Refreshing an Older Piece

I’ve had one bowl that I have taken from show to show. It just wont sell. Similar pieces have sold, but this bowl just wont budge. When I’m brutally honest with my critique, I would have to say that it is probably because the design wasn’t executed very well. It was one of my earliest pieces. The lines weren’t consistent.

After much consideration, I decided to sand off the finish and give it a refresh. I redid the simple key design around the rim and added a stylized bird in the center. The old design is on the left, new on the right.

Key Before After CKester

What do you think?

Well, back to work for me. Part 2 of my Tools, Tips, and Safety series will be coming soon.

Tools, Tips, and Safety – Part 1



My Work Space

My work space is a table in my living room in front of a window. I have two small kids at home, so I do my best to make sure any smoke from the burning doesn’t stick around. I have a box fan in the window that blows outward. I also use a Gourd Master Woodburning Buddy, which you can find here. It pulls the smoke away from the project and filters it. If it is really too cold outside to have the window open, I will use just the Buddy.


My final safety measure is my mask. I know it looks like overkill, but wood smoke is not healthy. I only have one set of lungs. My husband calls me Darth Vader when I’m wearing the mask.


Even with all of these precautions, there are some surfaces you should avoid burning. Anything with plastic is dangerous. You should also be very careful with anything that has a finish on it. Pressure treated wood and MDF (medium density fiber board) are also not good to burn on. Plywood is ok, but make sure you don’t burn deep enough to get to the glue.

The Sawdust Connection has a pretty good article about safety that you can find here. They include a list of woods that can cause allergic, toxic, infectious, or respiratory reactions.

That’s a lot to consider. So what do I burn on?

Basswood – This is probably the best in terms of smoothness of grain. I recommend this above all others for beginners.

Beech -The bowls that I burn on are, for the most part, made from beech. It’s a pretty hard wood and the grain doesn’t cause too much trouble. The light color works well for wood burning

Pine – Definitely not my favorite. It has a tendency to gum up my tips.

Maple – I like the lightness and the grain is fairly easy to work with.

Cherry – I’ve worked with this wood twice and loved the results.

Italian Poplar Plywood – I’m currently trying this one out. So far the burn is smooth.

Oak – This one can be challenging. It is a hard wood and takes longer to get the burn I want. Pyrography takes patience. Burning on oak requires even more.

Gourds – They take a burn really well, though I’ve noticed they dirty my tips faster than wood (other than pine). They take a long time to dry and clean, but you can also purchase them pre dried and washed.

Part 2 will focus on the tools you need for woodburning.

Baby Steps or Giant Leaps

I’m starting to emerge from my creative break. It is still a challenge to balance art and caring for my little ones, but I’m getting there. My biggest break through was realizing that it doesn’t matter if I only work for five minutes at a time. I meant to ease back into it, but I seem to have taken a giant leap. So far, I’ve started roughly 10 new pieces.

Here are a few of the ones I’ve recently finished.

LizardSpoon2015_Ckester1 OakNapkin_CKester1 PoppySpoon_Ckester_3

The Fox

My eldest son has been a little obsessed with foxes lately. So I decided to do something special for him last Christmas. He caught me working on it before it was finished, but I let him believe it was for the business.


Fox walk-through – Christina Kester-Tallman


It was fun working with watercolor again. My son was really happy with the finished painting.

My current project is a new sign for my display at craft shows. I’m using a 12 x 24 inch Italian poplar plywood board. Here’s a peek at my current progress.



Motherhood and the Creative Process

Inspiration strikes. I rush to find paper and pencil. Lines flow from my hands and I am entering the zone. That place where the rest of the world falls away and I focus on the task at hand. Time has no meaning here.

Then the baby cries. The sound that no mother can ignore. I rush to his side, all thoughts of what I was working on fade away. My baby needs me.

I have two beautiful children. They have introduced new levels of joy and chaos into my life. Sometimes the chaos side can be overwhelming. The holiday season, the busiest time of year for my art, is here. It is also the busiest family time of year, with birthdays and family gatherings in abundance.

When I first started my business, I remember reading blogs from successful craft business moms who somehow managed to produce high quality and quantities of their craft while being amazing mothers. I thought, I can do this too. It should be a piece of cake. I only work part time at my “regular” job. That’s plenty of time to balance motherhood and both my job and my business.

The reality is that it is not as easy as it looks. Finding balance is the key. Sometime that means that my house isn’t as clean as I think it should be or that I take on fewer commissions than I would prefer. Sometimes it means splurging on a babysitter before a craft fair to make sure I have time to produce enough inventory. Sometimes it also means having a table at a craft fair that is a little sparse. Sometimes it means getting a couple hours less of sleep a night.

