I was recently contacted by a gentleman from Wilsonville, OR who wanted a hand-burned, rustic plaque as a gift for his dear friend to hang on the wall in his mountain cabin.
He wasn’t sure what font he wanted or whether to include any graphics or not, but he definitely knew he wanted his friend’s last name and the latitude and longitude coordinates for the cabin.
With that information and knowing he was going for a rustic, mountain-cabin feel, I suggested he might like a plaque with an unfinished bark edge in his choice of shape (rectangle, oval). He loved that idea and decided to go with the oval shape.
Upon further discussion we decided it might be nice to add a pine tree or two for graphical interest. So, I did some searching and offered him a selection of different tree styles. He preferred the one portrayed on the finished plaque and thought it might look nice to have one on either side of his text.
This is a typical example of the process I go through with each individual client. That’s something I really LOVE about hand-burning pyrography pieces. Each one is custom made and a compilation of the client’s initial vision my own artistic abilities. The outcome is always a JOY for me! Walking through each step of the process…making sure the client is pleased all along the way.
This plaque may seem kind of simple…but it was crafted with great care and attention to detail. It is a one-of-a-kind gift and I’m excited to hear how my client’s friend reacts when he receives it this coming Christmas!
Wood burning started as just a hobby for me. A way to pass the time. The year was 1999 and we had just relocated from our own 20 acres on Central Oregon’s High Desert, where we had been living an off-grid lifestyle for about 6-months. We relocated to a 160-acre abandoned ranch known to locals as “the compound”. It consisted of a small, white, ranch-style house with several other outbuildings and a 2-story red barn. All of that was centered in the middle of what used to be a working alfalfa farm.
Stories of our experiences during that time could fill a book…but that’s not my intention with this post. This story is about how I started my adventure into wood burning, or as the art-form is known professionally, pyrography.
At “the compound” we had no land-line phone and there were no cell phone towers in that area at the time. So, we had no phone service out there, much less internet access. It was a 35-mile drive into the closest small town to gain access to those luxuries.
Needless to say, we had LOTS of time on our hands for exploring our creativity!
Resources were limited out there so I had to use what was available to me. I noticed there were tons of loose pine boards strewn around the property…both inside the big red barn and laying around in the yard area. I remembered having purchased a cheap wood burning tool from a craft store before moving away from Portland that was stashed away in a box somewhere. I dug through my things, found it, and decided to play around a bit! Before this time I had only tested out burning a handful of crude shapes and patterns on very small wooden plaques I bought with it when I got it at the craft store. I hadn’t ever made any kind of real attempt at creating a piece of true art or developing any kind of real skill with the tool. So, this time was different. For some reason I felt inspired to see what I could create.
I don’t remember when I acquired the packet of carbon transfer paper that I used for my pyrography projects for years…I think I ordered it from Amazon…but I’m not sure if I already had it on-hand from the office supplies I brought with me for doing administrative work for Jeff’s software business or if I purchased it specifically for doing this art transfer…but we had reams and reams of printer paper because of his business so between all the wood scraps laying around the property, the printer paper, and the carbon paper I had loads of supplies to keep me busily creating art as my heart desired!
If I remember correctly, I already had lots of photos saved on my computer from before our move, so I just found some that inspired me and got to work!
I set up a small studio space inside the house where I could burn. I’d pop a cd into my “boom box” (do you even know what that is? LOL!), crank the volume up, and happily burn for hours on end!
These were some of my very first pieces created in that environment…
First Commissioned Pieces
Interestingly, my very first commissioned piece was for a husband who wanted a special, “intimate” gift for his wife on her 45th birthday. Which I was fine creating for him. (See A Husband’s Gift above). This was followed by a request from a Canadian dad whose son was featured in a local newspaper (See Saturday’s Sunshine Boy above) – this was my very first attempt at hand lettering.
So, my career as a professional pyrographer was off to a start…pretty much right from the beginning! Though I didn’t focus on it as a real career option until several years later.