I saw my first Brown Bag Cookie Mold in the early eighties in a tiny shop in Virginia Highlands, a small Yuppie neighborhood in Atlanta, where I was living.
This love affair has never ended. I have St. Nicholas from the 1983 collection, which was the first year they were made. The Brown Bag name comes from the philosophy that small, ordinary things can be wonderful works of arts.
With these clay molds you can make gorgeous cookies, cast beeswax ornaments and hand cast paper. From what I have read it seems the originator of these clay molds now only creates one a year and she donates the proceeds of the sales to charity. For 2007 the mold is a gingerbread house and any monies will go to Habitat for Humanity.
I have about 20 of these Brown Bag Cookie molds, some made by hand, and I cherish each one of them. Many of the molds are now collected and you can find them on EBay and other sites on the internet; they are no longer sold in stores.
If you buy beeswax directly from the beekeeper, it is cheaper, but it can be dirty, so you will have to clean it. I used to keep bees; I even had bees in my early Innkeeping days here at Big Mill Bed and Breakfast. I had a great teacher, my cousin Bobby who was blind. I was his “eyes” when he checked the hives. I ordered my first colony of bees from Sears & Roebuck and they came by mail in a small screen box. My rural mail carrier was a wreck. En route wild errant bees had attached to the outside trying to join my bees.
Beekeeping is really a science, and without Bobby around, I couln’t protect my bees from all the dangers. But I still find them fascinating. Did you know that all the bees in a hive are women? There is even a book Beekeeping For Dummies. There are many good websites and books out there now, so if you want a fascinating hobby, you won’t be bored.
My bees knew me and could tell when I was upset or nervous; the pitch of the hum in the hive went up an octave. Bees have taken a bad rap. They are not naturally aggressive like wasps, hornets and yellow jackets. Please don’t kill them; we really need all the bees here on the farm at Big Mill. They are one of the reasons our blueberries are so prolific!
Recipe for Cast Beeswax Ornaments
(Download the Brown Bag Idea Book for more projects)
Brown Bag Cookie Molds
1 pound beeswax (this will yield about 6-8 ornaments)
Small amount of thin wire (like in a twist tie)
1 yard very thin ribbon
A small amount of vegetable oil, 1 Tablespoon or thereabouts
Small paint brush to apply the vegetable oil to the molds
Old double boiler and ladle (or 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup if using microwave*)
Wooden spoon or paint paddle for stirring
Chill the cookie molds at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
Melt the beeswax in a double boiler over medium to low heat, checking often to make sure the water does not boil out. Remove the mold from the refrigerator and brush or rub a wee amount of vegetable oil onto the inside of the mold. Place the mold on a flat surface covered with some protective covering of waxed paper. This allows you to reuse any spilled wax. The mold MUST be flat and level.
Using a lipped ladle, gently pour beeswax into the mold. At this time you can tell if the mold is level. If not, correct this.
The wax will immediately pull away from the mold and dry quickly. When it is cloudy, insert a twisted piece of very thin wire into the back of the mold at the top. This will be your hanger. If you forget you can heat the wire and do this later. Or you can use ribbon. You do not have to wash the molds between pourings; but you may have to add more oil.
To remove from the mold, turn it over and rap gently on a table. Do this before the ornament is completely cold. If you have any “over pour” you can trim off the edges using a heated knife blade. If you make a bad pour, don’t fret. Just put the wax back in the pot and reheat. This is true if you break an ornament…they are very fragile.
Now for the cleanup: Call the National Guard. But DON”T let any of this wax get into your drains…or you will rue the day. Actually, a hair dryer and paper towels work well.
The Rocking Horse design is from 1984, the second year of production for Hill Design’s Brown Bag Cookie Molds. Gingerbread Man and the Cherub are from 1992. These delicate ornaments are translucent and the tree lights glow through each one. The beeswax aroma lingers and is not lost through the years.
I store these treasures flat, with sheets of waxed paper between each one. They must be kept in a cool place.
I still have my hive, my bee suit and my pith helmet! Chloë
*You can use the microwave to make these ornaments, but I prefer the stovetop because it allows me to keep the wax at a steady temperature.