General Non-Fiction posted May 24, 2024

This work has reached the exceptional level
Slow and steady ... works well

Not for the impatient!

by Wendy G

Brilliant and creative art forms are now within reach of all of us very ordinary (and less than artistic) people – via computer programming. We are not even limited by our own imagination.  With that highly valued quality called speed, outstanding and creative art accomplishments are very quickly accessible to all.

However, I enjoy a very slow form of creating art. One can certainly browse the computer for ideas for this branch of art – but their full expression requires many hours of patient and painstaking work in this format.

The key to success is, in fact, to resist the temptation to see a result; it is to go as slowly as possible. Going slowly is an old-fashioned attribute, but it is not without merit.

The process develops patience and perseverance – and it absorbs, even blots out, one’s sense of time. Full concentration is important, for one mistake can ruin a piece completely. It can rarely be undone.

Curious? I speak of pyrography, “writing with fire”, a word sourced within the Greek language. Pyrography is more than “woodburning”, for woodburning is simply using one medium, wood, whereas pyrography can bring art to wood, leather, and other materials, even paper.

What sort of creative applications are there? One can decorate leather belts, purses, wallets and handbags, one can produce works of art on surfboards, on tools, and on signs. Wooden stools can be decorated, and dining or coffee tables. One can create pot stands, place mats and coasters, or simply works of any size for display on a wall - or groups of pyrography artworks. They are a talking point for all visitors.

I made a “Welcome” sign for my front door, featuring not only the word “Welcome” but decorated with images of gum leaves and gumnuts. I have decorated wooden spoons with our unique flora and fauna – not only the bowl of the spoon but right up the handle, and on both sides. These make beautiful gifts, especially for friends overseas.

The main thing I remembered from my one lesson was to proceed slowly. I also learned about the best sort of wood to use, preferably without any grain, and I bought some, along with a set of tools and the heating device into which one plugged them. Temperature had to be regulated. A mask was to be worn for the fumes, as well as gloves  – and I always chose to work near an open door, ready to throw my efforts out if I set fire to anything!

I learned to regulate the temperature setting, largely by trial and error, by checking the intensity and depth of burn on a nearby wood sample. It was easiest to start with low to medium heat and then go over the work again with a hotter setting to darken the colour.  And yes, at times there were little puffs of smoke when I made it too hot. Fortunately, I caused no fires!

I used the same trial and error system with the “nibs” attached to the stylus handle by screws. I learned the hard way (many times) to remember to set the "pen" down to cool on its special resting place, before unscrewing the end piece to change to a different one. I was thankful for gloves providing a small amount of protection from the searing heat.

There were fine sharp nibs for feathering strokes, others for outlining, rounded ones for heavier emphatic outlining, different ones again for shading. I have about twenty or more, and if I am uncertain as to which end-piece to use, I revert to my practice piece of wood to see their effect.

After only one lesson, I optimistically launched into my first serious project – it was a very large plaque to commemorate a birth, about 75 cm long and 45cm wide. The full name was to be central; date, time and place of birth were to be included, along with weight and length, all in smaller font, and around the perimeter were to be zoo and farm animals, and pets.

All these were to be burnt into the wood, without making any mistakes, without my hands shaking. I started with the animals, well before the child was born, and with each animal added, the more nervous I became about spoiling it.

I used pictures from a child’s colouring book to copy the animal shapes, in pencil, onto the wood before beginning the burning process – mistakes at this early stage could be erased successfully. Mathematical skills were required for the placing and spacing of each animal, in order to preserve symmetry.

Then, after his birth, I had to centre the name, and make sure the font size and spacing were accurate, doing the same for the other birth details. The final step was to varnish the piece with clear varnish – several coats – and buy an easel to display the work. It was well received.

Lessons learned?

  1. Start with a simple, clear design, with clean lines and very little shading.
  2. Use the right wood! Minimal or no grain. It’s worth the expense.
  3. Go slowly, for a burn mark on a piece of wood where your hand shook and slipped or where the grain caused one to slip outside the outline can be heartbreaking.
  4. Practise first on a similar piece of wood. Practise many times, if necessary! Don’t rush.
  5. It’s worthwhile to try out the various nibs to see their effect. Take your time.
  6. Don’t set the house on fire. Start with moderate heat. Avoid scorch marks.
  7. Hold the device lightly and use smooth movements. Slow and steady.
  8. It’s okay to trace or copy first. This can be erased without spoiling your pyrography.
  9. Plan well. Space between letters or designs needs to be pleasing to the eye.
  10. Have courage! “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm!” – a favourite saying of my mother. Another was "Slow and steady wins the race!"

You may have noticed my deliberate repetition. If not, I’ll say it just one more time. GO SLOWLY!!

And lastly – enjoy a new skill. Learn from my mistakes. Be brave and bold, and launch yourself into a totally absorbing and challenging new hobby … pyrography!

Teach Me Something writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Everybody knows something that not everybody knows!
Choose something interesting or unusual that you know a bit about and craft it into an informative article.
It could be related to:
Your job or hobby or passion
A location where you've lived or visited
A how-to guide for a process
Something you researched for your own interest

The sky's the limit for this informational exchange.
No poetry
No stories (ex. Don't tell us about your vacation but rather something you learned/observed while on it)
No word limit, but articles and attention spans are generally maxed out by 1000 words.
Nonfiction. Don't make it up!

This beautiful artwork is being created by pyrography, by someone far more skilled than I. The shading and techniques are fantastic, all done by burning into the wood. I chose this one to reflect the magnificent beauty which can be achieved by some people, with patience and perseverance - and a steady hand. I also wanted to show the tool and heated nib at the end.

Be amazed: Google images of pyrography art, or wood-burning art. The outstanding work is almost unbelievable.
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