Julie Macala and I first met when she participated in the 2013 Falling for Local: An Ohio Artisan Market. I was mesmerized by her art…pyrography. I’m sure many of you have seen the custom signs and other items that pyrographers make in places like Gatlinsburg (I have one above a couch in my family room!) but Julie’s work goes way beyond what I have ever seen. Her designs are unique and unlike the basic wood burning I have seen before.
Born and raised in Columbus, she was introduced to this art form by her grandmother, Maxine. Years later, she picked it up again because it seemed so different and wasn’t as common as so many other art forms. She began teaching herself more skills by trial and error. Although she has a ‘real’ job working in an allergy clinic “answering phones and other excitingly mindless tasks”, she dreams of being able to support herself through her arts/crafts. In September 2011, she opened her Etsy online shop, Branching Creations, to try to do just that!
Like many other artists I have interviewed, pyrography is not the only art form she has tried. As she puts it:
I have dabbled in many arts/crafts. At times I find it hard to focus only on one! I took a potters wheel class at Clayspace almost two years ago and I have been interested in (but have definitely not mastered) jewelry making which included the use of PMC. Photography is also something that I could see myself getting very wrapped up in.
She categorizes her art as being very earthy with nature influencing most of her creations. Bohemian style and Native American art also inspire her but she finds ideas just about anywhere! Each one of her pieces is one-of-a-kind and done by hand on wood canvases or blanks.
I would consider my work multi-medium. I put artwork on many different objects such as boxes, plaques, walking sticks, guitars, bangle bracelets, photo frames etc. Some pieces are very basic with no finish or coloring while many include acrylic and/or watercolor, stain and gloss. I also take custom orders that can include personal wooden objects.
A tip she offers to any artist is to not burn yourself out. When feeling worn out or frustrated by a piece, set it aside and start work on another project leaving the frustrating one in sight. Make sure you can see it while going about your day so that you can keep thinking about it and eventually look at it from a different perspective. This helps decide where to ‘take it next’
One issue that makes her art difficult at times is finding a wood burner or pyrography unit that is suitable for her needs. The unit she is currently using is actually from Mexico and it’s the only one she likes. Although she has bought multiple name brands from the U.S., she was horrified by the results! One had a pen made from metal that burnt her hand; another was made from plastic and…. ‘You guessed it, it melted!’ with experience, she has learned that part of the problem is that she burns at higher temperatures than other artists ‘There is just something about seriously burning my designs in dark and heavy.’
Friends and family are very important to Julie and her creative endeavors because:
I have to give a big hand to my friends and family for understanding that when festival season is approaching, you cannot get me out of my house. Especially after working FT hours, I am a slave to my own craft and at some moments I have to remind myself that it will all be worth it. My family deserves the biggest thanks for all the help and support they give me. My parents and boyfriend, Ian make it all possible even though I resemble a crazed gypsy lady who smells like a fire 🙂
So, although she has an Etsy.com online shop, she mostly enjoys selling her work at local festivals and craft shows. She prefers this even though it may be strenuous because she can meet her customers and talk to them one-on-one. And, because she doesn’t have a studio or storefront, this is a great way to show her collection of work to a larger audience.She was uber excited to have been accepted to vend at the Centeroo of the 13th Annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2014 June 12-15th in Manchester Tennessee (http://www.bonnaroo.com/) for the first time and to have a booth again at Comfest . This weekend she will be selling her wares during the Summer Jam at Westgate 11-7 and to top it off, she recently found out that she will be at the Backwoods Festival in Thornville Sept 19-21st!!
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