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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 63  |  August 7, 2020


Artist Jenny Kallis and her new gallery Wax and Wood have ties to early Laguna Art Colony

By DIANNE RUSSELL 

Jenny Kallis, whose new gallery Wax and Wood is on the corner of Thalia Street and S Coast Hwy, has connections to early Laguna’s art scene in more ways than one. Not only is she related to an originator of the art colony, the location of Wax and Wood – her first gallery – circles back to that particular time and a house on Thalia Street.

Kallis says, “My maternal great-grandfather William Swift Daniell was one of the original Plein Air artists of Laguna. He arrived in Laguna around 1910 and built the old historic wood house that still stands on the cliff above the beach at Thalia Street. In a way, I am bringing back the art to the family’s original location on Thalia. I moved to Laguna last May to be with my mom who is 91 (and in great shape). She is very active in the Laguna community, theater, and museum. The Laguna Art Museum has a William Swift Daniell in their private collection.” 

After many years in the Venice Beach area, Kallis relocated to Laguna Beach in 2019. “Since I come from a family of artists including William Swift Daniell and my paternal grandfather Mischa Kallis, art was always present in our home and conversations. Although art has always been my first love, I built a career in architecture and design that spanned 30 years.”

Artist jenny exterior

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Submitted photo

Location of Wax and Wood has ties to Kallis’ family

Unfortunately due to the timing of the opening of the gallery, many residents may be unaware of its debut.

“I did a soft opening in November but it was a cold winter followed by the shutting down due to the pandemic,” says Kallis.

However, she can now be seen in the window of Wax and Wood, creating pieces using an ancient technique called encaustic which involves using pigments mixed with hot wax that are burned in as an inlay.

“It has been challenging. But whenever I was open, I did sell (so that was encouraging) and I just remind myself that I am here for my mom and that I love sharing information about encaustic painting. Little kids love to learn about the bees and the history of encaustic. One day, I would love to do a demo session at the museum and maybe once a semester, do a demo at LCAD.”

The gallery is also Kallis’ studio and the storefront is set up as her ‘baker’s window’ where she creates in front of the public. “I am happy to answer questions about what I do and the history of encaustic which dates back to 800 BC and was used in the entombing of mummies,” she says. 

Artist jenny working

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Kallis works in the window

“I started with pyrography but due to a ‘happy accident,’ I began using wax to add color to my pyrography [the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point]. The unusual combination of wood burning and wax keeps me always diving into new ways of expressing my ever constant imagination and always trying to keep up with the abundance of ideas.” 

Kallis says that working with wax is a bit like being a scientist in the laboratory. “I mix my own colors from old oil paints I have both collected and inherited from my grandfather Mischa Kallis.”

“One of the beautiful characteristics of the wax is the suspension of the pigment molecules in the wax medium when it is cooled. When light shines on an encaustic painting the colors illuminate.”

“My artistic process using colored wax with burned wood was initially the result of a happy accident. When I was burning wood for an art piece, I used wax to camouflage a mistake in that process. That mistake soon became the doorway to the vast creative possibilities that the combined techniques of pyrography and encaustic offered.”

Artist jenny tower

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Submitted photo

Lifeguard Tower by Jenny Kallis 

The wax could be colored, layered on in different textures, and then carved back out to reveal the wood burned image hidden below. 

“Though my subjects range from life in Venice, California to concepts from my imagination, the method of wax and wood speaks for itself. It is visual and tactile and engages directly with the viewer.” 

Kallis explains her process, “After laying out the image, I begin the burn. The hot pen essentially caramelizes the wood as it burns each line. The burning process takes time and patience. It is a web of fine lines taken together creating a story in image.

“I use 100 percent refined Beeswax and mix it with Damar (the crystalized sap of a trees found in India and East Asia). The Damar gives added hardness and luminosity. The beeswax is heated to approximately 180-220 F.

“Laying down the wax has to be done quickly before the wax cools. It can be manipulated while liquid or once cooled into its solid form. The methods of wax manipulation are endless.”

Curious about this technique? Walk by the window of Wax and Wood and wave to Kallis as she works, and remember, she loves to share information about encaustic painting, so just ask.

Wax and Wood is located at 899 S Coast Hwy, Unit #1.

For more information, go to www.jennykallis.com or call (949) 371-6081.

 

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

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