Artist April Shelton works on a simple pyrographic image on a rolling pin. Terryl Asla / Kitsap News Group

This artist draws with fire

PORT ORCHARD — When you’re a Cub Scout, it’s called “wood burning.” When you’re an artist spending dozens, if not hundreds, of hours on one piece, its “pyrography” — Greek for writing or drawing with fire.

April Shelton is a pyrographer.

An accomplished photographer and author (she has written and published a children’s book and a young adult fantasy), she had been wood burning for “four or five years,” she said.

A large piece, such as a frog on the lily pad, can take more than 300 hours, she said. She starts with taking a photograph. Then she works that image through Photoshop, ultimately creating a drawing of outlines. This can require up to seven levels of overlays. That image then gets transferred to the wood.

And then the burning begins.

To burn the lines and then shade the figure requires a number of different tips on her wood-burning tools — and heavy cork “donuts” that go around the handles of the electric burning irons to keep from burning herself.

“It can get too hot to hold otherwise,” she said.

She also makes books. Really, really, tiny books with pyrographic wooden covers. She learned how to hand-make books at the Port Orchard Library, said her mother, Annettee Shelton. Now, April makes tiny books to give to kids on the anniversary of the day her father died.

“So we can be glad and not sad,” Shelton said.

Shelton demonstrated her pyrographic work at the March 11-12 Kitsap County Woodcarvers Show in Bremerton. “She’s a great pyrographer,” club president Mark Campbell said. “She deserves the recognition.”

You can learn more about Shelton and her work at shelton.

— Terryl Asla is a reporter for the Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at


Artist April Shelton said it took over 300 hours to go from this photo of a frog on a lily pad to the to finished pyrographic art. Terryl Asla/Ktsap News Group

Here’s an example of one of April Shelton’s tiny, handmade books. She decorates the wooden covers and gives them away to children in memory of her late father. She learned book making at the Port Orchard Library. Terryl Asla / Kitsap News Group