Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Krista Bjorn, Pyrographer, Medieval Folklorist & Writer, Tells Her Story

For most of my life I thought I was the only one in my family who wasn't artistic. My Dad did leatherwork and photography, Mum painted, crocheted, embroidered, you name it, my brothers could draw, build anything, and even sew. I always wished I could be an artist, it seemed like such an amazing thing to be, but I accepted what I thought was my lot in life and instead became a writer.

I wrote stories and poems, clues for treasure hunts, limmericks for friends. When I got older I wrote travelogues and magazine articles, newspaper columns and books, online pieces on food, medieval life, travel, and self-sufficiency.

I loved it, still do, but every time I went to a gallery or exposition I felt a longing for artistic expression and wondered if artists knew how lucky they were to be able to do what they did.

Then I had what my husband and I describe as the Great Darkness. Others might call it a breakdown, an undoing, depression, PTSD. Regardless of the label, all I knew was that everything in me crumbled and I was utterly lost and didn't know how to be found. All the darkness I'd been pushing down over the past two decades came in like a hurricane, forcing me to face it and deal with it.

And I did.

I faced the religious cult that abused and brain-washed me. I faced the molesters who thought it was OK to touch me knowing I was too broken to stand up to them. I faced the church that crushed my spirit and made me believe I was worthless and unlovable. I faced those who covered up the abuse or downplayed it because it made them uncomfortable and afraid. I faced all the shame and loss and betrayal and abandonment, and I grieved and raged and forgave and loved and somehow, amazingly, found the brave, loving, jolly, creative me that had been there all along.

During that time my husband, Bear, introduced me to the world of medieval enactment. It became a safe place for me to watch and learn and experiment as I faced the sad things and healed.

I got to research and  learn about medieval art and medicine, food and clothing, how they ate, lived, fought, loved, and believed. I went from not knowing much of anything to designing and making medieval clothing, building medieval furniture, and growing and harvesting fruits, herbs, and vegetables to brew medieval wine and make traditional foods and folk medicines. I tested, experimented, photographed, and documented everything, and last year published a book of medieval folk remedies.  I also learned wood-burning, known as pyrography, a medieval craft where hot metal is used to burn designs into wood. It is my happy place, a soothing, gentle craft that is almost meditative in its cadence. Whenever I'm stressed and anxious, a session of wood-burning never fails to calm me down, help me focus, and get me back on track.

Soon I was selling wood-burning and books at medieval events, markets, and online, and one day it hit me: I am an artist. I've always been an artist. I just needed to heal enough to make a safe place for my artist self to emerge. It makes me smile every time I think of it. I'm a photographer and writer, pyrographer and medicine-maker, recipe-developer and home brewer. In the end it all boils down to this: I love making things and sharing them with others.

I continue to write and take pictures and burn original images into wood. I'm working on a book of medieval Bedouin recipes, another on medieval spices, and am creating new designs to pyrograph. This year I hope to expand my wood-working skills by designing and making my own wooden implements and furniture to wood-burn.

My heart is full as I look back on all the goodness that came out of the Great Darkness.

This is Week 26 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Krista's story today. To see more of her work and to connect with her, please visit the following links:

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