Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Interview Series: Week 7 - Breath of the Dragon

Phew.  Weekly posts are fun to keep up with!

I have to admit it's a lot more fun to work with these interviews than it is to just type whatever is on my mind, what angers me, and try to find ways to inspire others to not only buy handmade items, but understand the process of how handmade items are made, the people who make them, and that this is how it all started; automated machines still can not recreate what human hands can, nor do many assembly lines take the time to carefully ensure quality.  Most assembly lines and automated machines also do not use materials that are as high in quality, instead opting for cheap, low-quality materials - to then sell at a "bargain".  Assembly lines and automated machines can never, ever, put as much love and pride into each piece, either, since those on assembly lines typically only have one or two bits to add, or they just assemble machine-made parts.

We handcrafters make each and every item with as much care and love as the previous and the following, and then we step back and either beam with pride, or frown and say "eh, it'll do", or shake our heads, destroy the work of art we created and re-do it better.  We would not allow a piece out of our hands that we ourselves would not purchase with our eyes for beauty, uniqueness, quality, and that sense of "It Must Be Mine!", or even "That Would Be Really Useful!" - At one time, remember, everything we did had that, because everything we did was hand-made, from clothing to cutlery, dishes to decoration.

The next artist I present to you, Sunfire of Breath of the Dragon Pyrography, has several items that offer both of those senses!  The intricacy of her work is unreal, and though I'm no stranger to wood-burning, I could never achieve the kind of work I want to show off to you today.  So I'm gonna shut my yap and let her have her say!

It’s actually Connie, but I go by Sunfire, even at my paying job

Pyrography, or wood-burning

Favorite material (or medium, whatever you want to call it!):
Obviously wood!

Most Popular Seller (whether it be online or at shows):
The Clean / Dirty Dishwasher Magnets and Hanging Signs

Clean/Dirty Dishwasher Magnet and Hanging Sign
I can see why people love these.  I wish I had known about these a few years ago! It would have made household chores so much easier instead of having to ask siblings or housemates beforehand, and they're attractive to boot!

Mine-ICONWhat got you into your craft?

breathofthedragonICONI was bored, and I wanted something productive to do with my time…. Someone bought me a woodburning pen and a slab of wood from the craft store, explained the theory behind it, and I was hooked.

Mine-ICON How did you learn your craft?

breathofthedragonICON As I said, someone showed me how it was done, and the rest came with practice. Learning the different tips, how the heat transferred, and how the different grains in the wood burn at different levels…. It was all with practice…

Perched Fairy Plaque
Stunning detail work, and a lovely addition for any Fairy lover or fantasy collector!

Mine-ICON What about YOU? Who is the artist behind those wonderful items?

breathofthedragonICON After high school, I served 5 years in the Navy. When they told me that they were trying to cut back, and I was offered a clean way out, I took it, because I wasn’t willing to keep putting my body on the line for a job. I’m currently working at a grocery store in the evenings doing freight, while going to school for Web Development. I live in downtown Wenatchee, WA with my high school sweetheart.

Celtic Triquetra Recipe Box
I wouldn’t mind having such a beautiful box to keep my recipes in, especially one so easy to clean!

Mine-ICON What is a typical "working" day for you? How does it usually start and end? How many hours do you spend crafting? How many hours do you spend on other things? What about distractions? I know we all have them! Do you usually accomplish all you wanted to?

breathofthedragonICON The last few years, this has been more of a hobby than a business, so I didn’t really have working days that were just for crafting. Working 5 days a week at the grocery store kinda cuts into my crafting time, so a lot of what I do is on days off or the hours before work. But once I have a project picked out and planned, I am pretty good about working on it non-stop until it is done (most of my pieces take 4 hours or less). Distractions are tough, since in our little one-room apartment, the only place for me to sit is at my desk, where the computer is. So Facebook, the blog and the Zibbet community get a lot of my time.

