Behind the Scenes: Working with Wax

Behind the Scenes: Working with Wax

Can I just take a moment to say how much JOY I am getting from building sets and creating images using my hands? I am having such a good time physically building and creating and taking my time doing so. I’ve shifted how I work slightly – not in everything I create, but in this new series that I’m working on that I’ll debut in early 2017. It has been a labor of love, and when I say labor, I mean it. First I played with yarn, and after 100 hours of “yarning”, and another huge chunk of time dedicated to building the walls for the set (and 4 hours sewing into my sister-in-law’s hand) I was ready to shoot.

For the next shoot we carried 800 lbs of sand into the studio, assembled a bed, and I even found a model in my local grocery store! But more on that shoot later. For this one, I got a very, very heavy bathtub into the studio (re: “I” as “I hired two people to do it, because I was vastly unqualified to be lifting anything that heavy.”). I ordered 100 lbs of wax, though we only ended up needing about 25 lbs worth! And then I got to melting, and covering my friend who was laid in the bathtub naked. All in a day’s work, right?

I’ll be revealing the images in their entirety later as well as a big writeup of their significance to me, but for now, I hope you can enjoy this little peak of the hard work that went into my studio last month. Now that the wax is all cleaned up, I can’t wait for the next shoot!

Assistant: Kelly McGrady
Model: KD Stapleton
Music: “Moonlight” by Message to Bears

After the photo shoot ended, despite having brought about 25 trash bags, we had no real way of cleaning my dear friend who I had just spent hours covering in thick wax. It took about four hours at home – scraping, pealing, heating, bathing – and any other “ing” you can think of, to get the wax off. I think it might have broken my record for messiest photo shoot yet! And that is really saying something.

What is the messiest thing you’ve done for art?!

Please note that we looked into safety precautions before doing this photo shoot and I recommend you do the same if working with materials on skin.


19 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: Working with Wax

  1. here recently…the messiest thing was my paper mache madness to make a cosplay mask…not only that but i was working in a tiny space next to my microwave…and for 2 days straight i made 2 full masks and 2 little masks. Let’s just say…i was “over” it…. 🙂 the painting after that made it a little more tolerable…but creating the sculpture part was tedious…and layer upon layer was really satisfying in a weird way. 🙂
    now, i still have to make my final product…(the image)…but i completed the prop…which makes me insanely happy and joyful.

    1. That is so awesome! I’m about to do a little sculpting for the first time and I’m a bit nervous! But excited 😀 I can’t wait to see what your masks look like!

      1. Ooh I have a couple of things up my sleeve! Time to dedicate to working on everything is somewhat of a challenge at the moment, but little bits here and there… slowly getting there 😉 xx

  2. wow, that’s really dangerous for your model, when you cover nearly the whole skin with wax! The skin needs to breath, but if you cover it nearly completely, there’s a huge danger for life!

    1. It definitely can be dangerous (and I left a little note above saying so, just in case people start randomly covering others in wax!) – we inquired with a couple people to get the go-ahead and got the majority of it off pretty quickly. Our model did great and felt fine for it, too, but we were prepared to abort should anything feel off.

  3. We did not do a very smudge thing yet, but we’re planning to. The model should be transformed as a butterfly. Hanging out of the cocoon, covered in sticky slime. The cocoon will also be made of papier maché. I think the only danger part will be the hanging in the tree.

    1. That sounds so neat! And yes, definitely be safe doing it! My next shoot in my studio is a butterfly/cocoon shoot! Synchronicity! Can’t wait to see how your image turns out.

  4. I was completely amazed with this behind the scenes. It is so good to see you working and always well accompanied by kelly. So awesome! I loved it! I do not remember doing so much mess in creating images, but when I did painting with oil, oh yes, it was just a mess and brushstrokes everywhere. LOL Have a great week, Brooke! xoxo

  5. Oh my gosh Brooke!!! Where do I start?? I can hardly wait to see all the photos coming out of your new studio space, I can feel the creative energy from here! I’ve recently been working on an installation piece to shoot because I want to get back to using my hands to create and incorporating it with photography. I’ve always sketched and sculpted in clay so I’ve felt the pull for awhile now.
    I’ve used clay, acrylic paint and almond milk on myself for photos and I’ve been in the snow a lot for photos but that’s not messy just really cold. 😀
    You’ve inspired me yet again to keep pushing to get my ideas out in to the world so it’s time for me to get back to my installation and try to work it out! Thank you! xo

  6. This is SO cool!! I’m so inspired by this. It’s 12 AM and I feel like I need to create something now now now. But then again, I feel that way whenever I read any of your blog posts or watch your videos.
    I miss you so much!

    I don’t know if this is the messiest thing I’ve done, but I did a shoot once inspired by the white queen from tim burton’s version of alice in in wonderland and I covered the model with baby powder, face paint, flour, and white temporary hair color. Then she lay in grass that was also covered with baby powder and flour. It took her a while to be able to wash all of that off :p

  7. Firstly, I love the video. It’s very well done. Kudos! And what a teaser you have at the end! Can’t wait to see the final image/s.

    The messiest photo shoot I ever did was a papier mache mask. I really did make a big fat mess in my kitchen and on myself, but it certainly didn’t compare to your wax. 😉

  8. I like to get messy, and dirty. Everything what is necessary for good photo. I’d love to be your model one day. Or work with you.
    Check my website and let me know if u are interested for our next project together.
    I can travel.

    Kind Regards, Brooke 🙂


    and by the way – wax looks amazing!

  9. I haven’t really done any messy stuff for a photo, I am still new to the Fine art area. 🙂
    But when I got a power carver ( ) for Xmas a few years ago, I instantly fired it up at my carving bench (in the house) and started carving just to see how it work. Well after a half hour of carving I realized that the whole house was a thick fog of dust! Since I was wearing a ventilator mask, and dustproof goggles so I didn’t notice, after all that dust settled, the whole house had a quarter inch layer of super fine dust over everything!
    So that was kinda bad. LOL

    That looks like it will be a great photo. And what are you going to do with 75lb of wax? Have you ever made a wax cast of your hand? It is pretty cool! 🙂

  10. I was curious if you had taken any measures to keep the wax from sticking / ruining your friend’s hair. I’m working on something that’s requires wax on my model’s head, and we are looking to see if there’s any industry standard to protecting hair. The closest thing that comes to mind would be releasing agents that are used when doing a life-cast.

  11. totally amazing, i love that you just make the choice to go for it and get dirty to create what’s in your mind. i have done a few things with clay and made a gooey mixture of chocolate syrup and corn syrup to get an oily look
    loved the whole wax thing, it was beautiful

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