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What is Pyrography?

I realised recently after comments from various friends and customers that 'pyrography' is not a word that is familiar to quite a few people so I thought I would try and give you an insight into this craft

Pyrography is the ancient art of burning into a medium to produce decoration or text. It literally means "fire writing". It has also been known as 'pokerwork' as the Victorians literally did just that - a poker heated in the fire! Often rather crude, a poker was very popular but it was impossible to control the heat - either too hot or too cool so it could be rather hit or miss!  Another way to achieve scorch marks was by way of a magnifying lens and sunlight. Pyrography is thought to date from the 17th century, although the actual process was practiced by the ancient Egyptians and some African tribes used charred remains from fires to decorate. Wood burning is another term used to describe this art form.It was early in the 20th century when the first electric pyrograph was developed.

 

 

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

Nowadays, the equipment you can buy ranges from a solid nib variety to hot wire variety. The holder is similar to a soldering iron so is comfortable to hold and use. The cheaper version is a little more cumbersome but will give you a feel for the craft. Once you have decided that you wish to pursue, it is well worth investing in a good quality unit. I prefer to use the solid tip variety although a lot prefer the hot wire machine

 By varying the heat and tip used, different effects can be achieved. I prefer to burn on wood and favour sycamore as it is a light coloured hardwood with a fine grain. Cherry, lime and birch are also perfect for burning on. With sycamore, I can obtain more detail without battling with the grain or natural knots! Leather is also a popular medium and burns very easily. I have also seen people use bone or cork and gourds are popular abroad.

I find it best to lightly sketch out the design or text in pencil before burning in, pencil can be erased but a burn mark is usually for good! (Occasionally, I have been lucky to sand out a mistake but its not always possible)

One word of warning should you be tempted to try this amazing craft - avoid any pressure treated wood, any wood that has been stained, painted or sealed or MDF as burning this will release toxins.

New ideas

Well, a couple of months have whizzed past since my last blog so finding myself with a few spare minutes, I thought an update from me would be a good idea!

I managed to get away on holiday to Cyprus in early May so have come back feeling refreshed and eager to try new ideas. My main aim was to try out the increasingly popular craft of vinyl and to see if it could be incorporated with pyrography. I have come up with a box frame that has a vinyl quote added to the glass and little hearts for the family members added inside. This is where the pyrography comes in and it is a different take on a family tree - what do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the moment this is only available in my Etsy shop and can be found if you follow this link : https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/522742322/box-frame-with-vinyl-quote-and-wooden?ref=shop_home_active_1

It will be available with extra hearts depending on the size of the family and the frame measures approximately 10 x 10 inches. Various background colours available and prices start from £19.50

Not sure which idea I am going to create next but there will be pyrography in it somewhere! I am now off to finish a rabbit money box which is still a 'work in progress'!

10 Reasons why I love Pyrography

I belong to The Professional Crafters Guild and we have been challenged to write a blog on one of three subjects as part of our 'Blogging Week'. I have chosen this subject as I live, breathe and dream Pyrography so it was probably the best choice for me! Even after some 35 years, I still love burning wood

 

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  1. I have always adored natural mediums so wood seemed to call to me. There is nothing more satisfying than creating text or design on a beautiful piece of wood and a heated point.   I once watched a lady, many years ago, demonstrating at a small craft show, I knew that was what I wanted to do and I have never regretted my choice of craft
  2. Pyrography is super relaxing! I can sit quite happily burning away and lose myself in my thoughts. Very therapeutic although I do have to concentrate when burning text - I have been known to burn a word from a song that I am listening to!
  3. Love the smell of burning wood! Each type of wood has a different smell although I now work mainly with sycamore. Two of my favourites are cherry and apple - it smells divine, who needs fragrant candles when you can have fragrant wood?
  4. No piece of wood is the same. I might get through hundreds of horseshoes in a year but the grain is totally different in each one. Sometimes, when working on a commissioned piece, it is a challenge to incorporate the grain, knots etc into the design. I never tire of burning - each day is different
  5. Pyrography can be practiced sat at a table in the kitchen, dining room or where ever there is a power point and you are comfortable. It doesn't require lots of expensive equipment, a small starter kit can be purchased quite cheaply as a taster.
  6. Pyrography also doesn't take up a lot of room (try telling that to my husband who despairs at ever sitting down to a meal at the dining room table!!) Admittedly I am running a business, but for a hobbyist, it is ideal.
  7. All my work is freehand and I adore the freedom that brings. Designs or text are sketched out in pencil first (these lines are rubbed out later) I often stray away from my original sketch often improving the design especially with the money boxes. I gives me so much satisfaction to complete something like a money box as its quite a labour of love!
  8. Good quality wood is required for pyrography, it needs to be light in colour and a close grain and it is always the highlight of the day when my order of wooden blanks arrives from my supplier. Love opening the box and smelling that smell of freshly made sycamore blanks!
  9. I feel that I am doing my bit for the environment by buying sycamore blanks from a supplier who deals with local grown sycamore. Its good to know that as trees are cut down that they are regrown
  10. I love Pyrography because through it I have made so many lovely friends  both through the craft world and the many wonderful customers who have helped my business grow and thrive. There is also that lovely warm glow feeling that I have been part of some very special occasions by providing a special memento for someone to treasure

