BACKGROUND

Brynn DeNee, Alexander Wieber and Tanya DeNee at Sterling Renaissance Festival in 2006Historic Waxcraft is a business begun by Alexander and Julia Wieber in the early 1970s. Alex and Julia (better known as Sascha and Luscha by friends and family), both with a German/Russian background, came to the United States in 1956 from Germany, where they both taught Russian and German at an American Army Intelligence School. Once in the U.S. they worked at the University of Rochester in the area of nuclear physics. Later, Sascha, in parallel with his work in the Cyclotron Laboratory, started teaching Russian and German at the University of Rochester.

While on one of many trips back to Europe, they visited an archive in Germany to gather information for a small research project. While studying numerous documents and treaties, they were intrigued not only by the documents but more so by the seals attached to them. They were both so taken by these beautiful medieval miniature art objects that they began collecting themselves.  Some they found in German wax shops, some at flea markets, others came from private collections.

Sascha was very familiar with making silicon rubber molds through his work at the Cyclotron Laboratory. He applied the same technology used in making lightpipes for scintillation counters to make copies of the seals from their growing collection.  Sascha and Lusha were then able to reproduce their own seals in their own workshop using better techniques than the archives. They found their reproductions to be more authentic looking than the museum copies they had purchased years earlier.

Luscha had a gift for finding interesting historical items and soon became the driving force behind this new hobby. They traveled to Europe frequently and continued to add to their collection. Handmade beeswax candles were also a large part of the early business that was called Luscha's Waxcraft, until the frequently asked question "What is a Luscha?" prompted the name change to Historic Waxcraft. The Wieber family's hobby turned into a small family business as their many collections grew. They specialized in reproducing authentic impressions of historic seals as well as other items collected along the way. Luscha's own collection included historic gingerbread molds, butter molds, medieval ivory carvings, Christmas decorations and other interesting historical items.

A surprising blow was dealt when Sascha did not get his tenure. Instead of teaching his typical nine courses, he ended up with only part-time teaching work.  Miraculously though, only three days later he was contacted by Dr.Gründler, at Western Michigan University, who invited the Wiebers to exhibit (and sell!) their seals at the largest medieval conference in the world, in Kalamazoo, MI.  This is when they realized that not getting tenure was actually a blessing. As the years passed their seal collection continued to grow. Through the intense research accompanying seal reproduction (over 30 years of experience), Sasha became known by historians as an expert in the field of sphragistics (or sigillography), the study of seals.

Then in 1984 the family business suffered greatly when Luscha experienced a debilitating stroke that finally took her life in 1989. To add to this difficulty the workshop was severely damaged in a fire.
In 2003, Tanya DeNee joined Sasha as his new business partner. Tanya’s parents had been friends with the Wiebers during the early years as the business was growing. She always admired the gifts of seals and ornaments her family received from them throughout the years and although the families lost touch for several years Tanya never lost interest in the castings or the family that created them.

Tanya’s successful fifteen-year career in natural resources and environmental management had become increasingly frustrating and unrewarding. She decided to take a chance and follow a dream of working in the field of teaching (history) and returned to school. This decision also brought her to Sascha’s doorstep. Once there she began to visit Sascha often to help organize his newer collections, make molds, and cast reproductions. This, in turn, evolved into yet a new and wonderful direction; to resurrect Historic Waxcraft and preserve this fine family business she had known since childhood.
The business now boasts of a collection that encompasses over 8,500 seals, of which over 4,500 are originals. Sascha and Tanya are working together to bring Historic Waxcraft back to its former glory and beyond, dedicating their future years to the memory of Julia (Luscha) Wieber who worked so hard to make the business the success it once was.

Tanya is responsible for casting, sales and business management and Sascha will continue his historical research and pursuit of authenticity. The website is nearing completion and will be a huge database of information in its final form. Please contact us for any other information about our reproductions or collections and check in regularly to watch our progress.  Thank you for your interest!

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