The art of pyrography

  • Monday, March 24, 2014 11:25am
  • Life


for the Sequim Gazette


Patrick Loafman is a guest at The Waterfront Art Gallery through August. Though he’s not a member of the cooperative gallery, Loafman was asked to be the first nonmember featured after several members admired his work on display at the public library.


Loafman has been writing poetry and doing gourd art for more than a decade, selling mostly at Christmas bazaars and occasionally at the Sequim and Port Angeles farmers markets. Using pyrography — burning images into wood or other materials — he decorates gourds with wildlife images. He also makes abstract gourds using a variety of dyes, inks and paints, including shoe polishes, leather dyes, watercolor, ink pens and acrylic.


Loafman carves gourds with hand tools and a Dremel. Sometimes he even makes instruments out of the hard-skinned fleshy fruit.


A reception will be held at The Waterfront Art Gallery from 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, to introduce Loafman to the community and allow him to play music from some of the gourd instruments he creates. He’ll also read a variety of his poetry.


Loafman is a wildlife biologist for Olympic National Park. He specializes in herpetology — the study of amphibians and reptiles — but currently is working on a forest mortality study that is looking at tree mortality rates, examining studies that show trees are dying at a faster rate now as a result of climate change. He’s also worked on projects involving flying squirrels, mosses and liverworts, deer, songbirds, elk, pileated woodpeckers, the spotted owl and various other small mammals.


A typical day on the job for Loafman includes hiking in the Olympic Northwest and studying nature, equipped with an off-trail compass and map.


Whether he’s in the wilderness on the job or camping just for fun, Loafman always carries a notepad and pen. When he sees something that piques his creativity, he jots it down and revisits it later to create a unique gourd or write an original poem. His training as a wildlife biologist is tied closely to his career as an artist.


“Identifying animals and plants to species requires close observation and this is essential for drawing an animal,” he explained. “You have to look closely.”


Loafman moved to Port Angeles in 1994 after graduating from Auburn University with a degree in wildlife biology. He traveled a lot as a seasonal biologist for the first six years as a new graduate and decided Port Angeles was the place he liked best.


He and his wife, Kim, live on a small organic farm just west of Joyce where they raise fruits and vegetables and have chickens, rabbits and a cat. On the property is a small cob cabin — made from clay and sand mixed with chopped straw — that serves as Loafman’s art studio and is where the magic happens.


Loafman said he’s excited to share his work with the community and encourages individuals and families to visit the exhibit even if they can’t make the open house.


“I will have a gourd banjo and mandolin there, which are not a common sight,” he said. “They both have elaborate pyrography of frogs and salamanders on them.”



Writing from the heart

Patrick Loafman has a full-length book of poetry that is expected to publish next year called “Musical Seltzer.” Nature is a frequent theme in Loafman’s writing. In fact, he commonly writes notes on a pad while he’s camping in the wilderness and turns them into poems later.

Below is an example of Loafman’s writing from the collection:


There are times when the forest bends,

when the seams show, when the scent

of deer draws dreams of distances untraveled,

and I unfold thirty years with the gentle

motion of unrolling a map like a scroll.

There are places where hooves scruff the earth,

scratch at the surface, hints of a path’s beginning,

a scarcely scented suggestion laid across unlevel

land, over a broken ridge of years, heavily faulted

and uplifted, furrowed mountains with views

of more mountains.

There are moments when time bends,

when beetles spin circles in puddles,

when a simple drop of rain blooms.

Art ‘outside the box’

Patrick Loafman is artist of the month at The Waterfront Art Gallery, 120 W. First St., Port Angeles.

The Waterfront Art Gallery, a cooperative, features the original work of about 30 local artists from Clallam and Jefferson counties. Paintings, collages, printmaking, photography, sculptures, carvings, woodworking, glass, ceramics, pottery, jewelry, fiber arts, metalwork, note cards, bookmarks and magnets line the walls and shelves of the gallery and are ever changing. Each month, a different artist is featured.

The public is invited to attend the gallery’s monthly open house, featuring Loafman, 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. Refreshments and live music will be available.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 452-8165 or go online to


For more information about the artist, go to his personal website at



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