Sycamore or Plywood?

I am constantly trying to think of new items to bring onto the range and very often friends or customers may request something different or sow the seeds of an idea. I do so appreciate feedback from customers as it is the reason that I have so many lovely lines on my range.

Some ideas are easier than others to research and then source the raw materials. I take pride in using good quality wood, the majority being solid sycamore. In order to burn (pyrograph), the wood needs to be very light with faint grain lines so that the burning point glides over the surface. It may be more expensive than the lighter plywood that is so readily available but I feel the quality shines through.

Hence I have been in a quandary with my latest item that I hope to introduce onto the range in the near future. Word Art has become very popular and if it was not for a lovely customer asking for a framed Word Art with text pyrographed around the frame, I may never have thought or even tried it!

It started with a leaving present, then went onto a baby birth or two, then a teacher’s gift and then I got thinking about a wedding gift – a heart personalised and decorated set within a box frame with fairy lights! It’s amazing how one idea can grow into several.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have tried this out and as the sycamore heart is a little weightier and thicker, I have used a plywood  heart. What do you think? Would you prefer the heavier sycamore heart as used in all my keepsakes or do you think the plywood heart would be better as it is lighter and thinner and therefore not as heavy, especially if you wish to hang this frame and not just stand it on a surface? It would push the price up unfortunately (by about £6 ) if I kept to sycamore whereas plywood is a lot cheaper although it has a good quality finish -  but maybe you could help me decide!

The photo does not really do this frame justice - it looks so pretty at night!

Please leave your comments – polite please!!

So far this year is pushing on at speed -  its so refreshing seeing daffodils, crocus and the like in the garden and I have noticed that the birds are giving us a rousing dawn chorus before the sun comes up!

This is the time we traditionally think of Spring Weddings and the most popular time for this is without doubt Easter! I myself got married at Easter and we were blessed with glorious weather - some forty odd years ago now!

One of my new creations is proving popular for Easter brides, have you checked out the Two Tone Organza Rosette Horseshoe?

 

Colours available are :

White, Red, Brown, Pale Pink, Cerise Pink, Lilac, Olive Green, Turquoise and Black 

 

 

 

Don't forget that I can personalise all items, if you would like wording set out differently, an alternative greeting etc etc and text on the reverse, please contact me - I will be only too happy to discuss your requirements 

New Year, New Ideas !

My word! I cannot believe that we are halfway through January already. For me it is a slightly quieter time as far as wedding keepsakes go so I tend to fill in any spare time by tweaking my website, catching up on paperwork (yuck!) and developing new ideas for keepsakes.

My first idea is for a clock. I have made them before, back in the days when I exhibited at Craft Fairs and they have always been popular. Several of my customers have asked in the past so I thought I would try them. They do make a super unique present for a wedding, anniversary or special occasion as they can be personalised with a date and names. They are then sealed and finally polished with beeswax. These will hopefully be on the range shortly but here is a picture of the first one I have done with a rabbit design - hope it tempts you!

Where is this year going?!

Time has simply flown by without me realising and I have to say that I have not kept up with my blogs! I feel rather ashamed but I am thrilled to say that my lovely customers have kept me nice and busy.

