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Craft Techniques

Wax

In a country like Mexico with such a remarkable fusion of religious traditions, the role of candles and wax continues to play an important role in ceremonies, celebrations and rituals. The use of wax dates back to Mesoamerican cultures who used wax to make molds for the creation of jewelry. Later,  in the 16th century with the arrival of the Spanish, not only was Catholicism introduced but also the art of candle making.

Traditionally, candles in Mexico are crafted using the dipping technique.  A wheel from which wicks are strung is suspended from the ceiling. Hot bees wax melted in a pot is slowly poured over each wick in a serious of gestures. While the excess wax drips down to a container on the floor, the wax that adheres to the hanging wick slowly grows thicker with each new layer. In some communities long, thin candles are made of beeswax or beef tallow using this procedure and in other communities elaborate Baroque like candles covered in lace-like flower petal and shell-like formations are made and used for special celebrations.

In a country like Mexico with such a remarkable fusion of religious traditions, the role of candles and wax continues to play an important role in ceremonies, celebrations and rituals.

Flaked or shell candles are candles that are used for special celebrations. They are highly decorated with external elements of the same material such as flowers, stars, cutouts in the shape of doves and lace. To make these types of candles, clay or wooden molds are dipped in melted wax and then immediately dipped into water, which separates the wax from the mold. Then these pieces of wax are delicately cut using scissors to add final details and shape. These decorative wax elements are then attached to tapered candles or votives. Similarly, in some states, masks and religious figures are made the same way using wax that is then hand painted with natural dyes and anilines.