For artists, inspiration can come from anywhere.
For the current artisan resident at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, it was Julie Bender's dog who turned her into an award-winning pyrography artist.
Pyrography goes back to the ancient Egyptian times and is the current term for wood burning.
Bender, of Colorado, is in Wausau doing demonstrations of the art form and teaching workshops for students and the public.
Wednesday, 5th graders from Hewitt-Texas Elementary School tried it for themselves with Bender's help. They created wood burned leaves on hard maple blocks.
"Once you put it in the wood, I mean the smoke kinda gets in your face a little bit and it smells like a campfire," said Kendra Behnke. "It's actually kinda really fun to do that," she said.
Bender says she discovered the art form by chance in a time of grief.
"I really hadn't used my fine art degree that I got from college until about 10 years ago when I kind of fell on this medium accidentally," she said.
It was right after her beloved dog, Zoe, passed away. She was looking for a significant way to remember and honor her best friend, but wasn't satisfied with the urn Zoe's ashes were in.
"So I thought, oh my gosh what if I were to go get a cheap, you know relatively inexpensive wood burner, pick one up and burn her portrait into the side of the cherry urn," Bender explained.
The portrait turned out well, and she found her life's passion.
"I enjoyed the process of it and it was easier to put that behind me."
Bender is now an award-winning artist, who has made a name for herself in the art world. She prefers to create images inspired by wildlife and nature. She'll be available at the museum through Sunday.
"It's quite an honor to have been asked by the museum to be here doing this residency, so its just a real privilege to be here," Bender said.
You can take an up-close look at two of Bender's works that are part of Woodson's Birds in Art flagship exhibit. It runs through November 11th. Her work is for sale through her website: www.juliebender.com.
You can also participate in one of the museum's upcoming workshops with Bender.
Thursday, October 18th:
Bender on Burning 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Julie explains the pyrography process and demonstrates her work.
Hands-on Art 5:30 - 7 p.m.
All ages try a pyrography-inspired project for families to do together.
Friday, October 19th:
Teen Event: Playing with Fire 6 - 8 p.m.
Julie shows teens how to paint with heat to make a decorative wooden tile. Mingle, munch, and meet the artist at this TAC-planned event.
Saturday, October 20th
Art Beyond Sight 10:30 am – Noon
Julie leads a multi-sensory tour of Birds in Art for individuals with low
vision and blindness. Participants learn about the art of pyrography and also try hands-on art making during this free program.
Adult/Educator Workshop 1 - 5 p.m.
Create a complex pyrographic artwork with Julie’s guidance during this workshop.
Call the museum at 715.845.7010 for details. Fee: $40 for
museum members; $50 for non-members.
Sunday, October 21st:
Gallery Walk 2- 3 p.m.
Join Julie for a look at Birds in Art through the eyes of a participating artist.