Pyrography: My Off-Grid Hobby


Teaching myself pyrography was a great way to pass my off-grid time.

The year was 1999, and we had just relocated from our 20 acres on Central Oregon’s High Desert, where we had been living an off-grid lifestyle for about 6-months.

We moved to a 160-acre abandoned ranch known to locals as “the compound.” It consisted of a small, white, ranch-style house with several other outbuildings and a 2-story red barn located in the middle of what used to be a working alfalfa farm.
Stories of our off-grid lifestyle experiences during that time could fill a book, but I’ll save that for another post. This story is about how I started my adventure into wood burning, or as the art-form is known professionally, pyrography.

Even though living at “the compound” was an upgrade from the true off-grid lifestyle we had been living on our 20 acres, we still had no land-line or cell phone service, much less internet access, out there. It was a 35-mile drive to the closest small town to gain access to those luxuries.

We had LOTS of time on our hands to explore our creativity!

But resources were limited, therefore, I had to use what was available to me.

I found lots of loose pine boards strewn around the property. Then I remembered that I purchased a cheap wood burning tool from a craft store before we moved away from Portland. I knew it was stashed away in a box somewhere. So, I dug through my things, found it, and decided to play around a bit!

Before this time, I had only tested out burning a handful of rough shapes and patterns on tiny wooden plaques I had purchased with the burner at the craft store. I hadn’t ever made a real attempt at creating a piece of true art or developing any real skill with the tool. So, this time was different. For some reason, I felt inspired to see what I could create.

I don’t remember when I acquired the packet of carbon transfer paper that I used for my pyrography projects for years. I may have had it on-hand from the office supplies I brought with me for doing administrative work for Jeff’s software business. We had reams and reams of printer paper for invoicing customers, so between all the wood scraps laying around the property, the printer paper, and the carbon paper, I had loads of supplies to keep me busily creating art as my heart desired!

If I remember correctly, I already had lots of photos saved on my computer from before our move, so I just found some that inspired me and got to work!

I set up a small studio space inside the house where I could burn. I’d pop a cd into my “boom box” (do you even know what that is? LOL!), crank the volume up, and happily burn for hours on end!

These were some of my very first pieces created at the ranch –


My First Commissioned Pyrography Pieces

My very first paying client was a husband who wanted a unique gift for his wife’s 45th birthday. Which I was happy to create for him. (See A Husband’s Gift above). Another commission came from a Canadian dad whose son had been featured in a local newspaper. (See Saturday’s Sunshine Boy above). This project was my very first attempt at hand lettering.

So, my career as a professional pyrographer was off to a start, pretty much right from the beginning! Though I didn’t focus on pyrography as a real career option until several years later.

Visit www.portlandpyrography.com for more examples of my pyrography work or to order your custom piece.


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