Outus Sealing Wax and Seal

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Awhile back, one of my blog followers and former colleague, Neil, gave me an Outus sealing wax and seal set.

The Outus brand is made by the Anhui Yashengweige Wangluo Keji Youxian Gongsi company based in Hefei, China. The city of Hefei is one of China’s special economic zones. With a population of 7,869,000 inhabitants it is almost double the population of the whole province of Alberta and makes Canada’s largest city, Toronto, seem like a village with its population of 2,731,571 (even the greater Toronto area only has a population of 5,928,040). It amazed me when I was visiting China just how large and populous a county it is and how little I really knew about it.

This set came with a sturdy brass seal imprinted with a tree on a wooden handle as well as eight sticks of sealing wax. The only kind of sealing wax that I have used before is the type with a wick (for more information, please see this blog post https://margretputspentopaper.wordpress.com/?s=sealing+wax). While two of these sticks have a wick, the rest do not so I had to figure out how to use them.

I tried just using a lighter to melt the stick but I couldn’t comfortably keep the flame going long enough to melt quite enough wax to make a nice looking seal.

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I also tried heating the wax stick over a candle and then just smooshing it onto the envelope in a circle but again I couldn’t get enough wax on the paper to make a nice seal. The end result looking like squashed bubble gum (I was using the bright pink) and was so unappealing I didn’t even take a picture.

Next, I attempted using a candle but I had to hold it at an angle and the candle wax started to drip. The resulting seal ended up being a combination of blue candle wax and silver sealing wax with some soot from the smoking candle mixed in.

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After that I thought I should consult the internet. It turns out that the non-wicked type of sealing wax is the traditional type. Sometimes it is sold with a little ladle-like spoon meant to be heated over a candle with a small chunk of the wax in it. While this set didn’t come with a spoon, I had a cheap teaspoon from our camping gear I didn’t mind experimenting with. I cut off a piece of wax (I could have used a smaller amount), put it on the spoon, and heated it with a small candle.

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It didn’t take long to melt and I was easily able to pour the wax onto the envelope.

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Success!

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If the Outus sealing wax and seal set was a person they would be hard to get to know but once you googled them you would see a whole new dimension.

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Chinese Calligraphy

4Treasures

I have been interested in calligraphy for a long time and a trip to China in 2008 expanded that interest to include Chinese calligraphy. I was so fascinated that I purchased some calligraphy supplies while I was there.

One aspect of traditional Chinese calligraphy that I really love is the respect shown for calligraphy tools. They even call them the Four Treasures. These treasures are the brush, ink, paper and ink stone.

Brushes:  Calligraphy brushes are traditionally made with animal hair. As with paint brushes, different kinds of hair have different properties that affect the brush stroke. White hair in brushes is usually goat hair and are a bit softer so are good for large characters. I didn’t know anything about brushes when I bought mine in China and I actually like the slightly stiffer, brown haired brush (the one on the far right of the photo) I got when I took a Chinese calligraphy course from the Confucius Institute the following year. The course was advertised as being for all ages so I was a bit dismayed to discover most of the students were Chinese children. As I sat on my tiny chair I reassured myself that even though I may not understand Chinese like the kids did, I can sit still and listen like a pro so I had that going for me.

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Ink: Ink sticks are generally made of soot that is mixed with glue and then pressed into a mold. The type of soot (pine, oil, charcoal, etc.) and other additives create different inks. Ink sticks are often decorated, as mine is, on both sides. Liquid sumi ink works well too.

Inkstick Inkstick reverse Ink

Inkstone: The inkstone is a shallow dish (with lid) used to grind the ink stick in a small amount of water to make the ink. This process takes about 15 minutes (depending on how dark you want your ink) and is considered an important meditative step to prepare yourself for creating calligraphy or to paint. Not all inkstones are made of stone, mine is ceramic, and many are beautifully decorated although I like the simplicity of mine.

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Paper: For calligraphy, the best paper is slightly absorbent. I have some rice paper that was bought locally but made in Japan. For practice purposes my calligraphy instructor suggested using paper towels like the type found in public washrooms or newsprint. We were given thin paper with guide lines printed on them for learning the characters in class.

Paper2 Practice2

There are other treasures too, like the seal and the seal ink. Seals (sometimes called a chop) are used like signatures. Typically made of stone, they are used with a thick paste-like red ink. I bought mine from a street vendor in Xian, China. It is supposed to be a translation of my name but I am not sure how well she understood me. There is something very aesthetically pleasing to me to have that small addition of red to the black and white of the ink and paper.

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If the Four Treasures were people, I image them as four ancient Chinese sages with long beards and silk robes that will impart their wisdom to anyone who will take the time to listen.