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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rebekah Goldman Guest Post- Wax Seal Struggles

My sister-in-law, Rebekah Goldman, has had fine writing thrust upon her as a lifestyle simply by being related to me ;) No seriously though, she's a photographer who wanted to include classy, handwritten notes to her clients. She told me about some of her struggles getting started with wax seals, and it was perfect to share with all of you. Many of you know I'm seriously afflicted with the wax seal addiction, having done some 1,300+ seals by now (since I started in April). Rebekah brings to light some of the 'struggles' a wax seal newbie can face! All of the mistakes she made here are fixable, so I think a 'wax seal salvage' video may be in my future! Oh, and a shameless plug, check out her blog and definitely hire her if you're in need of a wedding/family photographer in the DC Metro area! ;) ~ Brian Goulet


I'm always finding ways to stand out to my clients, do something different and personal.  I'm a professional photographer and few days ago one of my engagement couples ordered some prints from me.  I don't sell prints as often as I'd like so I really wanted to roll out the red carpet for them.  After "accidentally" eating the lollypop the printing company sent, I realized I needed to do something special.  I had just purchased some fancy G. Lalo paper and envelopes for writing letters, as well as a few sticks of wax and a brass seal with a fancy letter "R" from my brother-in-law.  You might have heard of him, probably not - his name is Brian.  Anyway, I had just finished up a great run with Diamine Marine (probably my favorite color) and decided to go PINK with a sample of Caran d'Ache Sunset.  I was ready to write my thank you letter to my client.

After getting my pen all set up, I tested the ink to make sure it was running smoothly (I'm still really messy at that) and began to write my note.  I started small at the top and it went something like this:

Katie and Alex,
I had a wonderful time with you guys the other weekend.  I hope you enjoy your prints!  Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you!

That's it?  I had barely filled up a quarter of the page!  Maybe I need to write bigger next time.  I added my signature at the bottom as big as I could without it being too obvious that I was just trying to fill space to look cool.  I grabbed an envelope, wrote their names of the front, and proceeded downstairs to find a lighter.

I went everywhere and couldn't find one anywhere.  Although Brian told me not to, I attempted to use a match.  Luckily I didn't burn any fingers off, but after holding it there for the duration of the light, I barely got one drop of wax.  After more searching, I finally found the cool clicky lighter thing and began to heat up my wax.  I waited... waited... and finally it began dripping.  I had practiced this before, doing demonstrations at the DC Supershow, so I felt like a pro.  I made sure the brass seal was clean, and even blew on it like I've seen Brian do.  I watched the wax drip... drip... drip.  Finally, I felt like there was enough, put the lighter down, and began swirling.  I was confident this was the perfect amount of wax - I had even centered the drippings right in the middle of the envelope fold and was ready to seal.  I put the lighter and the wax down, grabbed the seal handle, and pressed firmly in the middle.  I beamed as I witnessed wax spreading all around the brass seal - I knew this was a good one.  I couldn't wait to see the finished result.  I slowly pulled the seal away and...


...it was upside down.  How could I have missed this?  I spent so much time preparing and making sure every detail was accounted for, and I forgot so little as to LOOK at the brass seal before I pressed it down?  How stupid can I be?

After failing to pull the previous wax seal off, I went to my room to grab another G. Lalo envelope.  Sigh... these things are expensive.  But, being the perfectionist I am, I had to get it right.  I went back for round two, made sure everything was set up correctly, and even placed my seal handle in a position that I would grab it right-side-up.  I started up the lighter, watched the wax drip, drip, drip... and began swirling.  As I grabbed for my seal I double and triple checked that it would be right-side-up.  I pushed the seal into the wax and... nothing.  The wax didn't move.  It didn't do that cool thingy where it comes oozing out the sides.  Did I mess up again?  I pulled the seal away only to reveal that I had not used enough wax.


Again?  Ugh.  To some people, this could be acceptable, but I'm going for a 16th century look - I want a real, genuine wax seal.  I had to try one more time.

Each step I took up the stairs to my room to grab yet another G. Lalo envelope felt like ripping dollar bills out of my wallet.  These things are expensive, and yet I was so determined to get it right.  I went back for round three, made sure there was PLENTY of wax, did the seal, and BAM!  Perfection.


I couldn't be happier.  I can't believe it took me this long, but I guess having the pressure of a real letter inside that envelope made me forget to check all the details.  Wax seals are fun - I love playing with fire and melting things, and using it in a cool-looking way is such a bonus.  I guess it could've been worse - I easily could have burnt a hole in my letter or even burnt myself.  Although I made mistakes, no one was hurt during the making of this seal... only a slightly crushed ego.


Take it from me - all you need to do is use plenty of wax and check the seal to make sure it isn't upside down.  That way, you won't burn through three G. Lalo envelopes for a tiny little client letter!

