Ever heard about Mandalas? I bet you have. They are very famous nowadays for the adult colouring books, because they are relaxing patterns to paint on. The word itself is Sanskrit for “circle” and it represents the universe. They are used as an aid to meditation, as something to look to or to contemplate as you meditate. It’s usually a round pattern, but it can include symmetric lines and some squares.

This project involves a mandala. Why? I’ll explain in a bit.

Here are the materials you are going to need:
  • Print of a mandala
  • Cork trivet (for the purpose of this exercise I cheated and got mine at IKEA, but go ahead and try to find some vintage ones at your parents’ home)
  • Wood burning tool
  • Pins

If you want, you can draw your mandala. As it is relaxing to paint mandalas it can also be relaxing to draw them. But I’ll be honest: I cannot draw to save my life, so I printed a mandala from the internet and worked from there. I matched the size of the cork trivet to the mandala and cut the paper around so I could see the limit of the trivet when I put the print over it.

If you are still wondering why are we choosing a mandala, I’ll explain. It’s true I could’ve chosen any other motive to burn into the cork trivet, but since crafting is kind of a meditation to me, I thought a mandala would be a good choice… also, it works perfectly with a round trivet. You’ll see!

So what we are doing here is turning a boring round cork trivet into a beautiful object that you take pleasure looking at, when you are setting the table. Plus, if it gets you a few “wow, you made that?” it can’t hurt. Right?

All right, let’s go. So, before you “take up arms”, remember that a wood burning tool is not a toy and that you can get hurt by burning your skin. Also, beware of your surroundings and be careful not to start a fire. Other than that, use it with caution and protect your eyes from the fumes of the burning cork. I got my tool as a gift for Christmas, but you can find one online or in tool or crafts stores.

The mandala I chose is simple and has a thick trace, so it’s most likely to look better and with less imperfections. But if you are confident about your skills, you can choose a more detailed one. Anyway, you have to accept a certain amount of imperfections when you are crafting. It’s handmade stuff, human-made even and humans are not perfect, just be okay with your imperfections, they are your perfect signature.

I started by putting the cork trivet on a table and the print of the mandala on top of it. I use pins to keep the paper in place while I burn through it. Since we are working with paper it burns quite easily so you can reach the cork underneath while you burn. Every now and then, the paper will get red, so I advise you to have a little bit of water close by to splash if necessary. I never had to, though. It usually goes out very quickly and it doesn’t ruin the work.

Work from the outside, going in. Do the trace on the outside of the mandala first and keep going in until you reach the centre. That way you won’t have the pins in the way of the burning traces and you’ll be able to see how the drawing is looking. A trick to make it more comfortable to burn is to blow on it, as you burn, this makes the fumes go away from your face and it will “clean” away the small ashes, leaving the drawing more perfect. I say “clean”, because this obviously creates some dust that you’ll have to clean (for real) later. But where’s the fun in not making a mess?

When the burning is done, you can wash the cork trivet to remove all the loose burn bits, or you can use it straight away. Since it’s not going to be used to put food directly on it, it’s not necessary to wash it right away.

Cork trivet mandala

Now you just have to take this craft as an excuse, go ahead and invite some friends over for dinner and surprise them with a table set a little bit more exquisite!