The Right To Choose

I was 17 years old in the autumn of 1970; my bags were sitting on the floor next to me, my hand was on the back door handle. I was going to college!  I had the top grades for my class in high school, I had been voted by my classmates as the person most likely to succeed, and I had a full scholarship to the University of Maryland.

At that moment my dad says to me, “You don’t have to do this, I can pull some strings, makes some calls, and get you into a nice secretarial school where you belong”.

[Quick note here … “Hey, Dad!  I’m not going to college to get my MRS. degree!”]

Because I was growing up during the era of Martin Luther King; John, Bobbie, and Teddy Kennedy; Lyndon Johnson, Gloria Steinam, and Barbara Milulski, I knew I had a choice – a choice over my life, my goals, my desires, my achievements, and especially on what road I wanted to travel through life.

I picked up my bags, opened the door and walked out.

I had already spent my lifetime listening to teachers tell me, “That’s very good … FOR A GIRL!” 

I had a school principal question why I would want to take certain classes when, “you won’t need them when you are a WIFE AND MOTHER!” 

I grew up having heard the old Coal country joke of How do you keep a wife?  You keep her barefoot and pregnant. That way she can’t run very far, and she can’t run very fast!

I listened in the background while people asked my brothers what they were going to be when they grew up … it was a question I was never asked because it was assumed that I would be a ‘good girl’ and get married right after high school.

As I pursued my fine arts degree, I learned quickly that no art gallery would take on a woman artist.  The reason is that they did not want to invest advertising in someone who was only ‘going to get married and have children and therefore give up their art’.

But what does any of this have to do with you?  Great question!!!!

I like to think that I have had a little influence over your joy of the arts, especially the wood arts.  I like to think that my 27 years of teaching, through books and the internet, may have made your journey into the crafts more rewarding.  I like to think that somewhere out there is someone who never thought they could do what they are doing today in wood art had they not read one of my tutorials.

I like to think that maybe there are so many great, fantastic women artists and teachers in our craft today because of me and those that were there when I started … Sue Walters, Cheryl Dow, Nedra Dennison, Nora Hall… great women who stood up and said, “Yes! We can do this!”

So, I just wonder. Would your life have been ‘limited or less than’ if I had listened to those people that wanted to make my choices over my life?  Would you have lost something that you take for granted today if I had accepted that as a woman I could/should only aspire to being a wife and mother?

Would you have that bench knife or burning pen in your hand today if I had ‘gone to secretarial school, like a good little girl”?

Choice matters!  When you limit another person’s life choices you may be denying yourself fulfillment !!!!

Burning & Carving Fish

Let’s think outside the box today!

Your wood carving steps can be just the first steps in a larger project.  In this sample, Mandala Fish, the basic fish shape has been relief wood carved on a 3/4″ basswood slab.  This is a simple rounded over carving that was sanded smooth after the cutting strokes were done.  Next I traced my mandala pattern and used my wood burner to outline the pattern details.  Colored pencils finish this project bring a bright rainbow of hues to my design.

Is it a carving?  Is it a wood burning?  Is it mandala work? Is it colored pencil art?


Many of our carving and pyrography ideas come directly from other fine art styles and media of works.  This Lantern fish is a permanent marking pen drawing on Bristol board, brightly accented with colored pencils.  It was the inspiration for the wood carving fish above.

Want a free pattern to try your own mixed media fish design.  Here’s one!  And I have two free pattern packs, ready to download, on my pattern website at

And … one more idea that fits better in the fish tank then in the standard hobby box.  You can use any pattern as the bases for your next practice board.  Just because you want a chance to check your tip temperature, establish your strokes and textures, or set your tonal value before you work on your main project doesn’t mean that practice board needs to be a boring, useless grid design.

Have fun!     ~Lora

Free 2022 Spring/Summer Pattern Packs

 Two New Freebies!
Available by download from my pattern website home page
Available in JPG and TIF formats


Free 2022 Spring Pattern Pack
Posted on my Pattern Website


Free 2022 Summer Pattern Pack
Posted on my Pattern Website

New ideas for wood carving, pyrography, wood burning, relief carving, journaling, scrapbook work and more.

Coloring Wood Carving, Pyrography & Gourd Projects

Painting Wood, Water Colors, Colored Pencils, Marking Pens


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Adult Coloring – Colored Pencil Application
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Colored Pencil Pyrography
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Selling Your Finished Work – Art and Craft Shows
Copyright, Can I sell my finished projects?
Lora Irish Copyright Article
How to Download

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