Meet the Maker: Charred Wood
If you haven’t heard of pyrography, it’s the art of free-hand designs which are burnt into wood, and Northumberland-based pyrography business Charred Wood, use their natural surroundings as inspiration for their unusual pieces
Tell us about your background.
I studied Illustration & Graphic Design at college in Edinburgh, but actually went into working in pubs and bars for the following 20 years, which meant I wasn’t using any art skills for a long time. I haven’t had any training in pyrography but I did enjoy pencil drawing and, I was always the one doodling behind the bar!
How did you get started in the world of pyrography?
It was around seven years ago, after my wife and I saw a table top with a huge bird design on it in a pub in Leith, that we really started looking into pyrography. The design looked burnt on the wood so when we got back home to Northumberland I got a soldering iron and chopping board and tried a simple fruit design myself. I was working at the Red Lion in Alnmouth at the time so I started with some cheese boards for the pub and pursued pyrography as a hobby. After a while, I started getting some custom orders and so I invested in a proper pyrography pen and sourced some high-quality wood, taking the leap into self employment, and I’ve never looked back.
What is the best thing about what you do?
No two days are the same, which means I never know what the next custom order might be, which keeps things fresh and makes me try out new techniques. Fitting my work around family life is a big bonus too, and was the main reason for starting the Charred Wood family business. I love having business meetings whilst walking the dogs and getting inspiration from the wildlife, nature and everyday surroundings in our routine. Music and movies, video games and pop culture also make an appearance in my work, and it’s great to have a creative outlet to express a range of interests.
What’s the hardest part?
Getting motivated and concentrating on the job at hand when working from home is possibly the biggest struggle. We were already doing that before the pandemic so it wasn’t a huge adjustment, but having the kids home added a layer of chaos to our routine. The other tricky thing is if Im make a mistake I have to sand it all back and start again. It’s important to take my time and not rush a job, and be in the right frame of mind before I even attempt to burn.
Where do you source materials?
We get kiln-dried wood from the Scottish Borders and hand pick hardwoods with interesting grain and character. No two are the same, which makes for a unique canvas for each piece – although it can be quite tricky to visualise how the wood will look when we collect it, because it’s quite rough and unfinished at that stage. All the sanding and cutting is done by me in order to reduce waste and ensure the right piece is used for each design. This does take longer than buying ready-cut wood, but it’s worth the effort. It’s a huge part of the process and it’s what makes a Charred Wood piece even more special.
Tell us about your most popular product.
Wildlife in general is our bestselling theme, with firm favourites such as the hedgehog and hare, as well as stags and curlews. We live in rural Northumberland so are often inspired by local wildlife, and this love of nature is clearly shared by our customers. I do also enjoy creating some pop culture pieces which are quite niche, but it’s always satisfying when it goes to a good home. These are usually one-off artworks and I can go a bit off piste with them, which is always fun.
What’s the most unusual piece you have made?
I do indulge in the dark side by creating some Halloween-inspired work every year, mostly based on horror films. I enjoy coming up with new designs each time Halloween comes around and it gives me an excuse to watch a load of horror movies as research. I’ve also done some music-inspired pieces like album covers of Bowie and a very striking Beatles composition too.
Plans for the future?
We are just waiting for the kids to be old enough to be able to be let loose with a blowtorch, and will see if any of them want to try out pyrography! We would also love to take Charred Wood on the road across the UK in a camper van, stopping at local markets and craft fairs and exploring Britain at the same time. For now we are staying close to home and really enjoy doing local Northumberland markets.