Home Interviews Meet pyrography artist Sarah Bell from SarahDesigns
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Meet pyrography artist Sarah Bell from SarahDesigns

by Camilla

Meet the Maker: Sarah Bell from SarahDesigns

Sarah Bell from SarahDesigns is an artist based in the Staffordshire Moorlands who creates pyrography jewellery and gifts, inspired by British wildlife, pagan tales and Norse Mythology. For anyone unfamiliar with pyrography, it’s the art of decorating wood by burning a design on its surface. Most pyrography is tonal in nature and various shading techniques are used to add depth and gradation, but Sarah often also incorporates her love of colour in her pieces, creating beautiful designs in a kaleidoscope of hues. Sarah talks to Tina Martin from DaisyWings about her art and her inspirations…

To celebrate being our featured maker Sarah is offering a 10% discount on all orders from her shop before 13th May with the code FOLKSY10 – click here to shop SarahDesigns

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Hi Sarah. I love your designs! Can you tell us about your work? 
Hi everyone and thanks for your questions Tina! I’m a pyrographer, which means I burn designs on to wood and other materials. I do this by hand using a heated tool. I tend to create lots of jewellery pieces but do enjoy the occasional box or plaque when time allows!

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Pyrograph box with purple flowers by Sarah Bell – see more pyrographic boxes by SarahDesigns here

I tend to create lots of jewellery pieces but do enjoy the occasional box or plaque when time allows.

What drew you to pyrography?
I’ve always been a ‘crafty’ person! I often submitted paintings and painted glass to galleries even as a child and loved to enter competitions where I could express my arty side. Glasswork became difficult with young children in the house. I used to do all my craft work in an evening when the children were in bed, but this didn’t really work out as my oldest son (who we now know is autistic) had sleep problems from a very young age and I found glass painting wasn’t something I could just leave and rush to tend upset children. So I slowly stopped. I think my husband noticed that I needed that craft time, even if it was interrupted. One Yule, I was presented with my first pyrography machine. I loved it! I could just flip a switch and turn it off when I needed and set my work down. 

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We’re blessed that the conservatory is large enough to allow me to work in the same space as our four children when they’re working and crafting.

Where do you work now?
I use the conservatory a lot. The light is great for taking photos and we’re blessed that it’s large enough to allow me to work in the same space as our four children when they are working and crafting. In the evenings I tend to work from the sofa. It’s bit warmer – and, of course, I can pop the television on and watch a film while I’m working!

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Craft is a practical and emotional outlet for my creativity. It’s a constant through joyful and difficult times, and it grows and changes just as I do.

What’s the process behind your pieces?
I often sit with a blank piece in front of me and just start drawing. I rarely have a preconceived idea unless I’m creating a commissioned piece. I usually start with a pencil outline, but sometimes just start burning. I fashion my own nibs from nichrome wire, which allows me to create the right sized nib for the piece I’m working on. Despite pyrography being tonal in nature, I love colour. I often add colour to my pieces using Prismacolor pencils, inks, paints and pens. When I’m happy with a design, I apply a coat of UV protector. Pyrography and wood are quite susceptible to ageing in strong sun, so I spent a while researching methods of adding barriers to prolong the life of pieces, especially those on display. I finish the piece with a few coats of clear lacquer, and then they are ready for a new home.

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Are there any tools you couldn’t live without?
Well, I know it’s an obvious one, but I’d really struggle without my pyrography machine! There isn’t a substitution that I could achieve the same results with. The other tool I use all the time is my camera. I have a digital SLR and it’s worth every penny. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you take a look at the settings and experiment with what works best for your products it makes a big difference. 

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Valkyrie Necklace by Sarah Bell – see more pyrography gifts and jewellery by SarahDesigns here

I draw a lot of ideas from pagan sources and also parts of Norse Mythology, which is another hobby of mine. 

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration everywhere! I get a lot of ideas from nature and the natural world, things I see while walking the dog, and when we go on day trips as a family. I draw a lot of ideas from pagan sources and also parts of Norse Mythology, which is another hobby of mine. My husband and I were handfasted [a Pagan custom in which a couple hold a commitment ceremony] and we made much of what we needed for this ourselves, by hand.

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Pyrography Butterfly Necklace by Sarah Bell – see more pyrography gifts and jewellery by SarahDesigns here

Working small means that I can usually finish a piece or two in an evening, which helps me feel confident and productive.

You create many gorgeous miniature pieces. Do you enjoy working small?
I do enjoy working small. The main reason is that I can finish a piece or two in an evening usually. This helps me feel confident and productive. If a piece takes a few evenings, I sometimes find it difficult tapping into the inspiration from the last session, and it takes me a little while to warm up and get into the flow of creating! 

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Pyrography Dragon Plaque by Sarah Bell – see more pyrography gifts and jewellery by SarahDesigns here

I always return to dragons. I love watching their characters unfold, and I can let my imagination run away with me!

Are there any subject matters that you enjoy designing the most?
I always return to dragons. I always manage to sneak one in somewhere. I love watching their characters unfold, and I can let my imagination run away with me! My other love is British wildlife, mainly foxes. My foxes are some of my most popular pieces and I really enjoy creating them. 

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Sleeping Fox Pyrography Necklace by Sarah Bell – see more pyrography jewellery and gifts by SarahDesigns here

My other love is British wildlife, mainly foxes. My foxes are some of my most popular pieces and I really enjoy creating them.

Which other crafts did you worked with before pyrography?
I’ve tried lots of crafts. I like to dabble! I painted glass for a long time, but my qualifications are actually in graphic design. I’ve always drawn and painted, and I think these skills are easily transferable to pyrography and really helped me get started. My other hobby is cake making and decorating, and I often use sugar craft and polymer clay to create decorations. 

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I’ve always drawn and painted, and I think these skills are easily transferable to pyrography and really helped me get started.

Are there any other crafts that you would like to explore?
I’ve always really wanted to learn to knit or crochet and even make clothes. I really admire these skills. I probably will try one day, but I’m not sure I have room in my brain at the moment!

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Have you any plans for your work in the near future?
I’d really like to renew my machine – it feels like the next logical step. My youngest child is going to school soon, and I like to work more during daylight hours. There are lots of things I’d like to improve, like working on my social media presence and using my time more efficiently.

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Moody Wolf in the Woods Pyrography Necklace by SarahDesigns – available here

For those just starting out, my advice would be to believe in yourself. Learn to value your time and expertise. Be kind to yourself and realise that mistakes are sometimes just as important as achievements

What does craft mean to you?
Craft is a practical and emotional outlet for my creativity. It’s a constant through joyful and difficult times, and it grows and changes just as I do. 

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Despite pyrography being tonal in nature, I love colour. I often add colour to my pieces using Prismacolor pencils, inks, paints and pens.

Do you have you any advice for anyone starting out in a creative business?
For those just starting out, my advice would be to believe in yourself. Learn to value your time and expertise. Be kind to yourself and realise that mistakes are sometimes just as important as achievements, and can often show you skills and ideas you wouldn’t have normally found.

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Get 10% off all pyrography gifts and jewellery by SarahDesign with the code FOLKSY10 before 13 May 2019

Shop SarahDesigns on Folksy https://folksy.com/shops/SarahDesignsUK


Meet the Interviewer

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The maker asking this questions this time is Tina Martin from DaisyWings.

Shop Daisy Wings on Folksy – folksy.com/shops/DaisyWings

Read our interview with Tina here – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/04/16/daisywings

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