C.Muire is a collective production of pyrography and woodworking. Located in a humble East Austin studio, Celina and her assistant, Moose, craft a variety of home goods that combines the traditional dexterity of wood-burning and geometric wood patterns that contribute to a contemporary finish.
The fortuitous muses for C.Muire vary, but each hand-crafted piece holds virtue in their exclusive character and practicality. In the early days, Celina was completely unable to understand the complex domain of interface design (still to this day, a true statement). She lacked total wherewithal for computerized eye candy, software tutorials, DPI’s, bitmaps, and vector construction. Left bewildered and defeated by graphic design, Celina decided to retreat back to a more rudimentary expression of art- something that was both absolute and perpetual. As a maker, Celina wanted to create something that could not be done by a laser machine, or excessively perfected and edited on a computer program- further driving her to engage in all the risks that come with using traditional media. Both pyrography and woodworking proved to be one of the most permanent crafts; demanding full commitment if a mistake is made, since there is no “undo” button.
In the interview below, Celina talks to us about process, pyrography, and the perfectly imperfect nature of items made by hand.
How and why did you choose woodworking as your craft?
I have worked with a variety of mediums, but woodworking is by far my favorite. It’s very challenging to sculpt and change something that has been growing wild in nature for over half a century. I like to use woods that naturally have a beautiful grain and texture. I mainly work with the maple and walnut family for my home wares. Carving these hardwoods exposes some really interesting colors and grain.
Although woodworking can be difficult and sometimes frustrating (maybe a grain suddenly decides take a sharp turn east, or I end up accidentally chiseling off a handle of a spoon), I respect the fact that these materials have lived far longer on this earth than I have. When I come out with a final product that I feel is a compromising combination of my own design and nature’s composition, I feel like it’s quite the accomplishment, and that to me that is the biggest reward this craft can offer.
What is pyrography and why do you incorporate it into your designs?
Many moons ago I began woodburning in my tiny apartment. I was anxiously waiting to move to a bigger house to make a shop and begin woodworking. So I subdued my eagerness by using a soldering iron to burn images into small pieces of wood. Pyrography was a way for me to work with wood while not having to do anything with major tools. I am not a very patient person, but woodburning taught me to slow down, a lot. With the tool at almost 1,000 degrees, I quickly learned that taking more time to shade each layer creates far more intense and colorful textures than just lazily running the hot pen through the wood to engrave it. Pyrography is very connected with woodworking in that you are still a slave to the material. Sometimes the original design on a piece of wood has to be adjusted to how the pattern of the wood matured with the unpredictable direction of the grain. Failing to negotiate with the material can result in a messy art piece. I still do pryography from time to time, usually when my hands are cranky from carving too many spoons. The craft is very therapeutic, not to mention pyrography makes a room smell like a saw mill, and you can’t go wrong with that.
What is your greatest challenge in your work?
I really wish it didn’t take me so long to figure out that if you want to pursue something creative you have to leave all your doubts behind. That was by far the hardest thing for me. There is literally no time for fear in the creative industry. Doubting my abilities, ideas, or risking embarrassment from the public only held me back, and I feel annoyed at myself for all that lost time I spent over analyzing ideas. When I started woodworking I still had a hard time working all the way through a piece. I’m sure a lot of makers go through the same thing, they begin a project, have a hard time envisioning the final product, and give up. But that was before I figured out the trick. Ah yes, there is a grand trick to woodworking, but you won’t find it anywhere online…believe me I’ve tried looking there. I’ve learned that you just have to keep going. The solution really is that simple. The advice is boring but nevertheless practical. It took me a while to figure out when I am halfway through gouging out a spoon and I have trouble picturing the final product, I have to constantly remind myself that it is not yet a spoon. Its just a boring block of wood with some chips in it. I have to keep chiseling, keep sanding, and then sand some more because nothing beautiful is made in under an hour…or two..or three- Jeez I have spent a lot of time carving wood- but I still enjoy it. Hand crafted items hold challenges to any maker, but the process experience coupled with holding the final product is beyond gratifying.
What do you love about your process?
I know this sounds cliche and ridiculous but I love to challenge myself. Not too long ago my second-hand Ikea bed frame fell apart. I knew that day was coming and I just dreaded going out and finding a new frame. I decided to build my own frame, just wing with no plans, no googling. I mean I was literally going to personify a figure of speech, I was going to have to “make my bed and lie in it,” and if it was shoddy construction then it would be no one else’s fault but my own. Exceeding my expectations, the pine wood frame I made was beyond sturdy, I even did a celebratory dance on the frame to ensure its mightiness. I was seriously shocked at my own ability and started making bed frames for people locally in Austin. I love looking at older projects and reflecting on how much I have improved on my craft. Projects like that really give me confidence to take on even bigger and more ambitious designs.
What kind of experience do you hope to give your customers when they use a piece you’ve made by hand?
My work is handmade and is not over-perfected. For instance, there are times when I don’t sand out chisel marks to “prove the oomph” in my carvings. Lest we forget that those delicate spoons were once part of a massive beast of a tree, growing wild in America’s landscape. Wooden home wares are delicately chiseled and carved with hours of thought, exertion, and pure revelry. Quality is important to me, however, no product is unblemished, there may be some flaws, but when you run your hands over these products you can feel the venerated undertaking and gain the intimacy of someone’s craft that you wouldn’t find on the shelves anywhere else.
What matters most to you in your work?
Complementing natures raw materials is the most important aspect for any of my designs. Maple Ambrosia is my favorite example of wood’s natural beauty, it has such an inconsistent and beautiful grain pattern. Every time I see the holes in the wood and fungus trails left behind by the Ambrosia Beetle I get all excited. Don’t be repulsed by their work, those busy little guys make some really unique and beautiful pink, gold, and brown designs on otherwise unmarred and banal maple. I like to incorporate what nature has already given to me and highlight it in my spoons or cutting boards. For my geometric wall art, I base my concepts off of the reclaimed wood I have in stock. I always try to avoid staining or painting reclaimed wood as I feel that manipulates the natural patina that originally gave the wood beauty in the first place. Age, wear, and exposure to natural elements contribute to really beautifully distressed blues, oranges, and greens. I have some of these reclaimed works hanging on my wall and I love looking at it. It’s like looking at a time capsule of the effects of nature’s elements on raw materials.
Where are your products currently carried?
I am now taking wholesale orders, products can also be bought online at www.cmuire.com.