Unique woodburned ornaments
Photo by Ashlee Glen & Courtesy of Melanie Layne Hylton
Art has been part of my world since I was old enough to grasp a Crayola crayon,” said Melanie Layne Hylton.
“My mother, an introverted homemaker, was my earliest creative influence. A wonderful example in so many ways, she encouraged artistic expression from toddlerhood.”
A Bedford, Virginia, native, Hylton has had a long and meandering relationship with art, spurred along by supportive parents and teachers who championed her creativity. While Hylton has dabbled in many mediums over the years, one art form in particular sparked: pyrography.
Pyrography, or woodburning, is a freehanded artform where the artist will create burn marks on wood or other materials to create intricate designs.
“My familiarity with pyrography goes back to childhood when an older brother received a woodburner for Christmas,” Hylton remembered. “Mama warned us girls that the tool was not a toy and, like the hooks and lures in his tacklebox, we must leave our brother’s things alone. I fondly recall the sweet aroma while watching him burn simple lettering on a grainy round of wood. I was not allowed to get close, but the deliberate intensity of his hand fascinated me as it moved over tiny peaks and valleys in the grain.”
As Hylton grew older, she acquired a woodburner of her own and taught herself how to burn.
“Through experimentation, my own techniques emerged right away,” she said. “My lifelong signature style of hyperrealism transferred naturally to burning. I was completing large complex woodburnings at nearly the same skill level previously acquired in my drawings.”
While Hylton often completes detailed portraiture, landscapes, still life, and architectural subjects on large scale pieces of wood, she is also well-known for her wood-burned Christmas ornaments. She applies her same hyperrealistic focus to small pieces of wood, creating winter wonderlands, commemorative pet portraits, and custom designs to don customers’ trees.
“Making art on organic material requires patience and flexibility,” she explained. “Dark streaks, knots, and checked areas are often visible upon inspection of a round of wood. But not all flaws are hindrances. Some prove to be assets, adding interest to a work of art.”
While some ornaments are left organic—with only the intricate burn marks—Hylton will often finish her ornaments with a pop of color.
“Second only to burning, color is the most joyous part of my creative process,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoy marrying the mediums to create special effects in my work.”
To follow along with Hylton’s work, find her on Facebook at Olde Dominion Artworks. She is currently booked with commissions for the current holiday season.