Bethany Handfield was thrilled when she received the news from the organizer of the 11th Annual Encaustic Conference that she was one of only two artists in Canada invited to this prestigious conference in Provincetown, MA via a bursary. There is fierce competition for bursaries as they are open internationally with only nine given out in 2017. There was only one hitch on accepting- the greater expense of getting there.
For those unfamiliar with encaustic, it is a modern take on an ancient style of painting. Pigmented beeswax is applied to a substrate using a heat source as part of the application process. In 2006, Handfield took an encaustic class with local artist and teacher Thea Haubrich and a wonderful relationship began. Said Handfield, “When I took my first class with Thea I was immediately hooked. Encaustic has a beautiful luminosity to it that is unlike any other medium I had worked with. Thea was an amazing and generous teacher so part of the draw was also continuing to learn from her. It was a huge honor in 2011 when Thea invited me to show with her in a dual art exhibition we called Untangled.”
When Thea was unable to continue in her art supply and teaching business due to illness, she asked Bethany to help out. “I was very reluctant to start teaching at first as Thea was so well respected and knowledgeable on the topic. I could not have done it without her encouragement and support,” said Handfield. “I can honestly say that I would not have advanced as far in my practice and career without Thea’s strong encouragement,” added Handfield.
Sadly Thea passed away in 2013 from her illness. Thea’s husband Peter and son Maarten set up the Thea Haubrich Legacy Fund in her honor with the Community Foundation South Okanagan Similkameen (CFSO). The goal of the foundation is to encourage other artists wanting to learn encaustic through bursaries that would help them with educational costs. Bethany Handfield is the 2017 recipient of the fund and will be using the bursary to facilitate her journey to the Encaustic Conference in Massachusetts in July.
“I am so appreciative to the Community Foundation and the Shatford Centre for supporting my application. It has a deeper meaning coming from the Thea Haubrich Legacy Fund and evokes great emotion,” said Handfield. “Thea and I had always hoped to go to this conference together and because of the fund, CFSO is helping to make part of that dream a reality. I will forever be grateful to her for bringing the gift of encaustic into my life and for her encouragement of my artistic growth,” added Handfield.