Surfaces to Burn
Pyrographers usually burn on wood, as Cate first did beginning more than 25 years ago. Others choose different surfaces to burn like gourds or leather.
In 2009, most of her illustrations burned on wood had sold. She knew it was time for a change. Her preferred wood, Russian Birch plywood that she bought from a cabinet maker, was becoming harder to find & expensive. That's when she decided to try burning on paper.
It took over a year of experimentation on a wide variety of papers. Cold press outperformed hot press papers because the smooth surface of hot press cannot handle being burned. Smoother papers flaked & cracked.
In the end, Arches #140lb. Cold Press watercolor paper was the clear winner. Something about Arches' paper fiber held a very dark burn, almost black. Others did not. Being able to achieve that contrast was key.
Burning on paper has many benefits: it's easily obtained, has nice contrast & consistency, it can be scanned for reproduction & framed like traditional art.
While the unique sepia tone qualities of pyrography are central to her illustrations, being able to add color opened up new avenues of creativity. Her latest collection was born.
Burning on paper does have its challenges. Wood can be sanded smooth. Paper cannot. Its inherent texture can be either friend or foe. At times it's more about burnishing rather than burning the surface. Atmospheric conditions can affect the paper. Too little or too much humidity can change the outcome. Challenges & steep learning curve aside, paper burning has many exciting possibilities.