Emma James-Ries – Pyrography at Its Best

Club Demo 23rd March 2023
Report by Roger Pye

This charming young lady has been a member of the SAWG for four years. Introduced to and trained initially in woodturning by Ross Johnson. Emma met Ross when she visited one of his presentations at Maraetai where they were both living at the time. Emma has a degree in fine art. So now we have the perfect combination of an artist and woodturner.

Emma started her demo by showing her ability to take a piece of suitably light coloured timber, such as Macrocarpa, to turn up a small bowl shaped container approximately 100mm in diameter. The centre was drilled out using a 38mm Forstner bit in which a standard decorative candle 15mm high could be mounted. Enough wood was left around the candle mount to form a bead using a parting tool. A gentle curve from the bottom edge of the bead down to the outer diameter of her bowl-shaped candle-holder provided the working surface for the artwork to follow. The bead was rounded and the whole piece sanded and finished.

The pyrography and coloured artwork that followed was the most intriguing part of this demonstration. The actual pattern entailed drawing the petals of a sunflower around the centre candle mounting using a soft leaded pencil. This to prepare the entire circle for even spacing before any burning is commenced. Starting at the neck, the outline of each petal is burnt using low temperature heat which can be raised as needed. The same blade is used to burn in other accoutrements such as an under petal between the tips of the main petals, then the midrib, the veins, with a vein at every tip. At the bead all remaining space is filled using a “Dot” pyro-pen. Use a normal rubber eraser to clean up all pencil marks and burnt debris.

The final artwork, which enhances the entire piece, is undertaken with oil based drawing pencils. Every colour “in the rainbow” comes in a tin of pencils. Seldom necessary; these pencils last for years. (Available from Dave Gillard). A degree of colour matching skills would help to choose the appropriate blends. For sunflowers just start with yellow and work from there. This completed a very attractive enhancement on this beautiful table decoration.