The Beginning of Enkaustikos
In 1977, brothers, John and Mike Lesczinski purchased their family business, Rochester Art Supply. The retail store sold basic art materials but as the new owners, the brothers wanted to bring the company to a whole new level by making it a one-stop shop for professional fine artists. They wanted to carry higher quality products and offer supplies from all different mediums. Committed to this goal, Mike sought out for the best art materials he could find. He introduced many new brands to the store such as Gamblin, Golden, Escoda, Mussini, Blockx, and a lesser known brand of encaustic paints called Mrs. Appletree's Studio Encaustic Wax Paints. Over time, Mike developed a friendship with Ann Huffman the creator of Mrs. Appletree's paints and began corresponding. When Ann Huffman mentioned that she was considering retiring, Mike started wondering about the future of the unique encaustic paint company. He didn't want to see the company go so in 1996, John and Mike purchased the encaustic company from Ann and stepped into the ring for the first time as manufacturers.
John and Mike were excited to get involved in manufacturing and immediately got to work on making the company their own. To start fresh, the first step as owners was to rename the company, Enkaustikos! Wax Art Supplies. "Enkaustikos" was the greek word for "to burn in" which seemed perfectly fitting given encaustic paints need to be heated in order to use. They made it the company's goal to produce professional, artist quality encaustic paints. The formula included only the finest ingredients of U.S. pharmaceutical grade beeswax, damar resin, and artist-grade pigments. All the pigments were carefully selected, researched, and tested before adding them to the line and USP Beeswax was used to keep bleaches and solvents away from the artist's palette. Since the market for encaustic paint was relatively small in 1996, Enkaustikos originally only sold directly to artists and the brand slowly gained momentum through word-of-mouth.
Innovations and Growth
In 2008, there was an explosion of interest in the encaustic medium and more artists were finding ways to incorporate wax paints in their art. Thrilled by this increased attention, Mike and John started to consider going wholesale but they knew that they needed to make some changes in order to do so. Therefore, they decided to completely re-invent their product line. To help improve paint quality, they upgraded their milling system. They replaced their 3 roll mill with a state-of-the-art, modern milling system. The new system shears pigment particles to their finest particle size allowing the paints to reveal only the true personality of each pigment. The new milling system transforms the paint to be more rich and creamy than ever before. After upgrading their equipment, Mike and John altered the packaging of their paints to make them more retailer and artist friendly. Trademarking the name Hot Cakes, Enkaustikos began offering their paints in convenient, ready-to-heat metal tins. The Hot Cakes tins featured informative labels, lids for easy storage, and simply put, made encaustic paints easier to use. With these changes instituted, Enkaustikos finally made their products available to retail stores in 2009. Hot Cakes were formally introduced during that year's NAMTA Conference - where Enkaustikos received two awards for Hot Cakes, both Best New Product and Best Packaging. Hot Cakes have since successfully entered stores throughout the globe. Hot Cakes are currently available in 86 professional paints, 72 of which are single pigment colors!
In 2010, Enkaustikos introduced a new line of artist sundries. While the company had always sold sundries before, the new line featured these products in beautiful, resealable bags rather than paper craft bags. The bag's had attractive and informative labels as well as convenient, zipper seals to keep the product safe during storage. The price point and improved packaging made these sundries attractive to both customers and retailers. During the 2010 NAMTA Conference, Enkaustikos earned The Best Packaging award for the 2nd year in a row!
In 2011, Enkaustikos set out to make a new paint product. It was clear that interest in encaustic was growing but there was still a need to enhance the market even more. With the goal of attracting more artists to encaustic and intriguing those existing Hot Cakes customers, Mike and John introduced a new line of paints called Hot Sticks. Hot Sticks feature the same professional paints from the Hot Cakes line but come in a versatile, artist-friendly stick. Hot Sticks fit comfortably in your hand and are ideal for direct painting on heated substrates, printmaking techniques, rubbings, collage, and mixed media applications. The price point is considerably lower than Hot Cakes opening the door for more artists and the unique uses attract artists from all different backgrounds. The Enkaustikos' Hot Sticks display rack won the Best Point of Purchase at the NAMTA 2011 conference and Hot Sticks have already begun entering stores as of May 2011.
Both John and Mike remain dedicated to creating professional encaustic supplies. New colors and products are added to the line constantly such as our anodized aluminum printmaking plates, art instructional DVD, hog bristle brushes, and paint sets. Enkaustikos continues to adjust to the changing trends and of course, hopes to educate artists about this unique medium along the way. Whether organizing educational events, attending industry conventions, promoting our retailer's workshops, or adding resources to our website, Enkaustikos is trying to bring the spotlight on the encaustic medium. Enkaustikos hopes to shed light on this mysterious medium and will continue to provide artists with the best products available. Mike still corresponds with Ann Huffman today and she has expressed that she is beyond thrilled to see where both the company and industry have grown to. It is great to see that more artists discovering encaustic and that more retailers are making these paints available. Enkaustikos is honored to be a part of such a wonderful industry.