This encaustic sculpture is a very personal piece. The artist’s son is 16 years old and doesn’t want to hear her words of wisdom as he prepares to embark on his own independent life. She has handwritten several letters to him which carry her deepest hopes, fears and wishes for his journey in life. Each letter is written on Japanese washi paper and folded into an origami sampan. Each sampan bears a specific message about for example, finding love, friendship, prosperity, wisdom and peace. The choice of colour reflects Japanese symbolism and some sampans have small lucky charms on board to represent the message – e.g. turtles symbolise long life and frogs relate to safe return from journeys. Each sampan is made with love and coated with hot wax for durability and to enhance the washi paper.

This piece is not for sale but the artist can take commissions for work for special occasions, landmark birthdays or moments, weddings, births, christenings. Other origami models can be used. Prices depend on the extent and nature of the work. Contact to arrange a commission.


Lou McGill


Lou works with a range of materials to explore storytelling and language. Her pieces reflect strong interests in cinematic representation and classic literature. Much of her work is multi-layered, in meaning and format and she is currently exploring mixed media work to incorporate textiles and recycled materials.


Encaustic literally means to “burn in”, from the Greek word enkaustikos. In encaustic art, each layer must be fused with heat to the layer beneath it. The base medium for encaustic work is made from beeswax mixed with damar resin, which is crystallized sap from fir trees. The damar resin provides hardness while the wax provides luminosity. Coloured pigments can also be added for painting or printing. Clear encaustic medium is used for encaustic photography and mixed media collage and sculpture.

Encaustic paintings can last for thousands of years. Evidence of this can be seen by the Faiyum mummy portraits that are over 2500 years old. Excavation of ancient encaustic painting has shown no cracking, flaking, or fading due to resistance to moisture, acid, and moulds. Encaustic work should be carefully handled to avoid scratching the surface but it should NOT be placed behind a glass frame. It should not be exposed to extremes of temperature. Wax melts at approx 150 degrees F. NEVER leave encaustic work inside a car, outdoors in the sun, or in freezing conditions.

Normal household/gallery conditions are fine. Shortly after an encaustic painting is finished, the surface will appear slightly dull and cloudy. This is the natural process of the wax out-gassing and curing. Allow about 3 months to fully cure. To remove this dullness and give the encaustic surface a beautiful glossy and transparent surface, gently buff the surface with a soft dry clean cloth. If you purchase an encaustic piece and it does get damaged the artist may be able to rescue the work.

Encaustic art is quite popular in the United States, but is rare in the UK at the moment. Each piece is unique and reflects the unpredictable nature of combining wax, heat guns and gas burners. It is an exciting and creative medium to work with. I am currently exploring encaustic paintings, encaustic monotype printing using pigmented wax on a heated glass plate, encaustic photography and encaustic sculpture, particularly with Japanese papers.

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