Real Stories

Embers of Passion: A Pyrographer’s Journey from Grief to Artistic Awakening – Amber’s Fire

It all started Christmas 2016, when my mom bought me my first wood burning tool. I wanted one for years but for some reason, never purchased one for myself. I was so excited to finally have one, but I wasn’t sure how or where to start. So, it sat in the package for almost 6 months.

As it sat, it lingered in my thoughts and continued to think about what I wanted to create. I finally came up with the perfect idea for my first pyrography piece, and the gumption to open that package, in mid May 2017.

The project was near and dear to my heart. It was going to be an urn for my dad, who passed in 2014. Not only did I struggle with his loss, but I also struggled with what type of container to put his ashes in. I wanted one that would represent him well, as we all do for our loved ones. He was the best dad I could ask for, he was clever, he was funny, he was a character. He definitely was not a fancy urn guy. He was down to earth, enjoyed nature, a cold beer, and the simple pleasures in life. He was a carpenter by trade, a Marine, and Vietnam Vet. Oohrah! He was also a bit of a hippie, extremely talented artistically, and very creative. He would have loved the idea of me hand burning his urn.

So, I went to our local Michael’s craft store and found a box that would work. I printed the image I was going to burn, the USMC emblem, sized to fit where I wanted it. I transferred the image by hand, which I still prefer over the heat transfer method, and my template was ready. A similar process to how a tattoo is done. As I turned on my new wood burner, which was a simple soldering iron type of tool, I put the hot metal tip right to the wood, and I just began drawing like I normally did. It flowed out of me so easily. Wood can offer some challenges with the change in grain, but I felt like a natural and I was hooked.

During the time it took to burn that box, which was several hours, all I thought about was my dad. I thought about our times together, how much I missed him, and how proud he would be of me. It was very meaningful and added to the overall love of the experience.

Side note: I need to remake his urn because, now I have so much more experience and confidence in myself, I know it would turn out even better.

My mom is equally gifted & talented in many different ways. Our home was always full of art & craft supplies. From macrame, beading & leather — to drawing, painting & woodworking. Although, I don’t really remember pyrography/wood burning, my mom has done a little over the years. I’ve received several little magnets and a few bookmarks of hers as gifts. That’s what sparked my interest and got me to mention it to her, which led to her getting my burner for me.

Throughout my life, art has been a constant love affair. Always drawing, coloring, making paper mâchè Halloween costumes, homemade cards/gifts. In middle school and high school, I would take whatever creative/art classes I could, from general art to interior design. My favorite classes always involved wood. When I was in middle school, I absolutely loved wood shop. In high school, it was crafts. In both, I used power tools and did wood working. The smell of fresh cut wood & sawdust are two of my favorites.

Nature has also been a constant love and inspiration of mine. Born in San Diego, CA my parents relocated our family to NorCal when I was about 18 months. I was surrounded by trees, open spaces, and experienced all the seasons. Swam in ponds and slid down rock slides. Made forts, climbed trees and ate wild berries off the bushes. After my parents split, this little country girl became somewhat of a city girl as I ended up back in San Diego, with my dad. I was 9 then, and have been here ever since. I love my hometown. San Diego & our surrounding areas are inspiring in so many wonderful ways. From the coastal beauty and groovy, beach vibes, to the majestic mountains & iconic deserts. From the palms trees to the Joshua Trees. Not to mention, our art scene & community is one of a kind!

Since I first began my journey in pyrography with that little soldering iron, I have upgraded my tool. After a couple of years, back in 2019, I invested in a Razertip SK10 with a fixed pen system. Since then, they have made even more advances in the pyrography tools available to us and there are lots of options out there.

However, a great tool for aspiring pyrographers, which maybe less intimidating and won’t break the bank, is the first one I mentioned, the Walnut Hollow VersaTool. It is basically a fancy soldering iron. It comes with multiple tips for a variety of burning styles, creates amazing artwork and, is a trusted staple in the craft and woodburning communities. I still use mine in projects regularly. Walnut Hollow is a great company to support. Their customer service is bar-none, and they offer the finest wood surfaces/canvases you can get. They always commit to sustainable farming practices and, often support artists and the online art community. 10/10 would recommend.

Pyrography has added so much value to my life. Confidence in myself. Creative expression like I have never known before. Artwork I never could have imagined I would be able to create, reaching further than I ever would have imagined. My art is literally all over the world, in multiple states of the US, Canada & overseas in Amsterdam other countries. How awesome is that?!

Pyrography is such a slow and mesmerizing process, I truly believe in art-therapy and I have found mine. I don’t consider myself a patient person, whatsoever — but, I can sit and patiently burn for hours on end. From the soothing aroma of the smoldering wood at my fingertips, to the warm glow of the metal tip. From the organic feel of the grain and texture of the wood, to the silky, smoke curls, swirling around me. I love everything about Pyrography and am so grateful I finally discovered it when I did.

Over these last 6, going on 7 years, my style has evolved and my skills have improved; but as an artist, I’m still not sure I can define “my signature style”. I love bright, bold colors, as much as I love the muted, mellow tones of watercolors. I love texture in my artwork, whether it’s stippling, hatching, cross-hatching, smooth shading, deep, dark burns, all of it. I like to burn with high heat. But, low and slow has its place too. So, I still struggle in defining my style. It’s pretty much whatever feels right in the moment, and I’m okay with that.

There will always be struggles. Another one for me is, balance. The balance of creating the art I want to create, and creating what others want me to create. Such as commissions, which are a blessing and amazingly special in their own way. It’s a wonderful feeling to have someone trust you with creating a pet memorial, family keepsake, or unique gift for someone. Knowing they will treasure that tangible piece for years to come, is something special.

Another struggle I face, and I think many artists face, is comparison. Comparison is the thief of joy. There are so many artists out there, it’s easy to compare yourself to others. Fight that feeling. There is room for all of us to shine. We are all unique and offer something special to this world. If creating makes you happy, do it. Grow through the process and be true to what you want to express. Be willing to change as you grow, because change is the only constant. It’s natural to evolve a little as you go. Embrace it.

Never forget: The things that light you up and excite you, are not random. They are tied to your purpose and your passion. They will show you your path. Follow them.

Special Online Offer: Save 15% off Walnut Hollow products when you use AMBER15 at checkout.

by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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