Newsletter 1

 2003 Copyright Sue Walters
 G'day, my name is Sue Walters and I'd like to welcome you to the first of the news letters I will share about the art of pyrography.
     Burning is a rapidly growing and exciting medium that has so many applications, such scope, potential and associated mediums that I think there will be plenty to talk about for some time to come. This is reflected by the large range of people who have signed up. Not only do I have the usual pyrographers aboard, but I'm also seeing a large group of gourd artists, a few leather artists, some professionals, general artists and pyrography industry people as well. Great stuff....good to see you all:)
     As many of you know, I very much enjoy burning and trying out just about any surface/medium I can get my little mitts long as it's safe! I also enjoy mixing many mediums with my burning as well as heavily experimenting while I strive to portray what I'm after. All of this, (along with a wide range of subject matter) has given me pretty wide pyrography experience. But please, do give me a shout if you have anything to share....don't be shy! If you have any tips, news, show information, sites to share etc...just about anything at all regarding using something hot to make an image...drop me a line and I'll see what I can do to add it in. (I'd also appreciate the input.)
     Oh, by the way, being an Aussie I usually have to watch I don't add too much 'slang' to my writing or all you mob get a bit lost. I'll try not get too 'Aussie' on you, but hey, I'm sure you wont mind if I'm more myself here. If you have any questions at all, give me a hoy and I'll try my best to explain.

Lesson one, 'Aussie' is pronounced as 'Ozzie', not 'Ossie':)

Well...on with the show for edition one.
   Fading of burnt images is one of the biggest hurdles we pyrographers face to gain acceptance in the art world.
    It is known this happens on wood if the piece is left in strong artificial or natural light. It is thought that certain woods accelerate fading more than others and that the varnish/finish used can also effect how fast a piece can fade. I say, 'it is thought' because no testing has really been carried out in this area, so there is no clear evidence that I know of.    
     I have decided I would carry out a series of fade tests and photograph the findings for all to see. I have only just started this process with wood because they will be quite extensive and I simply didn't find the time to get them underway in the past.
     What I will be doing is testing several varieties of timber, with a variety of finishes, under two types of light; direct sun and artificial light. Each piece will be burnt with several techniques and a variety of pigments will also be applied alongside. I will then cut the wood in half and hide one side in the dark and the other in the light. This should give us a clear indication of 'fadeability'. (I might have to ask some of you kind souls to help me out a little by sending me a little sample of your finishes as we haven't got some here in Australia, like Deft and such.)
     It's my hope that the findings will help us choose our materials with more knowledge and perhaps find ways of eliminating this problem.
     In the mean time, I have already conducted some basic fade tests on paper and tagua. I will be doing more tests on these materials in the future by trialing some more finishes and protective means on paper...such as U.V. protective spray and museum glass. But for now I can release some interesting finding on the basic tests
     I started burning on paper as far back as 1994. For those of you who haven't tried it, do! It's a lot of fun and not nearly as impossible as it sounds. It also looks great. I was curious if burnt marks on paper would also fade in strong light as they do on wood.
     The earliest of these tests was started in late 1998 and were not removed from the light source until early Feb 2000. So you can see that I gave them decent time to 'cook' under the strong Australian sun. The 'other side' was hidden in a cupboard in total darkness.
     As you can see below, there was certainly a decent amount of fading of the section left in the sun. It will of course be rare for a picture to hang in this situation...and if you are considering it, I'm sure the test will make you think twice. But what I found the most interesting was comparing this test to that of the second paper test.
     In that test I hung the exposed paper in my studio. The room is lit by indirect, natural light and artificial, incandescent light. After 15 months of exposure, I am hard pushed to find any fading at all. Good!:)
     I found that spraying paper with a paper varnish and then exposing it to direct light will hasten the fade. I think this has to do with it actually magnifying the sun/light but am unsure. I also found that the darker/deeper the burn, the less it will fade.
     Possible solutions to paper burning situated in strong light? U.V. protective sprays or placing the piece under U.V. protective glass. This glass is more expensive to buy than the usual picture glass, but for a piece of significant value, it may well be worth it. Costs can be reduced by buying the glass yourself and cutting it or getting your local glazier to cut it. (A frame shop is likely to charge an arm and a leg if you ask them to include it in the framing.) It's a little hard to find, but wholesale frame suppliers should be able to help you out. I think my glass is from America, so you people Stateside might get it a little easier than I found.
     The other possible consideration could be to use reflective glass over the non-reflective. This might divert some of the light away from the picture surface....but I'm not real sure of this.

OUTSIDE FADE TEST - Start Nov 1998, End Feb 2000

As you can see, there is significant fading in the test.

The paper was burnt and the then cut in 3 parts. Part one was left in full sun coming through a window. Part 2 was sprayed with mat picture varnish, not UV protected. Part 3 was put in the dark for the duration.


INSIDE FADE TEST - start Nov 1998, end Feb 2000

Well....nothing too faded about this that I can see. Perhaps a TAD on the patch burnt with the shader. 'A' is the piece hidden away, 'B' is the piece left out.

The light source was indirect light from a double window which is approx. 6 feet from where the paper was pinned to the wall. I also have 100W incandescent light overhead, which is always on when I work, regardless if it's day or night.




I was curious to see how watercolour paint would fare in comparison to burning. Interesting!




     Well! THIS was very interesting and surprising.

     For those of you who don't know what tagua is, I'll briefly explain for you. It also comes with the various other handles of vegetable ivory, palm ivory and corozo. It is the nut of the Palm Ivory and looks and feels remarkably like elephant ivory. It was traditionally used extensively in the button industry until plastic was born. It's now highly prized by artisans to carve, scrimmshaw, paint and now, to burn on. (see some examples of burnt tagua art here.)

     I started experimenting and extensively burning on tagua around a year ago. Dear Peg Wood kindly sent me some slices to try and I've been in love with it ever since.

     I love that it's white to burn on, that is has weight, that you can make great jewelry from it, is popular with customers and that it looks and feels just like ivory, but no elephants were harmed in the making of this art. In fact, tagua growing and harvesting are helping save the rain forests of Ecuador.

     Like paper, I was very interested to see if burnt images on tagua would fade. There weren't even any rumours of this amongst pyrographers as tagua burning seems very new except for a few crude craft applications in the past. So...I set out to test the fading of a burnt image on tagua approx 8 months ago. This time also included my summer months, so it got a real work out.

     The test comprised of burning a series of lines and patches across a single piece of tagua, then half of the tagua was screened from the sun with cardboard. It was then placed on the sill of a very sunny window for 8 months.

     I admit that I expected some fading at least, but was stunned when I returned from Canada, took off the screen and saw there was NO fading at all! In fact, the side that was in the sun was cracked and checked from the beating it took from the sun, but no fading at all was evident. The only thing I can think of is that burning tagua 'meat' actually cooks it and creates a different property than the carbon formed during wood and paper burning.

     I'm sure one happy puppy though! This is one art/craft material where I don't have to worry about the fade aspect.

     Can tagua burning fade from other means? Yes, I think it can from experience. This largely depends on the finish applied to the piece. Oils or varnishes that yellow wood can cause the image to fade by yellowing the white of the tagua....creating less contrast in the original image. Unsealed tagua will also fade if allowed to get wet or rub up against things.



TAGUA FADE TEST - 8 months

'A' is the side that was exposed to the sun.

Note how side A is heavily checked from the sun baking it, but there is no fading that can be seen in comparison to side 'B', which was hidden from the sun and light.

A Few Samples of Tagua Nut Burning