Life Without an Eraser, (or Why I Love Woodburning)

 

Sara Roizen ~ ‘The Family” ~ Woodburning

 

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”       – John Gardner

I don’t remember when I first picked up a woodburning tool. It was probably between high school and college. Perhaps I was strolling through an art store and stumbled across the pyrography section and thought ‘hmmmm I wonder what I could do with these tools?”

I do remember stocking up on wooden boxes and spending hours in my room with the incense burning, angst-ridden music playing, and my woodburning pen as I immersed myself in the rhythmic process of burning line after line into the wood boxes. During college I used my woodburning practice as a reprieve from art history exam studying, my slightly verbally abusive freshman year 3-D teacher, and as a way to ground myself when feeling overwhelmed.

I adore the sweet woodsy smell that the burning creates and the way my hands have learned just how much pressure is needed to create a line without overdoing it. I hardly ever sketch a design out beforehand. My usual style is to let each mark inform and create the next line. I never know what is going to emerge. It’s impossible to erase a woodburned line (well, I suppose sanding it down for a long time could eventually) but overall, the lines are permanent. It’s a visceral process and it requires a certain amount of presence and focus – especially in order to avoid burning yourself!

Art Therapy Work
I have not utilized woodburning within my art therapy group practice yet. The need for multiple electrical outlets for the woodburning tools as well as some safety concerns are all part of the equation. However I think that woodburning could be an interesting exploration within individual art therapy work. There is an engaging paradox with these materials and this process. It is both aggressive (burning) and also meditative (intense focus).

 

Sara Roizen ~ Woodburning

In many ways it is a study in dialectics – the aggressive energy paired with the need to lean back into the moment. Rushing ahead with these materials will guarantee a burn-hole or contrastingly, a scarcely visible line. Leaning into the line-work with the perfect amount of energy and withholding will create clean and vibrant lines.

Perhaps this process will help our clients to explore the ‘push and pull’ in our daily lives, selves, and relationships.

Tips:
Softer woods such as pine and balsa wood work best for woodburning. The feel you are looking for while woodburning is reminiscent of a hot knife through butter.

Focus on your in and out breath while woodburning. How does the wood smell and how do your hands experience the heat as you create each mark on the wood?

There are many different woodburning pen tips that you can buy. I tend to use the most basic, although you can get decorative tips (that create more of a branding mark).

 

Example of woodburning tools
Sara Roizen ~ Flock of woodburned birds!

Remember how hot the pen can be, and it remains hot for a while after it is unplugged. Do not leave it near any flammable surfaces.

Most importantly, be mindful of the client that you are working with. This is not a process that I would personally use with a new client, a client that is currently self-harming, or someone that is struggling to control more straightforward drawing materials for example. Becoming familiar with the process yourself is also a good idea so that you are comfortable with the feel of the materials and any problems that could arise.

Have you used woodburning in your personal work or within your art therapy work? Interested in trying? Feel free to share your thoughts here.

 

Sara Roizen ~ Mandala woodburning ~ The Tribe