When not creating keepsakes, I am usually catching up on the dreaded paperwork, researching new ideas and embellishments (much more exciting) and trying to come up with new ideas to add to the range. If you have checked out the website lately you will have noticed a few additions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have recently introduced three different boxes - trinket boxes, money boxes and tooth fairy boxes. Although not immediately wedding related, the trinket box makes an unusual gift for a 'thank you' present for a bridesmaid, especially if it has been personalised with the reciprocates name. Many of many lovely customers received  keepsakes  on their wedding day and they are now starting their families so the Moneybox is perfect personalised gift to celebrate a birth or to give as a Christening gift. Babies seem to be given money at birth as traditionally it was thought to bring good fortune to place a coin in the baby's hand. Adding a name or even a date makes a wonderful keepsake to treasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am always coming up with new variations for my existing range and have just launched a heart with resin embellishments. This item would make a great Engagement gift - don't forget, all items can be adapted to suit the occasion. Just because I have a picture of a heart with text for a wedding, doesn't mean to say that it cannot be changed to an Engagement keepsake or even just as a 'Thank You' gift. That's the beauty of personalised gifts made by craftsmen/women!

Its difficult knowing which colours will prove popular for this seasons weddings which is where my lovely Facebook followers come in. Have you Liked my page yet? https://www.facebook.com/blackberryweddingdesigns/     Keep up to date with new lines, ideas and special offers and please comment when you can as it gives me valuable ideas of what you would like to see on the range and which colours are trending.               

Choices

How do I choose?

 

I am often asked my opinions on colours or wording and it is such a difficult thing to do as we all have different tastes. I can only speak from what I am working with and as with most things, trends vary from month to month. At the moment it’s all ivory with purple and navy being the most popular colours!

Most of my keepsakes come with a choice of three colours for the ribbon loops that hang over the bride’s wrist – cream, white or ivory. I find that cream is not used so much now so unless you are sure that the bride is definitely wearing cream, it’s a colour best left .Most brides prefer to wear ivory now as it is not as harsh as white and is kinder on the skin tones and this is backed up by the large amount of ivory I seem to use every week!

It’s great to be able to match the colour of the bridesmaids or wedding theme by having ribbon roses, butterflies etc. to coordinate. If you are not sure, look at the invitations for a hint of the colours being used – I carry a large selection of colours and if given enough time I will try and source the right shade if I don’t already have it.

 It is impossible to keep all the types of tartan in stock, in some cases there are several for each clan! I now stock a basic red, blue or green but if you would like me to use a special tartan, I am quite happy for you to send a length for me to incorporate into your horseshoe. Very often the bride to be will have a reel or two of the correct tartan if she has used it in the making of the invitations etc.

There will always be a wedding where you are not too sure of the colour scheme, for those I usually recommend using all ivory – it looks very chic and will look good whatever the colour scheme!

Wording can be another uncertainty. With a horseshoe, I think of it as having three sections – top left, top right and bottom.

·        Around the bottom edge suitable wording would be ‘Congratulations on your Wedding Day’ (depending on space) or ‘With Love and Best Wishes’ this can be changed to suit you as long as I can fit it in!

·        Top left hand side usually has the couple’s christian names

·        Top right hand side usually has the date of the wedding

Sometimes the venue is put around the bottom especially if it happens to be a special venue or the wedding is abroad!

I am happy to add whatever you would like but please be aware space is limited – sometimes less is more!!

I am able to add your own personal message on the reverse, maybe ‘With love from Mum and Dad xx’ or 'With much love from all your work mates'

 Once again, space is limited and too much text will make the keepsake look cluttered. Spoons and rolling pins have less area to add text so if you need more wording maybe a horseshoe or heart would be better.

I am always happy to speak to my lovely customers on the telephone or via email to discuss your ideas or queries. Its through communicating with you that my keepsake business has  grown over the years. I am only too pleased to answer your questions or adapt my keepsakes - your opinions and ideas are welcome.

 

Wedding Traditions and Customs

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I was pondering over the heart being the symbol of love and why. This led me to wondering about wedding traditions and what is folklore or fact.

 

Horseshoes

 

It is not clear where the tradition of carrying a horseshoe came from, it may have originated from the ancient Greeks who thought of the horseshoe as symbolising the crescent moon which was a symbol of fertility. It is more likely to have links to the 10th century and St Dunstan who fought the devil and managed to strike a deal. The devil agreed not to enter the house of a Christian if there was a horseshoe above the door. From then on, horseshoes were considered lucky but they must always be hung with the open side uppermost as turning it around will let 'the luck run out'! A horseshoe is said to be more powerful if ribbons are tied to its shoulders so even more reason why a horseshoe is the ideal choice to give to a bride!

 

Wooden Spoons

 

Giving a wooden spoon to the bride was considered to be the most useful tool any bride could need in the kitchen. It was said to help her cook the best meals for her new husband and in Scottish homes, the spoon was replaced by a Spurtle (traditionally used for stirring the porridge)

 

Spurtle

 

Spurtles are an ancient Scottish utensil which were traditionally presented to the bride on her wedding day. The bride was given one to help her ‘tame’ her porridge but it was said that it was meant for her to ‘tame’ her new husband! 

