Turning and Burning
March 16, 2010
Entry Details

# 907
Frank White
West Brookfield, MA
Dimensions (inches):  
  Width:   3 3/4&
  Height:   6 1/4&
  Depth:   3 3/4&
Materials:   cherry vessel and cover; ebony and bone finial

I chose to turn and hollow a small spherical vessel with a simple finial to serve as a palette for the woodburned design.  Although I have frequently used a grid pattern to lay out carved decoration on my turnings, the initial inspiration for this decorative pattern was derived from a woman's antique straw hat with a wide brim.  The spiraling triangular pattern on the hat was created by repeatedly folding back the rods of straw as they were braided.  My translation of this spiraling triangular motif from the flat brim of the hat to the vertical sides of the vessel was achieved by laying out a grid that graduated from larger squares at the fat midsection  to smaller squares at the smaller diamers of the top and bottom of the vessel.  The diagonals of the squares were connected in both directions to create opposing helixes.  The lines of the opposing helixes were then burned in, and then the left half of each of the resulting diamonds was burned in to create the spiraling pattern.  The contrast between the burned wood and the natural cherry was further enhanced by painting the entire surface with black gesso and then sanding through to again reveal the natural cherry.  This procedure filled the burn lines with black pigment and emphasized the contrast.
The piece is finished with a couple of coats of urethane oil and varnish and buffed with a paste wax.

As I am a rank novice at woodburning, I present this piece with considerable trepidation.  While I have been turning for nearly 20 years and carving for a longer period, I have only made a handful of pieces with woodburned decoration, as this detail probably shows.  

With this apology I will add that I burned in the triangles with short strokes that parallel the left hand helix in an attempt to strengthen the visual effect of flow and movement in the piece.  

At the very top and bottom of the vessel the cherry wood is left in its natural color both to frame the burned decoration and as a statement that this is after all a wooden piece.  Ebony was chosen to complement the blackened areas of the body, and the simple bone finial adds contrast and hopefully continues to draw the eye upward.

Judges Comments
Andi : The pyrography on this lidded vessel is wonderfully done. The overall shape of the box and finial generally work well together, but the stark contrast of the bone compared to the rest of the piece is distracting. The transition of curves from the vessel to the finial also is a bit abrupt and could be refined to flow more smoothly.
Graeme : Nice form and attention to detail on the burning. I feel the finial is a little overpowering. Would like to see something more slender and the nice curves of the vessel flowing into the finial. I find the visual right angle at the bottom of the finial interrupts the eye.
Molly : The artist mentions his trepidation regarding submitting this piece for judging, due to his limited experience with pyrography. I'm glad he decided to submit it. Examination of the burned lines show a steady hand, and control of the pen to achieve consistency in line dimension and continuity. The form of the piece is well balanced and proportionate up to the base of the finial. I like the use of ebony as a component of the finial which ties into the burned lines, however I'm having difficulty with the knob (for lack of a better descriptive word) form. Changing the curve of the piece so sharply and abruptly from the main body draws the eye away from the piece as a whole. I wonder whether the transition would be gentler if the ebony portion of the finial were a miniaturized version of the main body's form? I would also like to see the bone portion a little more slender, tapered to a fine point, or a more defined, deliberate tip (i.e. tear-drop). The current arrow-point tip seems hesitant, or timid, rather than deliberate and strong. I encourage this artist to continue exploring his use of pyrography in his work. He's got a terrific start, and demonstrated control of the burning pen, which is half the battle. Nicely done!

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