Pyrography & Mistakes
When I tell people that I am a pyrographer, I normally have three questions that consistently come up.
- "And what is that?"
The most frequent question I get. I always enjoy explaining to people what pyrography is and the tools we use as wood burners.
- "Is that incredibly time-consuming/tedious work?"
Normally, yes! My father taught me stained glass when I was younger, and that was another very tedious art. You have to design the pattern, cut the glass, grind the glass, wrap the copper around the glass, make sure each copper foil is perfectly aligned, and then you can solder. Then, once you put all of the solder on the entire piece, you have to go through and make sure it is even, then bubble it to make it look finished. Finally, you put on the patina and voila! You have your stained glass piece. It was a big lesson in patience, and that it can be worth putting in a great deal of time for art.
The third question, and the one I really want to expand on is:
- "What happens when you mess up?!"
Pyrography is a rather permanent art. Once your burner goes astray, there can be a moment of panic as you have to decide what to do next. There are a few tools I have that help me with my art.
Extra-fine sandblaster, isopropyl alcohol, and my Inscriblio! These inexpensive items can make my mistakes fade away (to a point). You can pick up the alcohol at your local grocery store and the sandpaper and Inscriblio were at my local craft store.
The first step of my pieces is drawing out the design in pencil on the wood. Sometimes, my design will be difficult for me for one reason or another and I have to draw it several times before I’m done. Unfortunately, an eraser may not cut it to really lift the pencil off of the wood. That’s where my friend isopropyl alcohol steps in. A dab of that on a bit of cotton and you can swab off most pencil marks!
There have been times when I have been merrily going along shading my piece, creating a skin tone or shading a petal, when I suddenly realize that this area has been burned a bit too much and is darker than I wanted to achieve. When this occurs, I use an ultra-fine sandpaper that I cut into small pieces for easier use. I can generally lighten the shades without creating too noticeable of a cover-up. Be warned, though, if you sand too much, it can create a different texture in that area and stand out. I’ve had to go back and sand other parts of my art that I did like, just to be consistent with the area I had to fix.
Finally, for my deeper mistakes, I use the Inscriblio.
I’ve been outlining a piece before (such as a flower petal) and had the dark outline suddenly go astray. This is normally due to wood grain that is determined to have me follow it. When that happens, I pull out the Inscriblio, which is actually a glass etcher. I find that the fine tip of the etcher makes for a controlled way to slowly sand down these bigger mistakes.
The last thing I do is just go with it! We can begin with a specific vision, but there is no guarantee that that is what will end up on the wood. I’ve had areas that I’ve accidentally darkened far too much to recover and lines that have been too stubborn to remove. That’s when it might be time to tweak the design. Remember, even if your art isn’t how you planned it to be, other people won’t know unless you tell them!