HAND-CRAFTED LEATHER GOODS
Pyrography — continued
Your "canvas":- The leather is the next item I want to talk about here. You can use just about any leather you like, Iím tempted to say, but clearly vegetable-tanned tooling leather is far and away the one of choice. Whatever type of leather you select, it should be smooth — at least while you are learning. Smooth leather is much easier to work with. You can use rougher textures later when you want to create something a little different. If this is your first experience with burning you may want to practice on a scrap piece of leather.
Start with the Universal tip in the
iron, switch on and give it time to heat up. Make sure the iron is in the holder
and the tip is not touching anything that will burn or melt.
Once the iron is hot, use the knife-edge to make straight lines. Move the tip quickly for fine lines, and more slowly for darker lines. Practice until you can control the burn, that is, the darkness of the line. Be sure to practice a variety of lines from very fine to very dark.
You can also use pressure to vary the line, slightly harder for a wider and darker line, less for a finer line.
The flat side of this tip can be used for shading. The closer the side of the tool is to the leather, the darker the shading. Slide the tool to the side (to the right if right-handed) and away from you slightly. This seems to give the smoothest shading.
Although you can do most burning with the Universal tip, you should become familiar with the other tips that you have. They all give a different character to a line or shading. Discover what each of your tips can do.
When you feel confident that you can burn a straight line, a curved line (more difficult) and some shading, then you are ready to begin your first burning in earnest. If you spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours practicing, then you are probably ready to begin. Your first burning doesn't need to be perfect — it just needs to be fun!!
Start the burning with heavier straight lines. Then do some of the finer lines. Rotate the leather as you work so you are pulling the lines towards you. Next try some curved lines, both heavy and fine. Curved lines are deceiving — since the tool is a knife-edge, it wants to go straight. To compensate, you will need to put less of the edge on the surface — increase the angle of the tool to the leather. You will soon get the hang of it, and you can then get on with it for real.
The "secret" to good leather
burning is the speed of the tool across the leather that creates the burn, not
the pressure that is applied to the tool. Very little, if any, pressure is used
in burning. You do not need to push or force the tip into the leather.
A light quick movement creates light fine lines or shadows. Slower movement with the burner makes dark deeper lines or shadows. The longer the tool rests upon an area the darker it will scorch the leather.
In the first of the examples below, the first series of strokes, "fur" detailing for a wildlife
subject, is done with the blade of the tool. The blade creates a crisp fine
line. For fine fur let just the first quarter of the blade contact the pattern
area, pull quickly to make the line soft golden brown. On the second sample just
a bit more of the blade is used. By the last sample half of the blade is laid
onto the leather and the movement is fairly slow.
Except for the first example you can see that each of these lines are curved. This is done by rolling the tool at the shaft between the thumb and forefinger. Curved lines add more interest than straight lines. Also note that the strokes are all burnt in the same general direction within each example. In example two, medium hair length, this gives a rolling or rounded effect to the area.
This next series of burning examples are strokes that will be useful as background and shading tones. The first three, left to right, are done laying the tool toward the side from the blade edge. How far over you lay the tool will determine how dark the shading becomes.
Graduated shading is done by starting with the blade along the pattern line then
pulling away from it. As you pull, quicken the movement and slowly lift the tool
from the leather. This is an excellent shading stroke to emphasize the depth of
the carving work. The next two examples use the side of the tip's point. Move the tool in a
circular or swirling motion to create this curly shading. Again, laying the tip
point further on its side will make the burning strokes wider, moving the tool
slowly will darken the stroke.
The last example is cross-hatching and is a useful shading for line designs. Cross-hatching is simply a series of overlapping lines. The more lines you use, and the wider, the more darkly shaded that area will become.
The tip's point makes little triangle shapes for very dark shadow areas for,
say, inside an animal's ear or nose. Lay the tool slightly on its side allowing
the tip and side to rest on the leather. Using just the tip's point a dotted
pattern can be achieved. Just like cross-hatching the size and darkness of the
dot pattern will give an impression of depth.
Feathers, for example, require three different series of burning strokes to create the effect of the feather's curvature. First, using the blade, pull in the two strokes that will become the shaft of the feather. Second, working from the shaft line toward the outer edge of the feather, pull a series of fine lines. Observe that these lines are darkest along the shaft and paler as they reach out to the feather's end. Pull a third series of fine lines, working this time from the outer edge back toward the shaft. This double row of lines gives a graduated tonal value with the palest point being in the centre of the feather.
Pyrography, as we know, means to draw or write with fire, and is as old as man and his cave paintings. Historic examples can be found all over the world and are associated with most early cultures and civilisations. So you are going to be continuing a long tradition as you strive to master this particular artform.
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