It was always a dream of mine to write a book. From an early age, I've loved nothing more than to have my nose in a book, whether an absorbing work of fiction or a gloriously illustrated guide on the history of someone, something or somewhere. I wanted nothing more than to be an author and to see my name in print.
I never expected that this would come about and in the most unusual manner. In 2007, I wanted to find something creative to do which would give me an outlet to relax from the demands of my ‘day job'. I remembered using a pyrography machine at secondary school and decided that was what I would do. The first machine cost me less than £25 and frustrated me by being basically useless. I bought a more expensive machine on Ebay and started to experiment with the art of woodburning: I realised that I needed to treat myself to a brand new kit when that particular piece of equipment would only work when I applied pressure to it due to a dodgy electrical connection!
By this point, I was hooked. I started to share my creations with other crafters on Internet crafts forums. I received tips on how to set up a basic website, and started to act on advice in order to take part at crafts fairs and events. Commissions started to trickle in, and I felt the rewards of creating a unique design to the specification of a customer, making something special for an occasion that was not readily available in the shops and would therefore be more appreciated. I chose the name “Wood Tattoos” for my new business, due to the similarity in the process of choosing a meaningful design to adorn a surface, whether that was a piece of wood or your own skin. I love the whole process of selecting a design to suit the surface it will be applied to, something that will enhance the inherent natural beauty of the canvas yet also hopefully add something new and mysterious to it.
An email on 30th April 2008 was an unexpected surprise. It was from Peg Couch, the Acquisition Editor of Fox Chapel Publishing, and it contained an offer to write a book on pyrography. Peg had found my work online, thought that my style of woodburning was refreshing and asked if I was interested in writing a book on contemporary pyrography. Discussions followed by email and the whole process developed smoothly from there. Peg and the team at Fox Chapel guided me through every stage, from the initial proposal submission to the actual creation of the book.
I've been asked for advice by other people who are considering writing a book, and I've always had to give a rather apologetic response. I didn't need to submit a proposal to numerous publishers, facing rejection after rejection before eventually finding a company that thought there was something viable in my ideas. My publishers found me, walked alongside me at every step of the publication footpath and the end result in 2010 was my first book, “Woodburning with Style”.
That's not to say it wasn't hard work! On some days, I wrote over 10,000 words… smoke almost pouring out of the keyboard whilst my wife, Jane, protected my concentration by keeping me going with refreshments and keeping the kids at bay. On other days, I would be creating designs on wooden items, stopping every few minutes to take more photographs so that every stage of the creation was recorded.
I am immensely proud of “Woodburning with Style”. It has received positive reviews from a wide range of sources, from the press to the readers and crafters who have purchased it. Most importantly, it is a true reflection of my work, of my personal take on the art of pyrography. The fact that I made these items, put my thoughts about their creation onto paper and put it out there into the world where other people have engaged with it, fuelling their own creativity and ideas, is simply astonishing to me, an achievement that I am extremely pleased with.
It was ultimately the feedback from the readers of the first book that inspired me to start work on a follow-up. Fox Chapel recognised that there was a potential gap in the market of pyrography books for a guide for beginners, containing projects to help them develop basic skills in the craft so that they could become more confident and progress towards creating their own ideas. I loved the idea of creating a compact and punchy companion to “Woodburning with Style”, a second book with a greater emphasis on demonstrating something for the reader to make straight away.
A great deal of time was spent selecting fourteen wooden items that would be readily available for people to buy and use. Even more time was then spent trying to develop fourteen decorative themes so that each project used a different technique or achieved a new result when compared to the previous chapter. I quickly settled into a routine for each project: planning, burning, writing, photographing and then transferring everything onto the computer. Designs and patterns were drawn and scanned, with extra images created to form the gallery section of the new book.
Before I knew it, all the items were burnt, all the text was done, all the photographs were taken and everything was on its way to Fox Chapel. The design team and editors worked their magic, and all of my digital photos and Word files were transformed into a real book. The feeling of holding a physical copy of a book you've written in your hands for the first time is awesome. The end result of months of hard work and preparation is suddenly a real and tangible item… it's like holding a new born baby. “Learn to BURN” is like the cute little baby brother or sister to the older, wiser and larger “Woodburning with Style”.
Now that “Learn to Burn” is on its way out into the real world of book retailers and reviews, I'm back to normality. I've thrown myself back into creating new ranges of items for craft fairs, such as the personalised “Everlasting Heart” plaques I've been making for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine's Day. I've had numerous commissions to work on for customers recently, such as photo frames and keepsake boxes. I'm building myself up to revamping my websites and trying to find new events to display my work at. I'm also selling a good number of signed books to customers too, people who don't mind me defacing their copy with permanent marker before posting it to them.
There's something else that's started to try and show itself too. Something that I can feel gnawing away at the back of my creative consciousness, something that is growing every day in preparation for a time when it shows itself in a more realised form. It doesn't have a name yet… but for now, I know what to refer to it as.
For now, it's called Book #3.
You can see Simon's work at www.woodtattoos.com – www.facebook.com/woodtattoos - www.flickr.com/photos/woodtattoos
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to discuss a potential commission or order copies of his pyrography books.