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Practicing pyrographer's pieces up for perusal

Jan 25, 2020 10:05AM ● By Editor
Kathy Tormondson's eagle piece on display at the Two Harbors Public Library combines her woodworking and painting skills with her new pyrography skills. Photo: Teri Cadeau / News-Chronicle

By Teri Cadeau of The Lake County News Chronicle - January 23, 2020 

McQuade Road resident Kathy Tormondson discovered her interest in pyrography, or wood burning artwork, thanks to her brother. 

Four years ago, he was in the hospital for a lung transplant.

"I told my mother I was going to lose my mind if I didn't find something to do," Tormondson said. 

She remembered her brother received a wood burning kit for Christmas one year, and she wondered if it was still in the basement. 

"There it was. I picked up some wood and started experimenting," she said.

Four years later, Tormondson's wood burned animal-themed artwork is on display at the Two Harbors Public Library for the months of January and February. Although her brother's health improved, she still finds herself creating artwork to relieve stress.

Pyrography wasn't Tormondson's first outlet for artwork. She started painting 20 years ago after she left a stressful job.

"I was a stressed-out mess. I was working for a company that I was doing all the accounting work. My husband said, 'You’re either going to have to find a new job or quit this one because we can’t do this anymore,'" she said.

She quit the job and found time in her life to paint. She started taking classes at various studios and joined paint nights at bars and cafes. Later Tormondson developed an interest in power tools and creating items out of wood, such as moose-shaped planters and birds made from two-by-fours. It wasn't until she found pyrography that her interests combined.

"I've got the saw skills, I'm comfortable using a dremel or a grinder, and I get to experiment with paints and varnishes," she said.

Despite having a handful of related skills, Tormondson found that wood burning took a lot of practice and experimenting. Once she found she was using a varnish that caused all her work to slowly fade away. 

She found help and support on the internet. She joined an online wood burning group where other artists posted their work and compared techniques.

"I'd ask questions. 'How'd you do that? How'd you accomplish that? How'd you get that tiny line to show up? How do you get your eyes to pop like that?' And people were willing to give advice and make suggestions," Tormondson said. 

She also found new patterns she could use to create works. Soon enough, her house, cabin and garage were filled with pieces. Nevertheless, she was a little shy about sharing her work with the public at the library.

"I actually picked up the application in February or March last year and waited before turning it in," Tormondson said. "I was like, 'I don’t know if I want to do this.' 

"My husband said 'Why wouldn’t you want to do this? All you’re doing is displaying your art.' And I thought, he had a pretty good point," she said.

To read the original article and see related reporting, follow this link to The Lake County News-Chronicle.

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