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.
International Encaustic Artists presents their La Vendeene awards each
year at the EncaustiCon event. "IEA has initiated this award structure
in order to foster the organization’s mission of providing a global
information exchange and raising interest about encaustic in the art
world and with the general public. The IEA Board wanted to honor the
innovators among us who have created the tools and materials of our art.
They wanted us to recognize and thank those whose hard work, ingenuity
and excellence have paved the way for the rest of us in the encaustic
This year, Mike Lesczinski, president of Enkaustikos, nomiated Ann
Huffman for the La Vendeene Innovation Award and we are excited to
announce that she won! Check out her acceptance speech below!
Ann's Acceptance Speech
"I thank you, one and all, at
this 2012 ecaustiCon conference for honoring me with this innovation
award. I'd like to thank International Encaustic Artists and its
numbers of encaustic artists gathered here to celebrate our art and I
would like to thank Michael Lesczinski who still believes in the work I
do. I am also very glad that Mike is reading this acceptance speech
since I'm quite sure that if I were there, I would be quite speechless.
This award is the crowning touch to an abiding love of color in wax
since I first turned my energies and talents to beautiful, radient,
captivating encaustic. In 1985, my true art had come calling.
Reference books often referred to "the unique optical color " in wax,
but ~~sigh~~ the next word the books had in common was "cumbersome".
Doing business as Mrs. Appletree's Studio, my goal was to eliminate the
"cumbersome" label from the wax arts vocabulary and bring encaustic
(kicking and screaming if necessary) into use for contemporary artists.
This involved the invention of tools, formulation of wax paint medium
etc, and the development of technique options that now add "easy to use"
to encaustic's lexicon.
The book, Enkaustikos! Wax Art: Ann Huffman, was published,
copyrighted and in due course, sent to the LIbrary of Congress in 1991.
It brought how-to-do-it information for the innovations available for
wax and its use in art to interested artists. Soon, Mrs. Appletree
Studio was involved with an international encaustic customer list. Over
the next 5 years, the business continued to escalate to all corners of
As this may sound like a bit much for a small studio business, bear in
mind that sometimes all of those corners boasted only one lone encaustic
Dorothy Masom, the late Shirley Charnell and I organized Encaustic
Network,Unlimited in this time frame to bring together artists who
worked in wax. As IEA does now, ENU sponsored exhibits, conferences,
and offered fellowship and encouragement to encaustic artists.
In 1996, I passed the torch to Michael Lesczinski and OH MY, look at Enkaustikos now.
As I consider IEA and the smiling faces at the conference, I'm struck by
the fact that all of those faces belong to accomplished and
knowledgeable encaustic artists who work in a diversity of technique
that is only possible with a wax medium.
I have to tell you, it is truly astonishing to me that when I say "encaustic" no one here will say "WHAT"?!
If I say I paint with hot wax, no one here is going to say, "YOU PAINT WITH WHAT"?!!!
None of you will say "You can't do that"!
and what we create with wax is truly beautiful and very unique.
Thank you again, for this Innovation Award.