Recently, I've started honing my wax injection skills out of stark necessity. I'd decided to make a complete inventory of waxes from Ivaan's rubber moulds, dating back to 1976, of which there are now about two thousand. Waxes come in different colours, each with its own properties. Probably the least forgiving is dark blue. It captures detail beautifully but it is harder and more brittle than most of the other colours. But I prefer it, because I'm able to see the fine details more clearly than if I'd used a lighter coloured wax.
It used to baffle Ivaan that I organized his moulds according to year. His standard procedure was to have them organized according to nothing. He figured if he put a mould in a particular place, he would remember where it was. This worked about 1 per cent of the time. Ivaan never really used his moulds once he made them; they were simply a record of the pieces he'd made. He might search for one if a client lost a ring and he had to duplicate it, but basically they just sat there in stacks.
I found the "filed by year" system to be useful, because it tracked how prolific he had been in a particular year, and I eventually realized that a large number of moulds in any one year meant he was likely to have a health crisis. Both heart attacks and all five strokes were preceded by a significantly larger number of moulds. If he'd been a squirrel, he would have been storing nuts for winter. And like a squirrel, a lot of random digging was required when he suddenly had to find a particular one.
I started with the year 2002, because there were over 100 moulds from that year (and his massive stroke was in December 2002). He had done some brilliant work that year. At first, it was taking me about ten tries to produce a reasonably good wax, but I guess wax injecting shares some characteristics with film photography: after a while you start analyzing what you did wrong, and trying to improve the result by better technique: more or less pressure, higher or lower wax temperature, longer or shorter cooling time.
And soon, I'd noticed my average was about one in six. I was making progress. I was particularly good at the bigger pieces, such as pendant pieces, and I once did about forty perfect waxes in a row on the first try. I felt extremely proud of myself when I took some of my waxes to the caster, to have them cast in metal. He looked at the dark blue waxes curiously and asked, "Who did these?" I summoned up all my nonchalance to reply casually that I'd made them myself, but it was hard to wipe the smile off my face when he said admiringly, "These are g-o-o-o-d."
So I've now finished 2002, 2006, 2008, and I've started on the "Current" bin - the moulds I've made since Ivaan's death. It's been a very fruitful endeavour, as I've found incredible things I'd never seen before. When I am working on injecting waxes, I have the strongest sense of Ivaan's presence in the room. Ivaan must be as impressed with his brilliance as I am. The wax injector now sits in the store. I love it when people come in to watch and are gobsmacked by the beauty of some of his newly-dug-up artefacts.
Here's a photo of the pendant pieces of 2002: can't you just imagine wearing one of these around your neck?
|(c) 2002 ESTATE OF IVAAN KOTULSKY|