North Smithfield artist shapes beauty from beeswax

North Smithfield artist shapes beauty from beeswax

NORTH SMITHFIELD - The art style was used to create mummy portraits dating as far back to 100 AD.

Yet Norman Peloquin, local beekeeper, is still discovering new ways to practice the craft right from his home in North Smithfield.

"Encaustic art is one of the oldest arts in the world," said Peloquin, owner of Celestial Offerings, a local business churning out honey, environmental education and a bit of 'buzzworthy' art.

Peloquin uses beeswax to create portraits, adding color pigments and then racing to form images in the four minutes before his "paint" hardens.

He was first exposed to the craft during a seminar at Cornell University, where the long-time beekeeper volunteered to go on stage in a demonstration on the uses of the melted wax.

"I fell in love with it," he said of the art form. "For years, I would doodle and just throw them away."

One day, a friend of Peloquin's grabbed those doodles and brought them to a local bazaar.

"She sold them all and came back asking for more," he said.

In the 10 years since, Peloquin has created hundreds of the paintings, focusing on nature scenes. He has closets full of the creations, which he sells at specialty and craft shops, and farmer's markets, including the one held on Sundays throughout the summer on the Slatersville Common.

"It's a hobby that's gone wild," he said.

Ancient artists mixed the beeswax with colorful herbs to add hues to their canvas, while modern crafters often use a concoction containing colored wax. The art form has seen a resurgence since the 1990s, but while Peloquin has studied the work of kindred spirits online, he knows of no other artists that produce the paintings locally.

Peloquin, a machinist by trade, sometimes uses the conventional colored wax mixture, but he also aims to find unique, natural methods to produce his palette, from red foam found along the beach, to rust found on metals around his home.

"I use anything I can come up with," he said.

The self-described naturalist has expanded his skills to create other crafts from things found in the environment, such as bird houses made from hollowed-out gourds. He also makes artwork from other items found around the home, such as jewelry boxes and mirrors.

Most recently, he's used animals as his subjects, creating dogs, horses and rabbits in the short span before the wax dries.

He's also taken his passion for his hives - which number in the dozens - and his extensive knowledge about the importance of the little buzzers, on the road, with presentations at schools throughout the area. Peloquin educates students about the importance of bees which, he explained, pollinate more than a third of all the food we consume. The bee population, it seems, has dwindled in recent years, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder that has scientists concerned.

"It's not good what's going on environmentally with the pollinators," he said.

Organizations and companies can sponsor Celestial Offerings Educational Programs for schools or groups, such as Girl Scouts, Boys Scouts, and 4H Clubs. Sponsorship is tax deductible and a portion of the proceeds from the education programs is donated to the Eastern Apicultural Society, an international non-profit educational organization founded in 1955 for the promotion of bee culture, education of beekeepers, and excellence in bee research.

Peloquin's apiaries are located on Hi-On-A-Hill Herb Farm & Gardens and honey from the bees is available exclusively at the Hi-On-A-Hill Gift Shoppe at 836 Old Smithfield Road.

To learn more about Celestial Offerings, or to book a seminar, visit http://home.earthlink.net/~herbal3/Celestial/.