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Selective Focus: North Country Craft

Erin Welch is an illustrator, painter and … pyrographer or woodburner. She creates game boards inspired by Duluth and Minnesota. She’ll be at Earth Rider Brewery’s one-year anniversary events Sept. 14 and 15 as part of the Art on Tap series.

Although I love to work in a variety of mediums if the inspiration calls, pyrography (wood burning) is the medium that is the main aesthetic of North Country Craft. I’ve always loved trying out new mediums and somewhat fell into working with wood and making custom wood burned cribbage boards by accident. I realized I didn’t have a cribbage board in my apartment and made one for myself one night. That spun into family and friends asking about custom boards and eventually led to launching an Etsy site which took off and launched my custom cribbage business.

Watercolor and wood burning on basswood plank

Even though I may have fell into wood burning by chance, I absolutely love working with the medium. Wood burning is different than traditional mediums like drawing and painting in that once you’ve touched the wood burner to the surface, your mark is made and it can’t be unburned the way you can erase pencil or paint over brushstrokes. It’s slow and steady in the process but the results are works that run deep with care in their creation. I also really love watercolors so I do bring some of that into the wood burning style by adding in some light washes to some of my wood burned imagery. The added color can really add depth to some of the designs and make the pieces really stand out.

Watercolor and wood burning on turtle-shaped boar

My biggest inspiration for my work is the natural world, so a lot of my designs revolve around nature or outdoorsy themes. Being based in Duluth really allows me to draw inspiration from a range of scenery, from the woods to the Big Lake and northern lights. It all just really fits into my style of work and what drives me creatively. I’m also really inspired by the ocean and scuba diving (it’s my biggest passion alongside creating art) so a lot of times ocean life will find its way into my work.

Wood burn on bamboo MN board

I’ve only been woodburning for a few years but I’ve always been drawn to the arts though and believe in allowing oneself to explore different mediums. Having a background in general drawing/illustration just translated easily into burning on wood and that style lends itself to cribbage boards quite well.

Erin with custom cut and wood burned Maui Hook board

The biggest challenge by far is the fact that I’m the sole person running all aspects of my business and art. It’s been a big learning curve trying to manage everything from the marketing, to social media, to customer service, shipping and of course the actual making. There’s a saying in the creative small business world where only 20% of your time as a creative entrepreneur is actually spent creating, which I’ve found to be so true. Even though I may be spending a lot more time working compared to when I worked the “9-5” type of day, the work itself is extremely rewarding. I absolutely love making one of a kind pieces of functional art for special moments in people’s lives. Cribbage is the type of game where you really need to sit down and be present for, which is something I think everyone can use more of. The fact that I’ve been able to find this niche of creating unique functional art pieces that bring family and friends together is simply rewarding.

Wool, leather, and wood travel cribbage boards

My work is available in a handful of local shops and pop-up events here in the Northland, as well as through my Etsy shop. My website, northcountrycraft.com, has all the links where you can find my work, upcoming pop-up events I’ll be at, examples of my work, and my shop/social links.

Variety of cribbage board styles

I’m currently gearing up for the holiday season, which is both exciting and daunting at the same time because this year is going to be my biggest year yet for North Country Craft. Starting mid-September I have pop-up events pretty much every single weekend through December, which is in addition to all the custom orders I do outside of shows.

Links:
Website – northcountrycraft.com
Instagram – instagram.com/northcountrycraft
Etsy – northcountrycraft.etsy.com

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