I have had a major burning lately (pun intended, sorry) to create some hand made design / art. All of my design work starts that way (hand drawn / sketch conceptualizing before computer) however I am talking about the entire process. Part of my motivation was to complete this personal project but also to do some creating away from the computer. In starting this project I have realized how valuable it is to get your hands dirty, get away from the computer and do things the old fashioned way. Get back to the traditional processes of creating in a meticulous way that most of us have never had to work through as professionals due to the wonders of our digital machines.
I am not saying I don’t appreciate the computer or consider it cheating, I just realized that there is something therapeutic and beneficial about choosing to use only your hands and physical tools to slow down and work through the important details in creating.
This project is one of eight pieces of a wall collage for our living room. Side bar: While I am a creative, there are other areas of creativity that I am either not as strong at or not overly passionate about. For me one of those can be interior design/decorating. For the first 8 years of living in our house I have put minimal effort in decorating our place. I got a huge itching lately with the purchase of some new furniture and a glance a pintrest. I decided I need one of those super personalized / meaningful wall collages and our walls need more. With that said this wood piece is the center piece of the collage. I have seven pieces left to create and an eighth to assign to my father.
In a nutshell I am going for a mix of modern with a touch of rustic to our living room. I wanted something that displayed the date of our marriage, our son’s birth, and our daughters birth. I knew I wanted a mix of wood pieces and that I wanted to wood burn the lettering. I then decided I wanted to make the piece look as though it is just an abstract shape of various crate panels with logos / text. The “logos” and text of course being the dates. I have seen many straightforward family date pieces on Pintrest but I wanted this piece to be more subtle. One where maybe at first glance a person doesn’t quite pick up on what is being represented, but then with another glace gets it.
My process was to first decide the shape and arrangement of the wood pieces. I then sketched out where I wanted each lettering piece and used tracing paper to refine the designs. I used a ink / nip pen for the scripts and microns for the rest. Now I did draw these small and this is where I MAYBE sorta “cheated” on my commitment to work 100% manually. I scanned those in and used the printer to print the design to size so that I could apply the design to the wood via graphite transfer. In my defense I did try using a projector but it wouldnt focus for me. Once I got my design on the wood in pencil it was time to burn! It didn’t take nearly as long as I anticipated. I have a small wood burner with about 5 different tips that came in great for the different text styles I needed to burn. Last step was stain. I made my own stain because I wanted this fresh new wood to look slightly weathered. I learned on good old YouTube that if you put 2 pads of steel wool in 1/2 gallon of vinegar you can make your wood look weathered. That was fun!
One of my goals as a designer focusing on lettering is to continuously explore different ways to create them. This one is not one I will do often (burning) and definitely has more challenge than most given the texture and awkwardness of the tools but it was just the challenge I was looking for.