Wednesday, 1 April 2009


Wax, both paraffin wax and beeswax, is a material as fundamental to batik as dye and cloth. For the last few years I've been aware that there are global issues with honey bees (colony collapse disorder, or CCD) hence a potential for shortages of beeswax. And that alongside peak oil and rising oil prices will undoubtedly be peak paraffin wax and rising paraffin wax prices. I also knew that I didn't know that much about either, and so in January set about researching.

I started with paraffin wax, but fairly soon it appeared there are far more issues to learn about with beeswax. The article was written for the Batik Guild Magazine, in the event an edited version was published a few weeks ago. The full version is on my website here though the research is ongoing and will be updated. I will write up the paraffin wax research later this year too.

In the way that soy wax has been developed as a resist in the US (though I understand it's not that good for batik), and the Malaysians are working with a oilpalm waste resist, I feel in Europe we need to consider finding and developing a future home-grown source for wax, as an alternative to paraffin wax and supplement to beeswax. I thought I'd read somewhere that snowberry was used in the past for its wax qualities - berries I assume, not leaves - but can't find a reference for it now. That a new source could in fact be an old source is just as feasible as one developed from waste from another process or product.

Researching beeswax was so interesting I have become enthused to take up beekeeping! But compared to the small scale growing of woad I began last year, I think instead I will see if there is a beekeeper locally who would be happy for me to help and learn from them. As wonderful and interesting as woad growing has been, I feel it would be too big a commitment for me to try to grow as much as I envisage using, and beekeeping would be even more of a responsibility.