Waxing artistic in an Oak Bay basement

Fall Oak Bay Artists' Studio Tour offers a little of everything

Artist Caryl Peters works with wax

The scent of heat in the air and smell of wax greet guests to the low-ceilinged studio on Armstrong Street.

A diminutive woman strokes beeswax onto a small canvas, a fan whirring in the open window in front of her to keep fumes at bay. The warm smell rises from a heated palette holding a half-dozen metal tins of tinted beeswax needed to create encaustic art.

Caryl Peters also has an etching press and her artistic endeavours started with bookmaking – not racetrack betting, but actual design, editing and binding of books.

It started at the The Papery shop in Victoria, when Peters saw a poster for a book binding workshop. The Oak Bay artist swears it’s the best $50 she’s spent.

“I wasn’t very good. The book I made fell apart,” she says. With some investment in equipment, sweat equity and passion, book binding became the heart and soul of her second career as a book binder – a stretch from her first as a technical analyst.

Over 15 years her Frog Hollow Press printed roughly 65 books. Many fill the shelves in the second room of her basement studio.

“I would love it if people bought books, but that’s not what it’s about,” she says.

It all started with printmaking, taking local courses and then delving into other forms before discovering her favoured technique of hot wax painting.

Her encaustic work of the past few years embraces that original book design. She can play with paint, photos, tinted wax, stencils and dried plant life. Recently Peters tried tea, as it comes pre-dried and ready to incorporate onto her canvas.

“It’s a very versatile but expensive hobby,” she says with a chuckle.

Even those canvasses are varied, as silk, wood, Japanese paper and combinations all create different textures for her to add her wax, images and paint, creating intriguing results.

Currently she’s working on a series about industrial pollution, but lighter fare also fills her repertoire, including bunnies and hummingbirds, birds of prey and natural landscapes.

Peters makes what she feels, not what she feels will sell.

Over the summer, the combination of warm weather and beeswax gathered a small buzzing fan base at the basement window.

It’s not something that happens often and struck Peters as memorable – her little colony of bees.

Hopefully she’ll have a similar buzz this weekend when Peters opens her home studio during Recreation Oak Bay’s 16th semi-annual studio tour Nov. 14 and 15. For hours each day, artists invite guests into their homes, sharing their wares, visions and showcasing talents.

Established and emerging artists invite guests to see their original watercolour, acrylic, oil, fibre, photographic, woodcut, glass and pottery creations.

The free, two-day tour is self-guided. Brochures with artist images, descriptions and a tour map are available for download online at oakbay.ca/parks-recreation. Brochures are also available at Oak Bay recreation centres, municipal hall and the Oak Bay branch of the GVPL as well as at local businesses and through participating artists prior to the show.

The juried tour runs from noon to 4:30 p.m. both days.