“An artistic aim of modeling at any stage is not to make exact copies of natural objects, but to more freely render aspects of their essential gesture and form, thus heightening our awareness of the world and ourselves.” – Learning About The World Through Modeling, Arthur Auer
So, How do I begin?
The first place to begin is to practice yourself. Take a half of a sheet of beeswax and warm it in your hands. In the beginning, there really is no form to take as this is an exploration of a gift from our friends the bees, and we gladly drink in the smell of sunshine and flowers and hold the warmth in our hands. You can stretch the half sheet out and make a bowl, leaf or flower. This is demonstrated in this lovely tutorial from Sarah Baldwin over at Bella Luna Toys. I find most challenges arise when one takes too large a piece that seems impossible to warm enough. Even warmed, the beeswax will not be fluid; there will be resistance as this is an important part of the process of modeling with our will forces.
One color is enough to experiment with the process of modeling, and the beeswax can be saved, warmed and made into a new creation. As a child turns five or so, he or she may want to make little shapes. However, remember that the kindergarten years is still about process over product; it is still a time of free exploration. Perhaps something will arise, for example if you tell a little nature story whilst the child is holding the beeswax in his or her hands to warm it. This is about the process of holding, warming, smelling, touching, exploring, and yes, willing with the hands to see what can be made and perhaps then destroyed and made again. I remember a snippet in one of the Waldorf Newsletter Clearinghouse newsletters that talked about how a Kindergarten teacher would lay out a little “scene” of silks, stones, sticks, etc and perhaps make one little beeswax character for the scene and just leave it open for the children to add to with their own pieces of beeswax.
Small preschoolers often want to stick and stack soft colors of beeswax together like building up blocks. Arthur Auer talks about this on page 35 of his book if you would like to read more. However, I feel one of the main ideas with beeswax modeling for the young child is to make something out of the whole, out of the unity. So, for example, as Sarah Baldwin demonstrates in the video linked above, a little mouse would have a pinching the beeswax to make the feet, ears, whiskers, as opposed to breaking pieces off and rolling them around and sticking them to your creation. In the grades, as we use more colors and such, then the part of adding to the whole does appear, but I feel this is not as much the work of the small child. So again, perhaps ways to alleviate this for the under –7 children is to keep the process “process oriented”, stick to one color or non-pigmented beeswax, and to model with your child.
Types of Beeswax
For a small child in the kindergarten (ages five and six), you can, as mentioned , buy beeswax that does not have pigmentation. Companies such as Stockmar add minerals for pigment to their beeswax and the colors are vibrant, which is perfect for the grades. Companies such as Artemis add plant pigment to their beeswax and the colors are more of a pastel hue.
Our next and last part to this series will look at inspirations for modeling, look at modeling by age, and more! If you need to see the first part of this series, please see here