upon the heart of that flower. It gathers pollen on its back legs, and flies to another flower and another and another. One flower's pistils gather pollen from another's stamens, and seeds begin. Much of the world's food supply depends on crop pollination by honeybees. And honeybees make wax, and from wax encaustic art was born. So immediately for me, standing in front of the first encaustic painting that I encountered, I saw nature at its finest, cooperation and social structure, genetics and the passing of knowledge in the genes, world history, creativity and practicality, commonality, humanity's hunger for aesthetics and art, and progression through time. I wanted to touch the painting, to float into it. I became a bee in awe of what another of earth's creatures had done with my hive's life-supporting wax. I stepped out of my oneness with the bees and realized that the person standing next to me in that gallery, Sherry, was experiencing her own journey into that painting. We looked at each other without speaking and immediately knew that we had to become encaustic artists.

Is there a message you would like to send with your work?

SI: My message is my outlook on life. We have all had our ups and downs, and my philosophy is to focus on the positives in life. Things can be hard enough without carrying negative baggage from our past. I have a very close family, and when we get together we are always telling stories about the past, both good and bad. Things that at the time made us very frustrated and mad, we now laugh about. Life is too short to live focusing on the negatives. I cherish all of the people in my life and want to enjoy every minute that I can with them. My mother has been my inspiration throughout my life. She has always told me that there is nothing that I cannot achieve, and she has always been there to support me.

JS: The message that I want to convey with my art, going back to the bees that made the wax, is that we are all in this together. The actions we take influence others. Not only can you dream, but you can achieve your dreams, and you can do it without hurting anyone else in the process. Dream and dream big, and help others dream even bigger. Reach out a helping hand, and accept a hand when needed. Do the best you can do, and forgive yourself for the rest.

What has been your most memorable encaustic piece?

SI: My most memorable piece was Gakko II. It was damaged during transport and I felt devastated. I was ready to throw it into the garbage heap, but John hid the piece from me for several days. He felt that if I gave myself some time, then I would be able to repair the piece and make it even better. When I started the repair, it was once again the journey, the struggle and the happiness. Once I completed the repair, I do believe the piece was better and the meaning of it even stronger.

JS: My favorite piece is Mona Asia. It's a very personal piece for me. I started with a white board and added drawings and rubber stamps and glued paper. I felt a frantic energy while making this piece which was completed in a few short hours. I used India ink to write and draw on the final, smooth surface. There is the beginning line of a poem I wrote about my father when I was seventeen. As with all encaustic art, a photograph doesn't do it justice. You only get the layered effect by standing in front of the original. ///
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