Pyrography: A Brand New Way to Draw

Pyrography: A Brand New Way to Draw

It dawned on me one summer while teaching at an arts camp for children, that my students could spice up their illustration projects by using heated tools to burn their drawings into wood.

The tools were rudimentary soldering irons I’d found in a bin of loose supplies, and although I had no previous experience using them, the students and I took right to it. We practiced on leftover scraps of wood, ultimately creating some beautiful work we were proud of.

Transferring pencil drawing onto a wood piece
Pyrography has expanded the author’s creative possibilities beyond pencil art.

Though simply a fleeting project idea at the time — a small, nearly unnoticeable moment in the bustle of long, creative days — that brief introduction to a brand new way to “draw” sparked my now decade-long fascination with an art form known as pyrography.

Eagle's head drawn with a pyrography pen
Here she uses specialized tips to burn various textures into wood.

As a lifelong lover of drawing, I relished that pyrography welcomed my skills and gave them a broader application. The fact that you can burn on so many different materials and objects means there are endless iterations to try. The versatility kept it fresh. Over time, the simple tools I started with were replaced with better ones. My self-taught techniques began to coalesce into something orderly and methodical, and my ideas became more prolific and complex. What continues to captivate me is multifaceted.

Sensory, Creative Path

Hummingbird themed pyrography drawing

Woodburning is a sensory experience as much as a creative path — a call to understand the nature of wood and a way to transform it into something more than what it is. With an aroma of woodsmoke in the air, each day at my workbench is a different one. I enjoy the unique challenges that a wooden “canvas” presents and the reward of progress as I gain fluency with my tools. Much like meditation, I must synchronize my body and mind upon the focal point in front of me that rests solely in the present moment. Each work is attentively created while my woodburning pen acts as the mediary, transforming heat, pressure, time, intention and once-living wood tissue into a piece of art. As a detail-oriented nature lover, I find myself at home in this process. It feels meaningful, and it’s fun!

Author's daughter with pyrography piece that she drew
Locke’s daughter with a piece she drew, her mother burned and the two colored together.

After my daughter was born, pyrography began to take up a larger space in my life and my imagination. As my little girl began to grow, my hobby did as well. With the encouragement of my husband, it became a business. As all work-from-home mothers in creative fields know, this path takes dedication and persistence, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. For the ones courageous enough to say yes to the daily grind of making your dreams a reality, I salute you.

Author holding basswood pyrography art
The author with her original fine art piece OrniTheology. This was burned by hand and colored on a large basswood plaque.

The enriching experiences and opportunities that have come into my life through the art of pyrography cannot be overstated. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of creating many meaningful gifts over the years. I have been asked to burn artful urns, heirloom-quality keepsakes, personalized wedding plaques and of course lots of beautiful, functional items to be used and worn.

Creative Woodburning pyrography book
Locke’s new book, Creative Woodburning, is available now. Learn more about it here.

In 2019, I was able to share my passion for pyrography through writing a book, which has since been released. These days I am a published author, full-time artist, raspberry farmer, mother and pyrography educator. I create a wide array of wood-burned offerings that I sell online and through craft shows. I also teach others the art of pyrography through my book and online courses.

What’s most meaningful about the creative path I’ve chosen is seeing the way that it has rippled outward into the world. I now have the full-circle joy of hearing from others whose love of woodburning was ignited by my own. I proudly started a series of adorable collaborations with my daughter, who is just as excited about making art as I was at her age. There are always more ideas to imagine and projects to try just over the horizon, and I look forward to what future creativity awaits. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s this: small moments have big potential, every story begins somewhere, practice makes progress, and with a little luck and a lot of determination, you might be surprised what you’re capable of creating.

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