Artist Donna Ruff uses fire to etch gorgeous lace-like patterns into disused books and telephone directories. Using a variety of burning tools, the artist carefully singes intricate patterns into the pages, slowly removing pieces bit by bit. The resulting works bring new life to the recycled pages through the process of destruction.
Ruff’s work pushes the boundary of traditional paper art. Rather than cutting, collaging or layering, the artist turns to fire. Simply calling her process “drawing with fire,” Ruff manipulates the force of heat with woodburning and soldering tools. The positive and negative spaces created form patterns and paper lace.
Ruff’s key to controlling the fire is to first transfer drawings to the pages, then burn away the lines with a very slow burning process. This enables her to manipulate the burning tools to only remove small areas at a time, resulting in the intricate detailed areas. Meshed with the dark mark caused by the burned paper, the pieces are both colored and cut using fire.
Ruff has expanded her work to include linen and water color papers and incorporate gold leaf, adding a gilded contrast to the damage from the flame. Ruff’s pieces make the viewer acutely aware of the passage of time and the destruction of cast-off objects, but she also uncovers hidden beauty in these familiar paper materials through her lace-like burned patterns.