Wood Burning Journey
I have never thought of myself as an artist. I was one of the kids in school with straight A's and a D in art (which I think I received only because an F would probably have made the teacher look questionable). But outside of school I enjoyed calligraphy. I liked the order to it, that there was a system to it, and that it looked beautiful. And throughout the years I have doodled with Celtic knot work as well (for the same reasons of order & beauty).
About 4 years ago Jamie was teaching a workshop in Vancouver and I was there (helping a little, but mostly keeping our then almost 1 year old out from under hatchets). Near the end of the workshop one of the participants pulled out a wood burning kit and burned some knot work onto the back of his bow. Jamie had some concerns about violating the back of the bow (where there is tension placed), but I was thinking how cool it looked, and that maybe I could do something like it.
So I went ahead and purchased a pyrography set (wood burner and pen with interchangeable tips). And started playing around with the burning. I took a basic knot design and customized the ends, with one looking a little like an arrow tip.
The first couple bows I did, I put the knot work on the back of the bow. The back of the bow is under tension, being stretched when shot so ideally there are no "violations" on it. But, sometimes you have to learn the hard way, eh? So we had a bow lift a splinter while shooting, before we sent it off to a customer. (And luckily the other bow hadn't left the shop either.) The bow had to be sanded down, reburned on the belly and restained. And now, all the burning is done on the belly, which is under compression.
We also ordered a wood burning stamp with our raven logo on it. I really liked the idea of having our signature be our logo. The one we purchased you heat up with a blow torch and then basically roll it on to the wood. I think it looks great and it works pretty well on the flatbows. But we've stopped using it for a couple reasons. 1 - Jamie's building a lot of longbows now and it's pretty tricky to get the stamp to role evenly over the rounded belly. 2 - It's really a lot of pressure. I (Jenna) do this part and it's done when the bow is completely finished (except for oiling) and I find it quite stressful. To come at a finished bow with a burning hot piece of metal and only get one shot to do it perfectly. You can't touch it up or move it after.
As I burned more bows, I had the opportunity to play with the knot work some more and also started getting custom requests. I remember one that came from Kuwait and the customer asked for some detailed Islamic writing to be placed on the bow. My reaction was definitely not, too complicated and I was too nervous to do it. This is where it's sure nice to be doing this work with your partner. Jamie was super positive and basically said, don't worry about, you'll be fine. So I did some test pieces and to date, it's still one of the pieces I like the best.
The designs some times come from folks themselves, other times I design them. I still get nervous (and excited) when someone has an idea, but gives me artistic license. Sometimes I put some knot work on a stock bow. Sometimes there is just a little burned symbol as the arrow pass (usually an old rune meaning Yew or bow). All the work gets drawn on paper first. Then I transfer (trace) it to the bow using graphite paper. Then I burn on the design. I have found the specific pen that works best for me. I have 3 of them, because I melt the tips and need to send them back and have them replaced regularly (which the company does for $5 charge - amazing).
I've also started using calligraphy (at least on the first letter) on the bow names, which I think really adds a little something. And also connects me way back to the little kid who liked to make something look nice, but needed a bit of order to get there.
I still get nervous when Jamie passes off a stunning bow, ready for me to take a red hot pen to it. But at a time when most of my contributions are behind the scenes or with our amazing children, I like that I have one tangible piece of this process that is visible.