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The art of pyrography

A collection of one-off wood and glass designs by Ngaire Kearney. PHOTOS/ELISA VORSTER

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A skill she first saw demonstrated by her grandmother has seen Ngaire Kearney turn unwanted op-shop items into custom-made works of art.

The Carterton artist’s business Burnt Offerings specialises in wooden items featuring unique designs, using a pyrography hotwire woodburning tool, also known as a poker machine.

Her artworks feature on a range of items from upcycled chairs, cabinets and desks, to plates, boxes and coasters.

Although it was a skill she had been exposed to at a young age, her first hands-on experience was 17 years ago after she had to give up work in the early stages of her pregnancy, for health reasons.

“My husband bought a wood-turning lathe and the shop we were in had a poker machine.

“It all started from there and the last couple of years it has really taken off.”

Ngaire Kearney designing with a poker machine.

It began as just a hobby, etching designs into small wooden items her husband had made for her.

But before long, she was producing far more items than she originally anticipated, and he couldn’t keep up with the demand.

She then turned to op-shops all around the region, picking up bargain items on which she could experiment with her new designs.

“I like recycling – I can bring something back to life and give it purpose.

It also meant she could re-donate any pieces which didn’t quite work out, although she said it rarely happened.

Kearney also worked with glass and stone items, using a tool attached to a compressor to carve her designs.

She never imagined it was something which could turn into a small business but she is now producing items ranging from axe handles for international customers of Tuatahi Axes, to small ashes boxes for funeral homes and personalised stones a Carterton School teacher gives to departing pupils.

“Every time someone buys a piece, I get a thrill that people are giving me money for something I created.

“It’s one of the biggest buzzes you can have.”

Kearney has a website and Facebook page which feature past works and examples of pieces she can create, but she does not have generic stock sitting on shelves in a store room, choosing instead to create made-to-order, one-off pieces.

She said although laser cutting produced better precision, her handmade designs meant she was able to make personalised items at a much lower price point.

“People are swinging more and more towards unique instead of mass-produced.

“I’m constantly surprised with what people come up with that I haven’t even thought of.”

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