Mine-ICON What happens when you Oops? Everyone gets one sometime or another! Do you get frustrated and destroy/start over, or do you go with the flow and see what comes out in the end?

breathofthedragonICON With woodburning, it’s tough to deal with an ‘oops’…. You can’t just go back and take it apart (like jewelry or crochet), and you can’t really erase it or cover it up (like drawing or painting). I have to work very hard to avoid an ‘oops’, or else the money spent on the wood, and the time already invested, is lost. If there is a way, I simply adjust the design to accommodate the mistake. Other times, I leave it alone, telling myself “It’s handmade, there are supposed to be small flaws in it!” Rarely, the ‘oops’ is light enough I can simply sand it away…

POW/MIA You Are Not Forgotten Plaque
A sobering reminder in stunning detail. With customization options, this treasure could easily become a family keepsake or heirloom.

Mine-ICON What is your design process like? How many tries does it take to be happy with the final product?

breathofthedragonICON It kinda feels like the chicken-egg question – sometimes the wood comes first, sometimes the design. Either way, I take my paper and cut it to a size I need (usually the full size of the surface I am covering). Then I take the design (which is most often a digital image on my computer screen) and resize it until it fits the paper how I want. If words are to be added, I spend some time in Word playing with all the different fonts I have, to find something that is most appropriate. I’ve noticed that the tracing comes easier on designs I have done before, as compared to a new design I haven’t worked with before. I’m also noticing that the more I stick with a theme, the easier it becomes (celtic knotwork or tribal lines, in particular). Whatever the case, I have to decide on the final design before I ever start burning. Once the pen touches the wood, there’s no going back.

Elemental Wood Coaster Set w/Pentacle Box
No matter who you are, there is nothing like unique and beautiful coasters when you have visitors!

Mine-ICON What is your greatest roadblock, be it government regulation or that little frustrating thing that just likes to sneak up and stop you in your tracks? Broken needle? Jump ring jumping out of your pliers? Thread knots? Cats? Dogs? The family hedgehog rolled about in your yarn basket?

breathofthedragonICON Biggest? Probably my inability to make up my mind. I am constantly revisiting ideas, changing things up, and I can’t commit to a specific thing/plan/etc. That’s part of why I don’t have a solid business plan yet, because I’m afraid once I commit to it, I’ll see something else that seems to work better. Not to mention that I keep wanting to try new things, instead of refining my current abilities… As for other frustrating things – I can’t stand when I trace a detailed design only to realize I missed tracing a certain part. Or when someone requests a custom piece with a name, but doesn’t have the correct spelling…

Mine-ICON All important pricing... Do you have a formula? Do you wing it? Do you feel your work justifies your prices?

breathofthedragonICON Usually I charge $10/hr of burning time, plus the cost of materials. Sometimes, like with smaller pieces, I can’t reasonably expect to sell an item at that price, so I don’t charge the customer cost of materials. My profits just shrink then. But with the bigger, more detailed, pieces, it’s easy to charge more. I easily forget that I am selling my skill in burning, and not just a piece of wood that has been decorated. So I imagine that I could charge more for my pieces and they’d still be appreciated, but by art-lovers, and not the everyday consumer.

Flame Rose Box
No matter how long I stare at this, I can't decide whether it's a rose, or a flame... Stunning illusion.

Mine-ICON And of course, is there anything else you'd like to say to our "viewers at home"?

breathofthedragonICON Aside from my woodburning, I have a second outlet for crafting – Turn Peace Around (link this to ). I’m spreading a message of a pro-peace sign, one hand-crafted item at a time. I’ve learned to make hemp necklaces and to paint on fabric bags because of this little cause, and it’s starting to finally get some attention.

Thank you, Sunfire, for letting us all have a peek into your work and your world.  Being a wood-worker’s daughter, I’m no stranger to wood-burning, through I’ve never thought of doing anything like this. The most I’ve done or seen done has been words.  You take the art into so much more, and do such stunning things with it, turning otherwise ordinary things into priceless works of art!

Visit Sunfire at Breath of the Dragon Pyrorgraphy on Zibbet!


Connie Mitan said...

It came out wonderful! Thanks for the feature.

Raige Creations said...

wonderful interview! learned so much, great questions. And thanks, Sunfire, for sharing so much.

Grandmother Carolyn said...

Awesome insight into a favorite artist! Your work is beyond reproach - it is perfection.
Grandmother Carolyn

Gale said...

Love that celtic recipe box! beautiful!@