Local pyro artist Hollie Berry on her art career and her unique style of torch painting
The idea of fire typically conjures scenes of destruction and devastation; roaring flames, burning smoke and flying ashes. In the right hands though, fire can be made into a tool of creation few have mastered. One of those few is Hollie Berry.
A career in art was not always Hollie’s plan. As a child, she quickly discovered her creative tendencies and her family nurtured them through private art classes before switching her to public school where she excelled in any art-related activities. In high school, she decided to feed her hunger to create and instead of going into medicine as she had planned she would go on to earn a Bachelor's in Fine Art from the University of Texas at Austin.
“I couldn’t say that I ever started to become an artist, but rather that I never managed to quit being an artist.”
As mentioned, one of Hollie's most unique qualities is her mastery of Pyrography. Pyrography is the art of burning designs into wood or leather. This art form is usually done with a soldering iron that is pressed into the media to create the design. Hollie has taken a different approach though.
Hollie has invented a process she calls ‘torch painting’. The idea came to her that instead of using charcoal to create art on wood, she could burn the wood itself into charcoal. With a propane plumbers torch, Hollie was able to create an entirely new style of pyrography.
“My first ever torch painting was a freehand image of a group of people huddled around a campfire and it turned out much better than I anticipated. “Hollie said. “Frankly, it was haunting. Visitors to my studio were taken aback and so full of questions about it.”
Hollie says the community has been overwhelmingly receptive to her torch paintings. Viewers seem to be endlessly impressed with her work and are only more stunned when they learn about how it is made. Hollie has become a rockstar in the local art community, now hosting art demos at the Chattanooga Zoo, the Hunter Museum, and the Tennessee Aquarium.
“When they find out that it’s burned into the wood, they’re usually flabbergasted,” Hollie said. “It takes several minutes to explain that yes, it’s just fire and wood.”
With her incredible artwork, Hollie is leaving quite an impressive mark on the city, whether it's through how her artwork is popping up at landmarks such as The Edwin Hotel, or how she is encouraging the growth of the art scene as a whole.
“I was amazed that these artists welcomed me with open arms and were so happy to teach me what they knew. My goal is to pay it forward and continue to welcome and encourage new artists in town, especially female artists as they are historically underrepresented. I have to thank all of my fellow Chattanooga WorkSpace artists for being the best ‘coworkers’ ever.”
Hollie can be found on Instagram, @hollieberryart. She currently has artwork on display at The Copper Fox Gallery and she has a studio with Chattanooga WorkSpace where she can be reached by appointment. Her works can also be viewed on her website, and she is currently open for commissions.