Q&A: Gotta let it burn

Local Waco artist, Masha Wilson, displays her artwork at the Artisan Market located at 601 Franklin. She makes the art by burning different types of paper and wood with a soldering iron tool. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

By Matt Dotson, Reporter

Marsha Wilson, a resident and wood burning artist in Waco, sat down with the Baylor Lariat and talked about her craft, as well as what inspired her to become an artist. She will be teaching at the Creative Art Studio gallery on Oct. 17 at 605 Austin Ave.

What got you first interested in wood burning?

I was cutting cider crosses out of wood with my scroll saw and found a wood burning kit in the closet that we had for many years, but never used. I decided to start burning on those crosses as decoration, and I loved it more than [cutting] the crosses.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been wood burning for about six years now. About a year ago, I found out I can burn on paper, so now I’ve been burning that.

Would you consider yourself a professional wood burner?

Well, I get paid for it, so technically that makes me a professional, but I consider myself still practicing.

How difficult is it to wood burn?

Wood burning is like painting except your paint never dries out. It’s like moving a paintbrush very slowly on whatever you’re burning.

What is your favorite part of wood burning?

It’s relaxing. It’s very slow so people think it’s kind of tedious, but to me it’s just relaxing. Back when I was a kid, I used to do paint by numbers, and I always chose the smallest brush so it always took the longest. Even when I was painting a huge section, I would use the smallest brush so it would take longer. The longest one took over 24 hours to burn, and I loved every minute of it.

Was this all at one time?

I do a couple hours here and a couple hours there, especially after the kids go to bed. But sometimes I get lost and I don’t know how many hours it’s been.

What projects do you typically take on?

I’ve been asked to do names. I’ve been asked to do scriptures. Somebody will like a scripture or a saying and they will ask me to do that — I do a lot of words. I’ve done a memorial plaque where I took a photograph and reproduced it in wood burning. I did a sign for a band called “The Hot Brown Smackdown,” that was fun.

Has your wood burning gained a lot of notice?

It seems to be picking up. I just got done with the Art Fest in Waco, and people came up to me and said, “Hey I saw your stuff on Facebook,” or, “I remember you from Art on Elm.” So, yes, several people have remembered it. It’s nice.

Is wood burning something like to pass on to other people?

I’d happily show it to anybody. It’s a skill that doesn’t take much skill. It takes a steady hand and a lot of patience. Before you know it you’re up and burning.

What do you think is the most valuable part about art in general?

I’d say it lifts the spirits, but it depends on what you’re looking at all the time. I try to concentrate on the beautiful things in life and I believe that lifts people’s spirits and makes them a happier person.

What advice would you give to an upcoming artist?

Know your audience. Wood burning brings out a lot of dark side. The more you explore your art form, the more you’ll see other artists go into directions you don’t want to go to. Know your limits.