Wednesday, 1 April 2009

beeswax

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.

9 comments:

Helen said...

A friend of mine tells me she is using soy wax as a resist and prefers it to beeswax.

Robin Paris said...

Hi Helen and thanks for the suggestion.

Bunny Bowen in the US has done substantial research on soy wax, and from her conclusions I feel that soy wax will not suit my way of working. Certainly it won't be robust enough for a dye vat.

http://www.db-bowen.com/soywax/soywax.htm


My other thoughts on using it, on the sustainability front, are (1) that it needs to be imported from the US, rather than being a local/UK or even European product (potential increased carbon costs due to importation - but not yet researched so might not be quantifiable). Soy is grown in the US though, so a different situation.

But... (2), the commercial growing of soy across the world is a big sustainability issue, especially in South America where rainforests are cut down to grow soy to feed cattle and other livestock in Europe (shocking eh!). So I don't want to increase the market for soy products by using soy wax!

http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/rtfo_reaction_26052009.html

http://www.landgazette.co.uk/index.php/for-students/240-racs-rainforests-project-for-prince-charles

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/01/forests.brazil

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/08/405152.html

Cheers Robin

PS, been a bit absent from this blog recently. Overwhelmed by other stuff going on, hope to get back to it soon...

Robin Paris said...

Meant to say, that with soy being grown in the US use of soy wax there is a different situation to it use in Britain.

Robin

Helen said...

Thank you for all that information-it is good to have some facts and you are so good at getting to the root of it all.

shamdesign said...

Thank you for the information about the beeswax. I intend to use the beeswax myself. All the while I've been using paraffin wax. The problem with paraffin wax is it became lumpy and sticky after using for quiet sometime but the cracking effect is amazing.

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剩沒底天 said...

這麼好的部落格,以後看不到怎麼辦啊!!!..................................................

龐克搖滾 said...

我對自己的信心已超越別人對我的評價........................................

Robin Paris said...

Hello to the last two bloggers. Apologies I can't read Chinese - if any can translate them I'd appreciate it!

Cheers Robin