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From beeswax to encaustics

Waupaca artist opens working studio


By Angie Landsverk

The first time Ashley Gordon came across the topic of encaustic painting was in a college art class.

“I don’t remember how it came on my radar. I thought it was interesting. I forgot about it,” she said.

At the time, her art classes at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley included 3-D, sculpture and painting.

However, Gordon started to question her passion.

“The funny thing is when I was in college, I was told you’d either be a full-time starving artist or teach,” she said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to teach full time.”

That was because Gordon wondered how she could nurture her own creativity if she was giving it away all day in a classroom.

She continued to revisit her passion for the arts, including approximately eight years ago when a question from her husband Ben triggered a memory.

“Around 2007, Ben got hives and started getting honey. He brought me all this extra wax and said, ‘Do you want to make lip balm or something?’” she said. “Boom! Something in the back of my mind remembered encaustics.”

Gordon started researching it and learned encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax, to which colored pigments are added, and then applying it to a surface.

She wanted to give it a try but discovered it was not easy to find somewhere to take a class about encaustics.

When Gordon did come across a workshop offered at the Peninsula School of Art, she found the class to be expensive and decided to learn on her own.

With books from the library and online material, she began teaching herself and soon told her husband they needed to invest in some materials to supplement the wax from their bees.

“That is because it requires more wax than they can produce on their own,” she said.

Gordon uses the wax from their own hives as the top layer on her work.

“You can see all the organic materials in it, like pieces of a bee wing,” she said.

About five years ago, Gordon began teaching classes.

She reached out to Tammie Jo Berg, of Lessons From the Art in Iola, after learning Berg was offering a class for children involving crayons.

“I told her I work with encaustics. That was the first class I instructed. It went over very well,” Gordon said.

Allyce Lees was among those who happened to be at that class.

“She then offered me to come teach at The Paint Store. Allyce and I had people from all over the Midwest,” Gordon said.

From there, Gordon began traveling and teaching, including each summer at the School of the Arts at Rhinelander.

In addition to teaching, she shows and sells her work in art shows.

“Now, I get to pick and choose and have classes. I’ve come full circle,” she said, in reference to the comment she heard in college about having to be either a starving artist or a full-time teacher.

Gordon is doing both in her new space in downtown Waupaca.

Ashley Gordon Art is located inside the historic building at 215 Jefferson St.

Gordon moved into the space in April after working out of the basement of her home and teaching classes in various venues.

She describes her new space in downtown Waupaca as a working artist’s studio. Her artwork hangs on the walls.

Gordon teaches in the front of the studio and has her own work space in the back of the building.

She plans to offer weekly activities, whether for adults or children or both, and to also hold quarterly encaustics workshops.

Her classes are listed on her Facebook page, which is www.facebook.com/AshleyGordonEncaustic, and also on her website, which is www.ashleygordonart.com.

Gordon says people may message her on Facebook or email her at [email protected] if they are interested in taking a class or want to book a private party. She may also be reached at 715-570-2292.

With paint and wine and canvas and corks trendy events these days, she said what is great about those events is the fact that people invest in an experience with friends.

Now, area residents no longer have to drive to the Fox Cities to paint with a group of friends, as Gordon is offering such events as well.

Another aspect of her business is her Art Talk Series, which features artists sharing their stories.

To date, Greg Austin, a goldsmith and fine jeweler, as well as tattoo artist Grayson Hill-Boll and Jason Kobishop, owner of the clothing line Bound by Blood, are among those who have spoken.

“I’m walking arm in arm with other people,” Gordon said. “I want to cross promote and help people make connections.”

She is excited to be in her new space.

Gordon and her husband began looking at different possibilities for a studio after people kept telling her they wanted to take a workshop with her in her “studio.”

She said, “I had a five-year goal to have a working art studio, and it happened in 2 1/2 years. I was super excited. When you love what you’re doing, it’s not work.”

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