Julie Flynn: Pyrographer at Large

February 17, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Julie Flynn’s wood-burnt pictures are hanging on walls all over the country. Considering how short on a time she has been working in the art of pyrography, the popularity of her pieces and their beauty are impressive. She calls her enterprise Drawing with Fire.

Pyrography or wood (and leather) burning is an ancient art that really only came into popular usage late in the 20th Century. Any piece of wood with a reasonably flat surface can be made into a work of art with a simple burning pen or solder, the metal tip of which is heated to an intense degree so as to make clear markings in the wood.

Having cared for their severely disabled daughter, Jennifer, until she was 17 years old, Julie and her husband Richard finally realized that they could no longer keep their daughter with them. She was released into emergency care, from where she is now housed under the care of Community Living Dufferin.

Added to this, Ms. Flynn’s decision to retire from her job with the Post Office while she dealt with issues arising from the years of stress and, suddenly, she was left with time on her hands and a determination to stay busy with something. A hands-on hobby, perhaps, she thought.

“On my last day at the post office,” she commented during a recent conversation, “someone said, ‘Oh well, now you can start knitting or crocheting.’”

Clearly not the type of lady for either, the ex-military Ms. Flynn looked for something a little more her style.

“I just put in ‘hobbies’ into the computer and wood burning hit me in the eye,” she declared. It was love at first sight.

“I thought to myself – ‘what are you thinking of – you can’t draw, Julie,’” she began to tell her tale. “Then, I put pen to paper and lo and behold I could draw. So, I don’t know where that came from.”

She bought an inexpensive wood burning tool and started creating on any wood she could find.

Julie Flynn loves nature. She used to take long walks in the woods and any connection to nature is fine with her. It stands to reason, then, that the majority of her pictures are taken from nature. Images from the computer, pictures from her own camera that she took on long walks in the woods, photographs lent to her by people commissioning a work with her are inspiration for the extremely varied collection of pieces she produces.

The other aspect of her work is concerned with the military, specifically the Royal Canadian Legion.

“I do a lot of military badges,” she explained. “They are hanging on walls in all over Ontario, in B.C. and out East, in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. I’m very touched that they are wanted so far away.”

Ms. Flynn’s wood art graces hospitals in Manitoba. 

She is generous with her charity work, offering pieces for fund raisers and doing what she can to contribute.

“I deal with the Wilberforce Legion,” she said. “We get together and take vets suffering from PTSD and other problems they developed from being in Afghanistan and go fishing for the weekend. This costs money to arrange, so we have a fund raiser to manage it and I contribute to that.”

“I’m not going to be a millionaire doing this – I like doing it – I like the stories behind the pictures,” she commented. “If I can help out with something, I will.”

Like all art, there is usually a story behind any piece and it is these stories that Ms Flynn really enjoys hearing.

She told one story that impressed her deeply:

“I had done a wonderful picture of a horse pulling a plough and a man walking behind the plough. An 80-year-old lady came up to my stand and said, ‘I have to have that picture hanging on my wall.’ Naturally, I told her okay and she told me, ‘It was the last picture of my father before they [Nazis] came across the field and shot him down.’”

Her husband, who, so she says, “takes care of me,” also contributes to the art work she does. “Richard comes along and sees a piece I’m working on with fresh eyes and says – how about this or that and makes it better. Even the cat gets into it – she comes and sits on my papers to tell me it’s time to take a break.”

It did not take long once Ms. Flynn was putting her work on display at the Farmers’ Market for people to come to her with commissions: one was a house and many others are pets or signs for homes and cottages.

“Whatever somebody wants,” she told us. “It’s not about the money – I’m not making much money but the joy of doing it is what makes it worth it. It could take me a day or weeks to finish a piece.”

Many of her pictures are coloured, for which she uses some paint and charcoal. Her wood comes from many sources because she prefers using natural pieces. Hydro sometimes calls her when they have been cutting trees and have pieces small enough to be useful as she has no means by which to cut larger pieces of wood.

Last year, Ms. Flynn was nominated for the Artisan of the Year Award from Dufferin County. “I didn’t win but it was a thrill to be up there with a nomination,” she remarked.

Ms. Flynn says all her pieces are on display on Facebook at Julie Flynn Drawing with Fire, along with the usual information.

With all of it, she says, “I love my Nature.”

By Constance Scrafield

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