Ballroom Thieves’ Devin Mauch emerged from lockdown as an ex-drummer with a new artistic passion
Devin Mauch ’11 shares with Lauren Daley ’05 of The Boston Globe how he explored his art through pyrography during the pandemic.
This article was first published on The Boston Globe.
In 2020, Devin Mauch answered the call of the wild.
Venues were shuttered, the world locked down, and for the first time in his adult life, Mauch wasn’t drumming in Boston-grown folk-rock band The Ballroom Thieves.
Instead he tapped into his inner Thoreau. The Portland, Maine, resident ventured solo into the wilds of his home state on days-long expeditions, from thick woods to craggy shores, mountains to isolated islands.
“For a long time, my full-time commitment, everything I put my energy into revolved around the band. It was the first time that I could hone in on myself. I felt reconnected with nature,” said Mauch, 33. “It was a defining year for my art.”
He’s not referring to music but pyrography, the art of burning images, often into wood. He’d dabbled in the craft since middle school.
This summer, Mauch amicably left the band to focus on The Wild Electric, a brand pulling “inspiration from adventure.” You might browse his online gallery for wood art, a branded leather coaster, T-shirt, or print, or to commission work.
Scrolling @thewildelectric’s Instagram, see a peregrine falcon burnt into birch, mountain and forest in its body. Or mountainscapes, starry nights burnt into a mahogany guitar, an antique rowing oar, vintage skis from the 1940s. There’s a wolf howling at the moon, pines growing in his neck, a crack in the slab making for a lunar contour, uncountable black dots burning a night sky.
“I’ve always felt a connection to wolves,” he says with a laugh. “If someone forced me to pick a spirit animal,” it would be a wolf.
Pyrography “is therapy for me, honestly,” Mauch says. “It’s alone time that I never prioritized before. That’s not something that comes your way when you’re on the road. [It’s] been really good for my mental health. I could just be burning dots for 10 hours alone, but there’s a really peaceful way I experience that.”
As for his process — which you can watch on Instagram — he’ll typically start by sketching on the wood itself.
“I’m often starting off with an animal, building landscapes within them, based off of a recent trip I’ve done,” he said. He uses a Colwood Olympiad burner to sear in the image. “Drawing with fire takes time. The biggest burn I’ve done was 45 hours.”
Mauch hails from New York’s Hudson Valley. His parents gave him a wood-burning kit when he was a kid. “It was more a child’s crafting set, nothing serious, but I was exposed to it. After college [at Stonehill], living in Boston, I really dove in.”
During the pandemic, he “did a deep dive into solo backpacking and camping. It helped me remember how interconnected everything is. I was inspired to weave different aspects of the natural world together.”
He played his last Ballroom Thieves shows in July, but “can’t say I’ll never go back to music in some form. They’re continuing on; I’m going to keep exploring this. Right now, this is really putting a fire in my belly.”