Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What makes a good craftsperson, In My Humble Opinion

I have been so busy I have neglected to Blog. *slaps own wrist* Shame on me, I know. but I am making a slow comeback to it so keep watching.

There are people out there that look at my crafts and think "I wish I could do that". What they don't realise is that they can!
What I'll do here is give you tips and insights into how I got to my current level, which I don't even consider very high yet (I know I need to practise some more with new techniques and tools).

What you see above is a decorated chopping board I did when I first started my adventures in pyrography. Why a chopping board you ask? Simple answer to that one. I got it for a very low price, it was a flat surface and was large enough to do the project I had in mind, in this case a Greenman surrounded by oak leaves.Note that before I did this project, I had never done anything as complicated, having mostly worked with full lines, dark areas and no shading practice whatsoever. Gutsy, I know!

The first thing I did was to clean the surface really well. Any bumps or notches on the wood will come back later and haunt you good. I started with rough sandpaper and slowly upgraded to finer sandpaper. I usually go through 4 different grains before I deem the surface ready to work with.After I am satisfied I am ready to move on, I then measure the surface and print a picture that fits within those same dimensions. Depending on the size of the image, you may have to give this a few tries to get it right. Even after many years of doing this, I still have to make corrections. Failure is a good way to learn by the way. Once the image is done and printed in the needed size, I then transfer it with carbon paper by tracing the lines very gently. When using carbon paper on various woods, less pressure is a lot more later. Carbon can be difficult to remove from a surface as I discovered the first time I used it: I had to sand down the piece of wood for 30 minutes to remove the pattern completely. I have not tried it yet, but graphite paper, I am told by many sources, is a better way to transfer images and is a lot easier to remove.
Now that the lines have all been transferred, I go back to the printed sheet with the image and start adding shading with a pencil just to give me an idea of where I want to go with the burning. Then I get a pice of scrap wood (way too many around according to Wifey...) and practice the various lines and shading I will need to complete the project.

After I am happy with the practice run, I then go ahead and go lightly over the lines with a small skew tip to demark all the areas to burn. Only then will I get working on the shading. This will help me to not go over the lines I made and stay well within the areas. Now when shading, the key thing to remember, just like carbon paper, is that less is more. What I mean is that the more burned the wood is, the harder it will be to make a correction, especially on soft wood. The best way to remove a mistake is to use an exacto, chip carving or razor sharp blade and scrape the area in question. This will be cleaner and much faster then using sandpaper, which will be harder to control where it stops when going over an area.

One thing I learned ealy when doing a proper image is that the tips you have may not seem like the right shape at the time. When you do dark images, it doesn't really matter. You burn a completely dark area. When you do shading on the other hand, you may need a variety of tips for each little areas you have to work on. The key is to practice with each tip in order to learn what you can do with them. You may start discovering new techniques from what you already know...
Once the project is now completed, you are ready to preserve it. I rarely use varnishes. They smell and can sometimes remain sticky for a long while. I prefer using linseed oil as it looks more natural and lasts a long time. Vegetable oil would be more recommended for things to use in the kitchen, like spoons and bowls.



After a few years of practice, I am now able to do something like the plate above with a lot more ease then when I made that chopping board over 5 years ago...

So, what will you practice on? *smile*