When you discover that you have a gift — a talent for doing something you didn’t realize you could do — that discovery can change your life.
That’s kind of what has happened with Piper Jo Termani, 39, of Nevada. Back in February of 2018, she tried her hand at pyrography (the art of burning wood), and since then she has completed more than 100 projects, many of which have been done for paying customers.
Termani’s story is unique in many ways.
For one thing, she’s only lived in Iowa since December of 2017. She and her husband, Daniel, had to evacuate their home in Largo, Fla., when Hurricane Irma struck. They came to northern Iowa to stay with a friend of her husband’s. “When we went back (to Largo), there was nothing there.” So, her husband, who is an IT professional, had found work in Ames and that brought them to Nevada.
As it turns out, the friend of her husband, who they had stayed with, wanted Termani to try something for him. “I was a certified tack welder … so he thought I could figure out how to burn some emblems onto a wooden trunk he had.”
Welding is something Termani picked up as a teenager when she went to Job Corps in Missouri.
She hadn’t been working outside the home for some time when they settled in Nevada, as she was recovering from some serious health issues. While she continued to recover, she decided in February of 2018 to give that “burning on wood” thing a try for her husband’s friend.
“Turns out, I kind of had a knack for it,” she said. “Then I thought, what else have I been holding myself back from?”
So she dug in and started to spend more time with the craft, and with each new project, she saw the progression of her skill.
Termani liked the “instant gratification” that seeing each project come to life gave her. “It was feeling like I have a purpose again … like I finally have something more to contribute to this life than what I consume.”
Those first projects were done mostly for herself and for the practice of getting better at her craft. Take for instance a couple of incredibly detailed Walter Crane (an England-born portrait painter)-inspired pieces that hang on the wall by her kitchen.
To increase her skill level, she explained, “every month I’d pick something above my skill level and figure it out. The first Walter Crane piece I did took me 44 days (to complete). The second one (equally as detailed) took four days” because she’d mastered the skill through her work on the first piece.
Since August of 2018, she admitted, she no longer has much time to do pyrography pieces for herself. “It’s all commissioned,” she said. For the Christmas holiday, one of her biggest sellers was making ornaments. She’s also gotten heavily involved in pet portraits and people portraits, “which I never in a million years thought I could do,” she said.
She doesn’t think she could draw any of the incredible pieces she does through pyrography. But she sure can burn them. The process, she said, is to print out a picture that someone wants her to do of a pet, or person or a design. She puts graphite under that printout and traces it. Then, with her pyrography pen, she goes to work with that traced pattern. “It’s never an exact replica … I just let it come,” she said of the process.
She loves every project, and her home in Nevada has the perfect basement area for her to do her work, both on the computer and at her tall pyrography work station/desk.
“I just enjoy burning… It’s the most therapeutic thing … and I do it all day long, every day and I’m not tired of it,” Termani said.
It was a neighbor here in Nevada, Janet Schaeffer, who encouraged Termani to finally start selling her work. Termani named her business, Spellbound Dragonfly, and utilized social media and a website to get her name and her work out in the public eye.
“I get told my price isn’t high enough all the time,” she said. Her ornaments run about $65 each, and her portraits of pets and people can run $160 and higher. It’s nice to have a little income, for sure. But more than the money made, she enjoys being busy doing something she truly loves.
“I have never felt so passionate about anything, and I love being able to create something for somebody that is so meaningful.” Like for people who give her a pet portrait to create into a pyrography piece, especially for pets who have passed away, “I know that every time they look at it, I’m going to have a hand in bringing good memories to them.” Knowing this means more than any dollar amount she might charge.
Her husband, who has his computer work set up on the opposite side of the basement, is happy that his wife has found something to do that gives her fulfillment. “I think it’s fantastic,” he said. And she appreciates that her husband is very supportive of her work.
“I plan to do this for a long time,” she said.
Piper Jo Termani not only creates pieces for sale through pyrography, but she has also set up a closed Facebook group to teach the skill to others. She records all of her burning sessions with videos and then shares them. She has a goal to someday have videos on YouTube, as well.
Those interested in joining her closed group, or commissioning her to do a piece of art for them, can message her through her social media pages, under her business name, Spellbound Dragonfly.