- Rebekah Goldman
Rebekah Goldman Photography

18 comments:

  1. I can't tell you the number of times I have stamped the seal letter upside down! Depending on the letter you're using (I have a "D"), it can be down right confusing looking at it backwards and trying to figure out how to orient it so that it will come out correctly.

    The funniest thing I ever did was melt a blob of wax and then realize I forgot to get the seal before hand. I had to run and quickly find it, orient it, and stamp the seal before the wax dried. Craziness! It is sooo much fun, though.

    (I think you meant to say "wax" in place of "ink" in a few places. ;) )

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  2. Thanks for pointing that out Sam, corrections made!

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  3. I've had some luck carefully scraping the wax off, especially if it's still warm, and melting a new puddle where the bad seal was. One can also re-use the wax scrapings by melting them in a spoon (be sure to insulate the handle!). Melting the wax in a spoon is also a good way to mix a couple of wax colors in a swirl-- gold and red for example-- that makes for a nice looking seal. Just put shavings of wax of the colors you want in a spoon, melt, pour, and press your seal.

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  4. I've goofed with my seals a couple of times and leaving the bad stamped wax where it is, I reheat the wax in place and it forms a nice puddle and then restamp the seal into it. This has worked out well several times. Just don't burn the paper with your lighter or torch!

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  5. I have never done a wax seal but I think this would be my story too Rebekah! Maybe I need to order some...hmmm...

    I am just glad you remembered to put the letter in the envelope.... :-) I probably would have screwed that up too....

    Patrick

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  6. Any info on the camera, lenses and lighting she uses for your product shoots, Brian?

    I see you got an honorable mention in Rebekah's résumé:

    http://rebekahgoldman.com/resume.pdf

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  7. I have done the exact same things and can feel your pain each time you had to get a new envelope. But way to stick with it and share your experience with us. Thanks!

    Jackie
    www.lettersandjournals.com

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  8. I'm so glad to hear I'm not alone! Thanks for reading my silly story, everyone!

    It's so crazy you found my resume - that website is so outdated and will be updated soon. But to answer your question on the camera equipment, I shoot on a Nikon D90 and most of the product shots, including the envelope shots for the guest blog, were taken with my 35mm 1.8 DX prime - it's a great little lens that is really fast so I love using it as much as possible. In terms of lighting, I try to do most things outside to go as natural as possible, but when lighting is needed I usually use an SB-900 speedlight with a softbox.

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  9. Bekah, you should TOTALLY blog about your ridiculous 'lamp post' dome. It would be awesome! You can talk about how awesome it works but you can never use it except in pictures where you want people to be laughing ;) ;)

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  10. I SHOULD! That thing is the ugliest piece of equipment I've ever laid my eyes on. I should burn it. But I'll blog about it first. I may need your assistance to "stage" a few shots! :)

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  11. Bekah, you should TOTALLY blog about your ridiculous 'lamp post' dome. It would be awesome! You can talk about how awesome it works but you can never use it except in pictures where you want people to be laughing ;) ;)

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  12. I have done the exact same things and can feel your pain each time you had to get a new envelope. But way to stick with it and share your experience with us. Thanks!

    Jackie
    www.lettersandjournals.com

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  13. Thanks for pointing that out Sam, corrections made!

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  14. I've had some luck carefully scraping the wax off, especially if it's still warm, and melting a new puddle where the bad seal was. One can also re-use the wax scrapings by melting them in a spoon (be sure to insulate the handle!). Melting the wax in a spoon is also a good way to mix a couple of wax colors in a swirl-- gold and red for example-- that makes for a nice looking seal. Just put shavings of wax of the colors you want in a spoon, melt, pour, and press your seal.

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  15. Hehe, definitely worth persevering! I learnt to make seals at a very young age and have been making them for more years than I care to remember and I'd put a seal on upside down if it weren't marked. I know bespoke modern seals are marked so you know the top of the letter/motif but the J Herbin retail seals don't, but there is nothing to stop you making a mark on your wooden handle so you can't make that mistake!

    If you use the two spoon method of applying wax you won't be in a position of not applying enough wax, as you measure what you need prior to melting the wax.

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  16. If I get too small a puddle of wax I heat the wax on tha paper carefully and then drop freshly melted wax onto it. The freshly melted wax will reheat the puddle beneath and you can press your seal into it just fine.

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  17. I found while sealing our Christmas cards that I sometimes needed a second try to get an attractive, complete impression. I used a heat gun (an industrial version of a hair dryer, capable of blistering paint) on its low setting to remelt the wax spot right on the envelope. No scraping or adding wax needed. It worked. Oh, cheaper wax tends to have a higher melting point, so what you save on buying wax, you might spend on time and energy to melt it. Plus its time to solidify is shorter, meaning you'll need to be quicker with the seal.

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  18. I've done that before, heating the wax seal I already did to stamp it again. It works, as long as there's a decent amount of wax on there.

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