Indian culture

Gauri Bansal infuses his Indian culture into functional wood-engraved creations

Gauri Bansal’s interest in pyrography – an art form involving a wood burning tool used to create patterns on wood or other materials – came out of nowhere.

It all started when her eldest daughter came home five years ago with a piece of floral art she created using microtip pens on archival paper. Bansal took one look at the art and all of a sudden wanted to woodcut it.

“Notice, I had never burned wood before. I had never held a wood burning tool before,” says Bansal. “I can’t tell you why that day I wanted to take his design and engrave it on wood. I didn’t want to paint it. I didn’t want to draw it. I wanted to burn it with wood.

Afterwards, Bansal went to a craft store, bought the tool, asked her daughter to draw a similar design on a piece of wood, and started burning wood. Bansal says she didn’t really bother to read the instructions and didn’t even realize that the wood traditionally had to be prepared in advance.

Now, years later, Bansal has become an expert in the art of pyrography, focusing primarily on functional art and selling pieces through her business, Prettyful Creations.

Originally from India, Bansal moved to Madison 20 years ago from Maryland. Throughout her life, she was drawn to creative pursuits, especially with her mother who made a lot of crafts herself. “When I was a kid, I would sit and spin the machine for her while she sewed,” Bansal says. Bansal also painted and practiced art in high school before later earning a bachelor’s degree in home economics and information systems.

Photo by Nikki Hansen

Bansal was looking for her own creative business and tried selling candles on Etsy, but something clicked when she held a wood burning tool for the first time.

“The one thing I had never heard of, never done, never seen – that became my career,” says Bansal.
Prettyful Creations is not Bansal’s day job; she works for the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, but hopes to one day transition to full-time work as an artist.

When Bansal starts a project, she prepares her wood by sanding it, then uses her tool to make a design. The tool is basically a 1,200 degree ball point pen with different sized nibs or tips that burn lines of different thickness. “As long as you can draw and write, you can burn wood,” she says. “You can basically trace your design onto the wood…and then run over it with your heat tool.”

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Photo by Nikki Hansen

Bansal typically draws her coasters and her mandala- and henna-inspired designs freehand, but for larger, more intricate wooden pieces, she’ll sketch out the designs beforehand.

There is a large online community of pyrographers who specialize in all kinds of techniques. Bansal says she naturally gravitates toward mandala or henna designs. Everyone has their own style and they exchange ideas with each other, she says. “As an artist, I find that my style [involves] line drawing that fits perfectly [me well] for mandalas and henna designs,” says Bansal.

Early Bansal pieces incorporated henna designs. (Henna is an art form practiced in many cultures and countries, including India, Morocco, and Yemen.) From there, she began creating mandalas, which are circles with eight meditative parts. to draw and look at, and each mandala pattern has a specific meaning. Traditional mandalas originate from regions where Hinduism and Buddhism are practiced, and the designs begin with a central point incorporating lines and symbols around that point. While Bansal typically starts with traditional designs by dividing her designs into eight sections, she calls her mandalas semi-authentic as she strays from tradition in order to incorporate more variety.

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Photo by Nikki Hansen

Bansal aims to keep her art functional, which means there has to be intention to everything she does. Its biggest goal is to accent the home with beautiful things that have a purpose, like kitchen spoons, coasters, candle holders, salad servers, key rings, bottle openers, cutting boards, wine boxes and serving boards.

“I absolutely will and can do custom orders if anyone wants to have wall art,” Bansal says. “I’ve made several for my own home, but as far as having them in my store, my personal choice is to make things that can be used.”

Looking back on her decision to go into pyrography years ago, Bansal says she didn’t expect it to be such a good choice. She says it was like the universe was telling her it was time for her to be happy after taking so long to find something of her own.

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Photo by Nikki Hansen

“It fills me up like nothing else,” says Bansal. “I can bring my design, my culture – I can open the doors to a conversation.”

Find pretty creations:, Facebook @Prettyfulcreations, Instagram @prettyful.creations

Maija Inveiss is associate editor of Madison Magazine.