Rings for People Who Don’t Want to Get Married

encaustic, draw through

encaustic, draw through

I took an encaustic workshop (again) from Larry Calkins and Kamla Kakaria. As usual, I prepared for the wrong class–brought the wrong materials, was oriented all backwards to what was going on. It took me until the last few hours on the last day to figure out what I most wanted to do–which, incidentally, circled back to the class I thought I was in, 2-D rather than 3-D.

And I found out that I love draw-through as a mark-making technique. I’ve seen Rickie Wolf demo this several times in workshops I’ve taken with her, and I’ve always found it intriguing. But this time was different–I feel like I met a new friend, and now we’re super tight. The day after class ended, I went out and bought 4H and 7H pencils. Because draw-through is even better with a fine line (in my perennially fine-line-obsessed opinion).

To do this, all you need is a board or plexi to ink up, black oil paint (which Larry prefers over ink because oil paint pigments are so finely ground), a brayer, and the cheapest tissue paper you can find. Ink the plate, roll it out, lay your tissue paper down, and draw on top of it. So simple. Then you can work it into your base layer of wax.

Here’s Larry prepping his draw-through demo. . .

Larry Calkins

And then here is Kamla demoing her painterly approach to encaustic artist’s books. . .

Kamla Kakaria

This workshop came on the heels of Morgan Brig’s master class the weekend before, which I’ve yet to write about. And it preceded this coming weekend’s wire workshop. At some point, I am going to need to stop for some sleep!

In Process


I’ve been really interested in process this past year. Well–I’ve always been interested in process, often to the exclusion of nearly everything else. But these past months, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have a practice, to have a space and stretches of solitary time within this space. . .and why I am drawn to this and what does it mean? Why do some of us prefer lingering in the “What if. . .?” to speedy resolution of the realized thing?

(As I write, I can hear my studio neighbor’s directive: “Do it faster! Get it done and get it out there!” It’s a temperament.)

Larry Calkins is a maker’s maker, a fellow process aficionado, and an engaging instructor. He and my colleague Kamla Kakaria are team-teaching another encaustic workshop in September. Already signed up for this.


Demo: Larry in process

I love taking classes outside of my area of expertise, because I can just let my thoughts wander while I work, listening to threads of conversations here and there—it’s relaxing. I always learn something new from Larry, and after so many years of working together, Kamla really is a lot like a sister.

The last time I took this workshop, earlier in the summer, I stayed a bit longer after it ended, talking to Larry and Kamla, trying to explain the whole “what is a practice/what are we doing when we work” thinking I’ve been doing. And while they both knew exactly what I was talking about, they didn’t have ready words for it either.

Maybe this time we’ll crack the code.

Work by Larry Calkins

Work by Larry Calkins



After: with acrylic paint and encaustic


Before: raw material

I like to have white paper on my bench at the start of a new project. It makes the space feel like Something is About to Happen. 

It also provides a fixed place for notes and sketches and anything else related to the work. I just keep writing and marking it up. . .and when the work is complete, I tear off the paper and discard it.

Except this last time. I decided that from this point on, I am going to keep the paper, but change it into something else. . .and right around this time, Larry Calkins ran his amazing encaustic workshop at Pratt. Perfect timing.

Like Your Cool Big Sister: Kamla Kakaria

Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, accordion structure, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle Maker, October 13, 2011

Book lust! (Gift from Kamla!)

I’ve known Kamla for many years (since I’ve been at Pratt)–we share an office together. One of the best parts of my job is the toggling back and forth between work talk and art talk (which are often, though not always, one and the same). And then, and even better, because we’ve known one another for so long, she and I sometimes drift away from talk of work and art to talk about our own lives (our own art, relationships, struggles, accomplishments). . .Kamla is very much like a cool big sister.

Seattle Maker's Rebbecca Tomas with Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery in Seattle

Rebbecca Tomas and Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, Seattle

I love her work, especially when she uses encaustic materials and techniques–she has an amazing eye for color and layering. This month, she and Romson Regarde Bustillo are showing work at Shift Gallery (downtown in the Tashiro Kaplan Building at Third and Prefontaine). I attended their (second) opening last Thursday.

For Kamla’s part of the exhibtion, entitled InBetween, she created an interactive display of artist’s books. Kamla is one of the most prolific artists I know–she is always working and thinking. She writes of InBetween,

I make simple accordion books and pages whenever I am in between projects. In this current show I am displaying that work; that visual thinking. It is not planning or diagramming it is just thinking and doing.

To display her work, she hung rows and rows of shelving to hold dozens and dozens and dozens of her books. It was a great decision to present them in this way. We’re used to seeing books laid out on tables, or encased in a vitrine–opened flat to selected pages or in some other way contained. Kamla “hung” her books much like she would have hung any other of her work, right on the wall, and this created a sense of energy and flow and story as viewers considered the books as individual objects and parts of the larger installation.

Although she uses myriad materials in her work, what tied everything together, and made such an impact, was the singular structure she prefers to work with–the accordion.

Accordion structures pose a unique challenge to their maker. You must consider their content not just linearly page to page, but also spatially–page by page forming one large unit. Successful accordion structures then are those that can be experienced both sequentially (beginning to end, fold by fold), and “all at once” (fully extended).

I know how Kamla works–quickly and decisively. When I watch her teach or work, I am always aware of her depth of experience as a maker. She trusts what she knows about process and materials and doesn’t doubt. People really respond to this–her students love her and her work sells.

Following are some images from the exhibition. . .

Accordion artist's books by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerDETAIL, accordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerDETAIL, accordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerArtist Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, Seattle; photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle Maker