Do You Yearn to Burn?
Pyrography is a versatile artform and one that is easily learned.
A lesson in fire
When sitting at a campfire, watching the flames kick up bits of wood, throw the colors from the bed of coals to the tips of the branches do you have a strange yearning to reach into the circle, pluck out a stick and see what designs you can burn into an unburned piece of wood?
You are probably a pyrograph artist in the making.
(That, or just a pyro, someone needs to keep a sharp eye on you!)
If all you think of when you read the above is “is she crazy” then you are normal, my condolences to you.
For all the rest; welcome to the art technique known as pyrography! This art is so old it is sometimes said to be the first art form ever! Of course, whether true or not is not important. What is important is the fact that pyrography has indeed been done since cave dwellers time. Add to that the technique was done with the blunt end of a burning stick and you have the beginnings of the art itself. Even in Victorian times, a poker was being used to put designs into wood. However, there are wonderful tools now that will allow you to achieve beautiful results with your artwork without worrying that a hot coal will drop on your foot. The risk of harm remains though, as the tip is 900 degrees Fahrenheit and above! Be careful does not begin to touch on that subjest! The worst thing that happened to this writer is not watching where the cor was in relation to the tip; burned right through the cord. That puts a stop to any work in progress until the UPS driver brings a replacement cord. Colwood (manufacturer of pyrography tools) must have had this happen often because the cord detaches from the back with a simple turn of a screwriver!
In fact, Colwood is one of the most popular brands of pyrography tools but there are other manufacturers as well and all are reasonably priced. Of course, many who are just starting out choose a craft tool for less than twenty dollars. This is a good way to get used to using fire but it is rudimentary, at best. Eventually you will want a tool designed for art, rather than one designed simply to burn. Along with the tool, intruction books are a necessity and there are many on the market. One of the artists that is a great teacher is Lora Trish and her books are found in bookstores, woodworking stores and on the internet.
The best part about any pyrography tool is the different tips can create different effects. It is fun to practice using every tip to see what designs can be made. Moreover, every book on the subject advises you to make a practice board with squares and burn a different design into every square. This also makes a great checkers or chessboard. Eventually though you will find that any effect can be created with less than four or five different tips. The important thing is having the ability to change the temperature for the tip. This is what gives you the ability to produce shades and tones with your tip. The best pyrography tools have a dial that allows you to change the temperature easily. They also allow you to change from one tip to another quickly and without risk of burning yourself.
The easiest medium to learn on is basswood because it is so smooth and the grain is so even. On the other hand, it burns rapidly so a light touch and a low temperature are important. The hardest thing to learn is to let the tool do the work and not to press hard in order to speed up the process. It
is fun to watch the material take the fire and see your tip go deeper and deeper into the surface. The bad part is while you are mesmerized with the red glow of your tip the surface is turning a crispy color of black and you cannot fix that, short of digging it out with a gouging tool. The most difficult surface to learn to burn is paper, but it is also one of the most beautiful. The easiest of all is leather and that is also one of the oldest surfaces used in pyrography. One thing that has been in vogue for years is gourd pyrography and there are many books and websites devoted to this subject.
The one thing that must be emphasized is this medium is not for everyone. The gourd itself is a toxic material; in fact; just cleaning it out can cause respiratory problems and other allergic reactions. Pyrography on a gourd does the same thing only more so. The fumes generated from your pyrography tip causes flu like symptoms in some people and even rashes in others.
However, gourds are one of the most satisfying and imaginative items to burn. Gourds come in so many sizes and shapes it is only a matter of your imagination as to what you can create.
Any new art form takes time and practice to perfect. The best thing about pyrography is there are so many things to learn, it keeps you interested and excited. If you are not inclined to draw or sketch your design, you can trace it and there are many books with copyright free designs to choose. One of my favorites is the “Great Book of Dragon Patterns” by Lora Trish and there are others as well.
Why not check out pyrography. It does not take a lot of money to start and the rewards are a thousand fold. Happy burning!