 

 

Hearts

 

The heart shaped symbol has represented love and adoration for what seems like forever. The stylized heart of today does not even resemble a human heart. One possible origin is that the shape comes from a seed pod. The Silphium was a type of fennel whose seeds were distinctly heart shaped but it has been extinct for over 2000 years. The Greeks believed the plant was a gift from Apollo and it appears that it was used as one of the ingredients of a herbal form of birth control in ancient times. That is probably why it was associated with sexuality and love.

Another idea is that the 'heart' shape is formed by the back and wings of a dove which was associated with Aphrodite, the ancient Greek Goddess of Love  

 

What month should you marry?

 

Marry when the year is new, he’ll be loving, kind and true,

When February birds do mate, you may wed or dread your fate,

If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you’ll know,

Marry in April when you can, joy for maiden and for man,

Marry in the month of May, you will surely rue the day,

Marry when June roses blow, over land and sea you’ll go,

They who in July do wed, must labour always for their bread.

Whoever wed in August be, many a change are sure to see,

Marry in September’s shine, your living will be rich and fine,

If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry,

If you wed in bleak November, only joy will come,

Remember when December snow falls fast, marry and true love will last

 

Part 2 to follow

 

Its all in the packaging!

 

I have just received the most beautifully packaged handmade earrings which I ordered for a Xmas present. They were wrapped in a small square of coloured tissue paper which was placed in a little organza type draw string bag – all colour coordinated and with a certificate of authenticity. They were not expensive but there was so much thought that had gone into presenting this hand crafted gem that it got me thinking.

Back in the day when I did craft shows, my idea of packaging meant pretty coloured paper bags and if the item was a little more delicate, it was wrapped in tissue paper first. However, not all my fellow crafters felt the same and I have seen beautiful handmade wares purchased and carried off without any form of packaging at all!  Other sellers placed their wares in crumpled up and split second hand supermarket carrier bags saved especially for the occasion, I know it does the job and I am all for recycling but did your newly purchased Llama wool jumper really need to go in a tatty bag from Tesco’s! Then you have the plain brown paper bag that although functional, hardly got you excited! Then of course there was the newspaper wrapping crafters! While I appreciate that pottery and the like needs to be protected carefully and newspaper is ideal, I am talking about crafts people who I have seen use it to wrap delicate little bars of homemade soap! Imagine the print smearing the goods. Whilst I appreciate that packaging is usually discarded, it does look more professional to have items packaged well and a business card or a sticker label with your name and address added – it doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it also gives the buyer confidence and a place to return for repeat sales.

I expect most people have traded on Ebay at some time, I know I have. I used to have a regular supply of bits and pieces coming through my letter box especially clothing. There was one particular seller who always made an effort to wrap each item in tissue paper, tie it in ribbon with a bow and pop a few scented rose petals on top before popping it into a plastic mailing bag. Not only did it look inviting to open, it smelt fresh too! Presentation is key whether it is second hand or new.

When I decided to sell my keepsakes online, I thought long and hard about packaging. I wanted to keep the cost of postage down but I did want the item displayed nicely, to be kept clean and with a certain amount of protection.  To box or not to box was the question? Talking amongst friends and family, I soon realised that if you take a horseshoe to a wedding, once you have given it to the bride, you hardly want to be carrying a box around with you and most handbags are too small to hide one away!  So it was decided to use a cellophane bag with header card that can be scrunched up after use and pushed into a pocket or handbag if a waste bin was not available. Perfect! This means that it will also fit into a jiffy bag for postage and through most post boxes.

 

 

 

There are exceptions of course which means I have an option to purchase a box if it is preferred. Not everyone can get to the wedding so in some cases, family or friends like to send a boxed keepsake. The bride then has something to keep her memento in. Unfortunately this comes at a cost as the presentation box has to be packed within a box to endure the postal system and arrive in pristine condition. I use plain white presentation boxes that I have added a ribbon and bow and if it is for a christening or birth heart plaque I like to decorate accordingly. Now, at least customers have the choice.

Finally, some of my favourite suppliers often slip a little something extra into the packaging! I have had little chocolate hearts, silk embellishments, short lengths of a new range of ribbon or braid, metal charms and love heart sweets to name but a few. A nice touch which means you look forward to ordering from them in the future. Consequently, I am now doing something similar………… but you will have to order something to find out what!

 

 

 

 

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