Newsletter 5

2003 Copyright Sue Walters
   I've had several requests from burners to write a bio about my artistic career. I'm a bit embarrassed to do so because, well, there's really not that much to tell.
   Like any other kid, I took art in high school, but only until year 11. I've never taken an art class or any other creative class in my life since then. I have however been fortunate enough to have been blessed with parents who were very artistic and creative.
   My father (an architect) died when I was 5 years old, but there is enough of his work still existing for me to know he was an artist with a fantastic eye and natural ability. He loved black and white/monochrome work, as I do, and also loved to work in detail…as I absolutely do.
   On the same side of the family, my Great Grandmother was a well recognized oil and water colour painter and had a piece once hanging in our National Gallery.
   From my Mum I received a more rounded gift. She was (is, if she were still physically able) a creative jack of all trades. She taught herself many crafts and arts, including silver smithing/jewellery making, china painting etc. Apart from passing on a generous amount of artistic ability, she also taught me not be afraid to tackle anything I wanted to...and not to be afraid of rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty.
   She was the only person to give me a drawing lesson. I remember she taught me what shade was and how it made a picture look more realistic. That was when I was very young, when I used to draw African animals from a book to while away the time at the laundry mat. I entered one of these pictures in a local art contest and won both the children's and adult sections for drawing.
   It's hard to say why, and probably too complex to work out, but from then on, (until I was around 32 years of age), I rarely drew again. (I've just turned 40)
   I taught myself a lot of other creative things in the mean time, including taking up my Mums love of jewelry making. I tried to paint once, but couldn't then find my niche or medium and quickly gave it up. I did a few pictures in pencil and tried some charcoal, but no sooner had I picked up a pencil, I would put it down again for a couple of years.
   For a career I studied and became a horticulturist. I worked in horticulture, (interspersed with travelling), for a number of years until I had to stay at home and look after my ill Mum.
   Well, every cloud has a silver lining as they say. While taking care of things at home I looked for ways to occupy myself. I started playing with a woodburner that had been given to me as a gift. At first I started burning simple products for markets and the tourist industry. I did this for a few years until Mum got super ill again and I couldn't keep up with orders. I then started to wonder about what was possible in fine and realistic could it be? While I had the home time, I started playing around and pushing my own limits, learning a whole lot of things along the way.
   That's pretty much where you find me now in pyrography...still pushing away, trying things out, developing methods to make the pictures I see in my head. My goal is to keep exploring the limits and to keep refining what I already know...and to pass that on to others who also enjoy burning in it's many forms.

A fun and effective material to burn with your pyrography machine is leather.
Think of all the things you can do! Not only can you do decorative pictures on panels of leather, but you can burn functional items such as belts and knife holders.
I burnt my dogs names on their collars, but the leather darkened quickly with wear. But there is no reason a special collar couldn't be done for special occasions. What a nice gift for a new born pup or cat!:)
Leather requires an nice, soft heat. It's a joy to burn on because of the smoothness, but you must be sure to only burn on vegetable dyed leather. Chrome and metal dyed leather are no go burning zones because of toxic fumes.
   You can add colour to leather burning by using leather dyes.

SAFETY WARNING: As a beginner, it's so difficult to know what to burn on and what not to. I mean, how would you know without being told?! Knowledge only comes from learning and sadly this information is not readily written about or passed around nearly enough. A material I hear beginners burning on (without knowing any better) is MDF - medium density fibreboard. This material should never be burnt on as it releases fumes containing carcinogenic toxins. I have heard of the odd burner condoning it's use despite the warnings, but really, the chances of a future cancer should not be dismissed.