“The wood speaks to me telling me what it wants me to do with it,” said Sandra Chambers, who creates art through pyrography and owns Ma and Pa Ozark Wood Works in Phelps County.
Pyrography is one of the oldest forms of art; an art-form that flourished in ancient Egyptian culture where wooden artifacts have continuously been discovered today preserved in tombs.
The Romanesque and Gothic periods developed art concurrent with architecture fashioned by wood, and the practice of using wood to create designs is reflected in all cultures historically, and continues to be applied today.
Chambers cherishes the medium, solely using it for her art. She describes her method as “old-school” where she has an approach that is reminiscent of the Romanesque woodwork that stylistically represented animals in furniture, just as Chambers has done with her handmade fixtures that incorporate animals and natural landscapes that she eloquently designs with wood.
“You will notice I don’t include buildings or people,” she explained. “I do landscapes and animals; my love of the outdoors is what inspires me.” The outdoors also contains the source she uses for her creations, such as a wall ornament she renewed from 100-year-old cedar wood—done by hand.
It’s evident that Chambers pours her full self into her art, which she started as an outlet for her emotions after a traumatic experience in her life. The fine details in her versatile pieces reveal the raw feelings that Chambers projects into each piece. “There are times I get an idea stuck in my mind, and it doesn’t leave until I cast it to wood,” she said.
She finds working with wood therapeutic, and her wood of choice is Cedar. “It has such a beauty to it with the stark white that then marbles into the blood red,” she exclaimed while looking at one of her creations. A creation where she had burned a design of a lone wolf standing on the edge of a mountain looking towards the moon, with clouds covering part of the lighter white of the cedar that made up the moon. Using the art to release emotions instead of keeping the feelings isolated within, she noted.
When it comes to the process of conveying the messages through the technique of wood burning, Chambers first places transfer paper on top of the wood she has chosen. Next, she outlines her vision on paper that she sets on top of the transfer paper. Chambers then uses a graphite pencil to color in the concept she has illustrated, and after removing the paper along with the transfer paper underneath, the design is on the wood. In the final step, she starts with the outline of the image, and she burns the outline directly on the wood, filling in the design as she sees fit.
Chambers gift is unmistakable, and her passion for her art is evident. She finds working with wood calming, and the art she brings to light through her craft has left people who viewed her work wondering if she was using the more recent technology for wood burning, which is a tool that makes the art of wood burning less challenging.
“Someone asked me if I used a laser wood engraver on the wood, and I told them, ‘no I don’t I am old school,’” she said while smiling. “Now finding time to get everything done I want to get done is the real challenge.”
Sandra Chambers does freehand art for her work and takes requests for customized wood art. She can be found online at Ma and Pa Ozark Wood Works, or at the Rolla Farmers Market on Saturdays.