Monday, March 10, 2008

Introducing Lauren Gray

Every once a while an artist takes you by surprise. Not so much because of what they do, but how they do it. Lauren Gray's work is ethereal, soft spoken, gentle and timeless. I cannot take my eyes from it. Everytime I enter her Etsy shop, GrayArt, I am enthralled by the beauty of her images.

There is a vintage feel to her work, as if it has existed for ages. When I first saw her work, I thought she was a charcoal artist using various shades of brown. I love the soft, slightly fuzzy look of charcoal sketches, so I was immediately charmed by her work. Especially as the brown colors she used was reminiscent of sepia toned prints, which I adore. You cannot imagine my surprise when I discovered that she does all of her drawing on wood with a wood burning tool. I have never seen such delicate work done with this technique.

Lauren describes her work as follows:

"I am a small format figurative artist (all pieces 5" x 7" or smaller). All of my original artwork is pyrography (woodburning) and oils mixed media. All of my artwork is original and hand drawn onto wood (italian poplar, or baltic birch) using a burning unit and burning pens. I like subtle color and the texture of the paint, so in most pieces I apply oil paint as well.

Aside from my visual art pieces, I also like to create one of a kind jewelry pieces, bookmarks and other items, all of which feature original art and make for great gifts.

All of my prints are from a top of the line archival epson. It prints what it see's. The originals were created on wood, wood has natural variances in its surface (darker spots, divets. etc.) all of which lend to the beauty of the artwork. These natural blemishes DO show up in the prints. They are not defects in the print themselves, but are a natural part of the original artwork"

I asked Lauren for a little information about herself as an artist and she provided me with a brief bio from the Create, Collect, Trade 2008 book that she is featured in:

"My name is Lauren Gray and I am a 28 year old self-taught artist living in Pennsylvania. Like many artists, I discovered a love for the arts at a very young age. I grew like many artists who have had no formal art training, through trial and error. I have experimented with all mediums and styles and slowly evolved to where I am now...continually changing, learning and most importantly, practicing every day. The main constant in my work, one that will never change, is my love for the figurative arts. I love energy, expression and attempting to bring the figure to life.

In 2005 I discovered Pyrography. Pyrography is the art of drawing an image onto wood using a hot tool. It is more commonly referred to as woodburning, or “writing with fire” as it was described in the past. It is one of the more challenging and time consuming mediums I have worked in, but I feel the end result offers a classic beauty that truly is unique to the medium.

I have been selling my art privately and online since 2002. You can learn more about me and my art at"

I think you will agree that she has succeeded in bringing the figure to life in her artwork. Lauren offers originals as well as ACEOs and limited editions of her work in her Etsy store. She also has bookmarks (which sell out fast, so if you see one in her shop, grab it!) and Tagua Nut pendants and is soon to offer wooden bangle bracelets.

Lauren has written quite an informative explanation of the process involved in doing Pyrography on Tagua Nut here in the description of her pendant. I highly recommend visiting her Etsy store and discovering for yourself the incredible talent this young lady has.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Conquering 10 Gauge Stainless Steel Wire

I love copper, as I've stated before. The color intrigues me as it ages from bright shiny penny to rich nut brown to that heavily weathered green and blue patina. It is a soft wire and a great deal of fun to play with. You can curl it, bend it, hammer it flat to get whatever shape you want. I made a hefty keychain out of 8 gauge copper wire and my husband liked it so much, that I made one for every guy in my family for Father's Day last year. I received so many compliments that I decided to list it in my Etsy store.

Many people looked at it, a few commented and left hearts to let me know they liked it. One brave soul contacted me and asked if I could make it in stainless steel. Well, having never worked with stainless steel before, I told him I had to research it a bit. It took me quite a while to find a source for stainless steel wire in a heavy enough gauge to get the same look, but I finally did at The Ring Lord, located in Canada. The heaviest I could find was 10 gauge, but according to the measurement charts, it was only a bare fraction of an inch smaller than the copper, so I went ahead and ordered it. I eagerly awaited it's arrival, looking everyday for a little box on my front porch. You can't imagine my surprise when I discovered a white tyvek bag holding what appeared to be an 18" frisbee. I knew right away I was in trouble! This wire had traveled from Canada to Georgia in a plastic bag and was so stiff, it was left loosely coiled and was not even the slightest bit warped! I wish I had thought to take a picture, because it really was intimating looking.

So, off I started on the journey to tame 10 gauge stainless steel wire. The first thing I learned was that i could not cut it with any of the shears I have on hand (even the ones used to cut 4 gauge copper wire) nor could i cut it with a cold a nice big nick in my hubby's blacksmithing chisel...good thing he has a grind wheel. I finally dug out the hacksaw and that did the trick.

I coiled it around a 1/2" aluminum rod that was secured in a smooth jawed vise. I discovered that steel gets warm as it bends, copper does not do this. It also has a lot more spring back than copper. I can see this being extremely dangerous if tried with a motorized coiling system. It coils fairly neatly, but you have to really watch your coils as they form, I had at least two that are slightly oval. I was able to get about 18 rings from 36 inches of 10 gauge wire.

I don't have a jeweler's saw, so I used a hacksaw to cut the rings. I discovered that a 24 tooth blade worked much better than the 32 tooth blade. The blade with more teeth left a smoother cut, but it took forever and it dulled very quickly. I actually snapped two 32 tooth blades while cutting the rings. I am figuring it's going to take at least a couple of blades for each keychain.

Once the rings were cut, it was time to clean them up and get ready to assemble the byzantine link. I went through about 3 jeweler's files, before i just gave up in disgust. Automotive emory cloth worked much better for smoothing the burs and wiped away the slight scratches with ease. I didn't want to scratch the rings as I opened and closed the rings, so I had my husband cut the toothed portion off the end of two pairs of heavy duty needle nosed pliers. This gave me two pairs of snub nosed, smooth jawed pliers to use to twist the rings open and closed. Not that it did me any good as I could not budge these rings by hand.

So, back to the smooth jawed vise i went. I clamped each ring in the vise and then used a pair of the modified snub nosed pliers to twist the rings while applying pressure to close them.

It took quite a bit of hand strength and I didn't think to wear gloves until after I had pulled up an inch long blister at the base of my right thumb...ouch! You can bet I dug out those gloves fast to finish assembling the link!

Although I still prefer the look and feel of copper, I am very proud to say that I can hand coil, cut and assemble a byzantine link from 10 gauge stainless steel wire!

You can see more photos of the link of the link assembly on my flickr page.

About Me

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i sew because i cannot draw.