A burning desire to create art

Vicky Taylor spends hours burning wood to create striking artworks filled with depth and detail. Taranaki Community News caught up with her ahead of her appearance in the Taranaki Arts Trail this weekend.

Hi Vicky! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’ve always had a passion for animals, leading me to become a veterinarian. Art and music have always been a big part of my life, but these were pushed aside by the time constraints of a busy career and family life.  

In the last two years time became more available allowing me to reconnect with my creative side. I find art and music a form of escapism and they give balance to my life.

Trapped Within

You make beautiful artwork, known as pyrography. What is pyrography, and how did you get into it?
The term Pyrography means “writing with fire.” It is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker. It is also known as pokerwork or wood burning.

When the time opened up to become more creative I found having young kids made using pastels and paints hard so I was on the look for alternative art mediums that fitted into my life better.  

I was at a woodworkers display one day and I saw a few pieces of turned bowls with burnt decorations on them. I was fascinated as I had not seen it before. I investigated pyrography art online and I was blown away that such detailed real life art could be achieved by burning on wood.

Unconditional

This led to the start of my woodburning journey and I was determined to get to that level I saw on the internet (although at the time I didn’t really believe I could).

Why does pyrography appeal to you as an art form?
Wood has an energy of its own and every piece is different. Every imperfection makes the piece special. Fire also gives the blackest of blacks and by using a light wood, this allows for amazing contrasts in my art pieces.

There are a lot of really beautiful animals in your work. Why is this?
During the years of being a vet, animals show a pure form of emotion. So it makes it easier for me to use animals as my art subjects to tell my story

Your work is so incredibly detailed. What is the process for making art from wood burning, and how long does it take?
PATIENCE, PATIENCE and more PATIENCE.

Sing It Loud and Sing It Proud

I keep my burning temperature at a very low heat which produces a very light tone, and if I want to darken that area, I burn with the same temperature over and over and over to get the desired shade.

You have to glide the hot metal tip on and off the wood like an aeroplane, avoiding any hesitation or stopping otherwise unwanted burnt blotches appear.

I have had to train my hand to do motions that help reduce hesitation and undesirable blotches. I believe being a surgeon gave me a head start. My pieces take about 40-60 hours, but I am starting to experiment with time saving techniques.

Tired Soul

Does it matter what type of wood you use?
The type and preparation of wood is the key to the art being more evenly burnt. My favorite wood to burn is basswood as it is a very light in colour, soft wood that has tight fibres and very minimal sap. Other woods that I like include; Baltic birch, poplar, and sycamore wood.

Is pyrography dangerous?
Absolutely. Safety precautions for my health include- using kiln dried wood, safe wood (some are toxic), wearing an industrial mask, having adequate ventilation and an extraction fan.

What do you like to do when you’re not creating art?
I spend most of my time with my family but in my spare time I love to pursue music, having recently been in a musical.

Stage Fright

What can people expect from your studio during the Taranaki Arts Trail?
The opportunity to view my wood burning tools, being able to discuss my craft, seeing demonstrations of my techniques and potentially letting those who want to try it have a go.

My originals will be available for viewing. Photographs of my originals have been taken to make available different ways of enjoying this art, including prints that are either on plywood, acrylic blocks, framed or on cards.

You can follow Vicky and her work on Facebook.

  • Established in 2014 the Taranaki Arts Trail provides the public with the unique opportunity to meet with artists in their studio/workshops. It is a free event and this year it is held on the weekend of June 8, 9 and 10. For more information visit www.taranakiartstrail.co.nz/home/