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How it happened.

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 Wax Carving front cover

When I first discovered waxcarving, in 1988, I was a student on the BA(Hons) jewellery design course at Central St Martins School of Art and design. There was no training as such, just a short description of the lost wax process accompanied by a couple of illustrations on a blackboard. The tutor handed us all a block of wax and showed us how to make two scrapers from a bit of guiding rod. After that it was up to you. I loved it, it was just what I'd been looking for.


Some years after graduation, I'd been earning a living professionally from waxcarving for a while and was asked by the Head of CSM if I would teach a waxcarving module at the School of Gemmology and Allied Studies. My commissioned work had moved on from the simple forms I began with to complex pieces involving cherubs, acanthus leaves, griffins and other staples of baroque style. I felt that I had something to impart to beginners and looked forward to introducing them to the art form that I enjoyed so much.

One thing I definitely felt should change is the approach to teaching waxcarving. There was certainly a better way than the one I had experienced. With the right set of exercises and beginner projects I felt students could skip over a large amount of the trial and error experimentation that I went through, and so I designed two exercises. The first was a block with a series of shapes to be marked out and carved. This taught two methods of marking out and how to create most forms that the student would need to understand. The second was a simple bombe ring, teaching marking out and the correct sequence and procedure for making a ring. Both exercises introduced the students to the wax and it's properties as well as the full range of tools. Further it gave them something to get stuck into immediately without having to think of some design they wanted to do. The course was 30 hours over 10 weeks, so the students had plenty of time to complete the exercises and think up a project of their own for when the exercises were complete.

It proved very successful and the students progressed faster than I initially had.

Later I would teach the same course at Central St Martins, although with 30 students and only 10 hours to teach in, it was a much more difficult class to teach and much had to be cut out. I taught it for two years and was never really satisfied with the tiny amount of time allotted. This was a major factor in my decision to stop teaching.

Shortly after, Danila was invited to teach at the newly opened Holt's Academy (now British Academy of Jewellery). During this time she adapted my original course, breaking the original starter exercise into smaller individual units, as a result the course became more easily adapted to different course lengths. Later still, I was invited to design and teach a waxcarving course at Morley College by the head of department Helen Smith. The class size was appealing, so I took up the offer and still teach three waxcarving courses there.

It was Brian Hill of the Goldsmith's Craft and Design Council that recommended me to Crowood Books who were looking for a book on waxcarving. Danila and I felt that after all these years as practising waxcarvers and tutors that perhaps we should put all that knowledge and experience into a book.

It wasn't an easy journey. Property developers pushed out of our beloved workshop and the next one we built, we lost after two years because of a greedy landlord. During this period, my uncle, my mother and my father all died, with about a year between them, making it a difficult time to maintain any kind of motivation.

However, the book was finally completed and sent to the publisher and eventually print copies arrived... in the middle of a pandemic. Sadly, no book launches or parties for us, just an announcement on Facebook and Instagram.

We'd just like to thank everyone who has bought the book, reviewed it or recommended it. It has exceeded the publisher's expectations and ours. It's been called a valuable addition to the field and we've heard of apprenticeship schemes adopting it as the basis of teaching waxcarving. We hope you all enjoy it and subsequently enjoy carving wax as much as we have all these years.

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  1. Ann Blommaart

    Dear Russel, This year we met at the Dutch Guild for Goldsmiths annuleren meeting. After your short presentation with I bought your book. Thank you so much for your story and the book! With greetings, Ann.

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