ACCA Art Kitchen # 1: Wax Casting with Isadora Vaughan


Ever wanted to know how a sculpture is made? Join artist Isadora Vaughan to learn how to cast a three-dimensional artwork in wax, and hear why the process interests her.

The resources on this page provide a step-by-step guide to creating your own cast-wax sculpture.

Appropriate age groups/school levels: 

These workshops have been developed to appeal to students and teachers of all year levels. Please use discretion when deciding on the appropriateness of these workshops for your students.  

Warning: Adult supervision is advised for undertaking this workshop as the use of a hotplate is involved.

About the Artist:

Isadora Vaughan is a Melbourne-based artist who works primarily in sculpture. Vaughan is process-oriented, which means she is equally interested in the materials, experiments and mistakes involved in creating an artwork as she is in the finished piece.

Casting is a studio method that Vaughan uses often, and one of her preferred materials to cast in is beeswax. This is because it has unique olfactory, tactile and aesthetic qualities, allowing viewers a multi-sensory experience of her artwork. Beeswax is also natural and environmentally-friendly, involving minimal industrial processing to produce. This detail is important to Vaughan because her choice of materials contributes to the meaning of her artworks.

“Using … humble or everyday materials allows you to look at what you can do with something simple”

– Isadora Vaughan

Examples of Artist’s Artworks on Display:

What you will need:

  • Object
  • Sand, clay or dirt 
  • Board
  • Rolling pin 
  • Plastic sheet
  • Release agent or oil (optional)
  • Wax – Beeswax or other 
  • Pot/saucepan
  • Hotplate/stove top
  • Cup with handle (not plastic)
  • Thermometer (optional)


Step 1:

Search around your home, school or outdoors for an object to cast. If you’re trying casting for the first time, start small. We recommend choosing an object no larger than an A3 piece of paper.

Step 2:

Next, collect a bucketful of either dirt, sand, or clay to make a flat, thick bed the size of an A4 piece of paper on your board. Ensure your chosen material is reasonably moist to avoid cracking. You may need to add water, but use only a little at a time as you do not want your bed to be too wet. Cover your bed with the plastic sheet and use the rolling pin to smooth it out to a thickness of 3-4cm.

Step 3:

Push your object onto the bed to make an impression, applying gentle and even pressure . You may choose to use only part of your object to make an impression, for example, Isadora Vaughan selected the central section of her wheel instead of the whole object because to her that was the most dynamic section. At this stage you may also want to coat your object with a release agent, such as vegetable oil, to reduce the chance that it gets stuck to the bed. 

Step 4:

Now you need to extract your object from the material bed. Gradually lift-off your object while holding down the board. The negative space that you are left with is the mould into which you will pour your wax.

Step 5:

Check that your mould is at least 1cm deep in all areas. This is important to ensure your wax positive will be consistently thick enough so as not to break under its own weight when removed. If parts of your mould are too shallow you can either push your object back into the bed, or use your fingers to manually deepen the impression.

Step 6:

As the mould is going to be filled with hot wax, make sure all the ends of your mould are dammed-up. You can add extra clay, dirt or sand around the edges of your mould to stop the liquid wax from running out the sides.

Step 7:

Using a portable stovetop or hotplate, carefully melt your wax in a large pot on a low heat. You can use any type of wax – paraffin, beeswax, or even recycle old candles. 

Step 8:

Once your wax has melted into liquid, turn off your stove (or unplug your hotplate) and take the pot off the burner. Place the pot on a surface that will not be damaged by heat (like concrete or a ceramic tile) to allow the wax to cool. If you are using a thermometer, ythe wax is ready when you see reading of between 60-70 degrees Celsius. If not using a thermometer, wait until the wax has formed a thin, opaque film at the edges of the pot. This is a visible indicator that your wax has reached the appropriate temperature range. 

Step 9:  

Find a handled cup that will not melt, made of ceramic, metal or enamel. Very carefully fill your cup with liquid wax and pour the wax into your mould. Try to use as few pours as possible so the wax can bond effectively; if a layer of wax is already set, it will not bond well with the new liquid wax. Make sure you have filled the whole mould. Wax will set faster in the shallow sections of your mould. Add additional wax to these areas to strengthen the weakest points. 

Step 10:

You will notice your wax changing from clear to opaque, this is an indicator that the wax is hardening. You might also see the wax contract away from from the mould. This is because as wax shifts in state from liquid to solid it has a smaller volume. Important: Wait for your sculpture to cool completely before the next step.

Step 11:

It is time to remove your sculpture from the mould. To do this you will need to create some separation between the mould and the wax. Use your fingers to gently dig away the soft material from the hardened wax and slowly pull the wax sculpture from the mould. It’s crucial that you try to pull the sculpture out of the mould at an even pace. If you pull up one section while another is still firmly embedded the wax may break under stress.

Step 12: 

Lastly, you may like to clean your sculpture with some water to remove any left over clay, sand or dirt from the surface of the wax. Or, like Isadora Vaughan, you may like the texture the debris creates – it’s up to you!

Inquiry questions:

1. Why did you choose your object, and what are its interesting formal qualities?

2. How did your choice of object determine the form, texture and size of your sculpture?

3. How is your wax sculpture different from the original object? Do they feel different to hold, touch, and smell? 

4. What are the most successful qualities of your wax-cast sculpture? Which were intentional and which were unintentional? Does intention matter in this case?

Examples of Cast Artworks from Past ACCA Exhibitions…