Working long stretches at a time aren’t possible anymore. I have to be ready to jump into a project the moment the youngest is napping. I have to be ready for the inevitable interruptions.

I’ve found that I am a mom, not a super hero. I’m human and that is ok.

Here are some of the things I have learned:

1. Don’t compare yourself to others – Every parent has their challenges. Even the ones that make everything look easy. Do the best you can do. Don’t worry about everyone else.

2. Find balance – We all know and feel that our kids should come first. But unless we are going to close down shop, we need to remember to give some time and attention to the business. Sometimes it feels a bit like juggling knives. Sometimes everything just falls into place. Honestly, to me this is the hardest thing to do. You have to find what works for you and your family. Take one day, one moment at a time.

3. Share your creativity with your kids – Inspiration can fizzle if you don’t cultivate it. Some of my best ideas have come out of what we call “special art time with Mommy.” My eldest loves to draw and paint. Nourishing his artistic spirit also nourishes my own. He has reminded me how much the act of being silly can inspire creativity.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – There is this myth of the super mom. She is someone who is so together she can do anything. She doesn’t ever break down. She is so amazing that she doesn’t need help.  Here’s the thing – she doesn’t exist. Everyone needs help at some point. there is no shame in asking. People wont look down on you if you ask. That help might be what you need to succeed.

5. Don’t forget yourself – This can be said to any parent, not just those pursuing their creative business dreams. If you are over extended and worn out, you wont be able to take care of anyone or anything else.



I love getting the chance to work with other artists. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I recently got the opportunity to work with a local woodturner. Ken Gadway, aka. The Adirondack Woodturner, was kind enough to give me two cherry bowls to burn on. He kept one and I have the other. Here are the final pictures.

“Odin’s Bowl” is inspired by the Norse god Odin and his two ravens.


OdinsBowl_Ckester2 OdinsBowl_Ckester3 OdinsBowl_Ckester4OdinsBowl_Ckester5

“Winter” is a celebration of the beauty of trees in all seasons, even in their naked winter form.


Winter_CKester2 Winter_Ckester3 Winter_Ckester4 Winter_Ckester5


It is the holiday season. I am finished with craft fairs for the year, so I have some time for special orders. I just updated my ArtFire store with some of my new items and several of my ornaments. I’ll continue adding more in the next week. I’m also working on my first gourd. I’m pretty excited to see how it burns.

Here’s a peak of my latest work.

20141106_102514 20141106_102553 20141116_103914 20141116_104007 20141116_104025a 20141116_104208 20141116_104223

FireOakStudioHoliday - ArtFire.comFind Gifts on ArtFire

Update 10/19/2014

A lot has changed in the past year. I have slowed down on the production of art. It’s been harder to find time to fit it in with this new addition to my life.

Fire Oak Studio New Addition

Currently I am working on two bowls that are a collaboration with Ken Gadway. He turned the bowls and I am doing the pyrography art on them. All of the artwork is original, hand drawn and burned. I’m very exited about the project. I’m planning on debuting the bowls on October 23rd at the Artists Supporting ARC show. Ken will be selling one of the bowls and I will be selling the other.

Here is a peek at them –

Fire Oak Studio Winter WIP Fire Oak Studio Odin's Bowl WIP Closeup Fire Oak Studio WIP Closeup Fire Oak Studio Odins Bowl WIP

Getting Ready for a Show

My last craft fair for the season is this weekend. The SUNY Plattsburgh Arts and Crafts Fair is held at the SUNY Fieldhouse. It is a pretty good local show. Normally I would do a couple more shows before Christmas, but this year I do not have the inventory to support that. 

This week, I am working on last minute projects and making sure I have my display ready to go. A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about what you need for a craft fair. You can read it here

For now, I’ll just share a couple of the new pieces that I will have at the show.


copyright Christina Kester 2013

Christmas Ornaments

I’ve already had people asking about my hand burned Christmas ornaments. I really have to start working on these earlier next year. I haven’t been able to list many online because I can’t keep them in stock locally. The good news is that I just received a large supply of wood slices to keep up with the demand. this year the types of wood include birch, maple, cedar, apple, linden, and a few more that I don’t have definite identification of. I’m also looking in to adding key chains to what I sell. 

Here are a couple of pictures of some of my ornaments (and a spoon) in progress.

OrnamentsWIP_CKester OrnamentsWIP2_CKester