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Antique Pyrography

by Kathleen Menendez

Antique Pyrography, Page 3

Collecting Pyrography, Conclusion
Pyrograffiti: E-Museum Announcement, References from Article, Items of Interest, Bio

Collecting Pyrography

Any discussion of antiques has to include the collection of them. Collecting antiques is a passion for many, and according to the Smyths, pyrography is a very promising collectible at this time. In an amusing anecdote in their book, The Burning Passion, they tell how they got started collecting antique American pyrography while looking for just the right gift for a friend.

In a recent conversation for this article, Richard went on to recount their success at a Manhattan show where they set up a 20-foot booth displaying an impressive collection of pyrography. Never before had the antique-collecting public met with such an array of pyrography--it was a sensation.

The Smyths also noted that because pyrography has been very overlooked in the past, it is easier to acquire at reasonable prices. At the same time, the prices are going up as this neglected art form is starting to be discovered. It is still at a point, however, where collecting could prove a lucrative investment as well as a pleasurable activity.

Curious household niceties,
Pyrographed to enhance the
proper home of the Victorian era
Australia, early 1900's

Two round tablets tied together
marked "Doyleys"
Used to store the little doilies that were so much a part
of every household of that period

Handy little set for brushing the crumbs
from the table between courses

Both sets from the private collection of
Mixo Sydenham, Australia

Photographs by Mixo Sydenham

On the other side of the world and down under, pyrographer Mixo Sydenham has a personal interest in antique pyrography because of pieces in his family inherited from a great aunt who had a shop with pyrography in the 1930's. Mixo, already making his living creating today's pyrographic art works--destined, no doubt, to be treasures for some future generation of antique collectors--is not failing to notice that pyrographic art in general (that is, antique and new) is becoming more recognized and more coveted. He, too, has seen the "pyrograffiti" on the wall regarding this promising trend and has actively begun collecting antiques as well.

Conclusion.It was not the intent of this article to provide more than a random look at the history of pyrographic art. As you can see, there are still many, many gaps in our pyrographic art history. Fortunately, we now have an e-museum website where we can start gathering art work in pyrography from the past and the present, with the realistic hope of real-world exhibits at the national and international level in the near future.

Next Issue: "Pyrography: Variations"

An Interview with Al Chapman on Some Facets of Fire Art

Last Issue: "Pyrogravure Coloree ,"

Pyroengraved art with color by Sophia Albu Ionita.


It is a great pleasure to invite the readers of the WWWoodc@rvers E-Zine to a sneak preview of the world's first

E-Museum of Pyrographic Art

Please visit this unique virtual edifice and monument to the art of pyrography present and past. See work by Dino Muradian, Mixo Sydenham, Sophia Albu Ionita and others, plus antiques, books, and tools.

Although still very new--watch out for wet paint!--there is already a substantial collection; however, many of the pieces already in the e-museum's collection are still in the virtual attic and are being prepared for hanging, so come back often to see new arrivals on display. When you see the floor plan (available soon), you will realize the scope of the project, and the directory that is already available will offer further explanation. There you will see which collections are already displayed and which ones are in the planning stages.

Remember, if you are a pyrographer or a collector, all you need is a good photograph of your artwork to become a part of this unique project. Come share your favorite masterpieces (with just a photo), and network with the rest of the community of pyrographic artists and collectors.

Please write me an e-note and tell me about your work in pyrography. Your comments and your participation are most welcome. Let me know if you have further information on any of the questions raised in this article on antique pyrography. Also, put your e-mail address on the list to be notified of the first meeting of the international pyrographers association. Note that there has yet to be a first meeting; the obstacle has been one of finding a suitable chat room where everyone has access (across platforms and from behind firewalls).

--Kathleen Menendez

Of Interest:

Thanks to K. J. Mixo Sydenham of Ellinbank, Victoria in Australia for many of the photos of antique pyrography shown here and in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

Mixo calls himself 'a man on a mission'. He has devoted 1997 to promoting acceptance of pyrography as an entity within its own right. His primary objective is to obtain equal opportunities for Australia's pyros to exhibit, promote, teach, and market their efforts to those that other officially supported and commercially recognized visual arts media currently enjoy.?

To this end, he has organized The Victorian Pyrography Touring Collection, a first for Australia (and quite possibly the world). To inaugurate the Collection, The Old Cheese Factory at 34 Homestead Rd., Berwick is sponsoring a four-day Pyrography Expo', 22-25 January 1998. In February, the Collection will reside in Paris Stavrinidis's Clarke St. Gallery in Brunswick.

Just bestowed with 'The Pick of the Net Award' from Melbourne-based SOFCOM AUSTRALIA, Mixo's website The Pyro Cafe Gallery now exhibits work by five of Victoria's leading pyrographers (or "pyros"):

Paris Stavrinidis from Brunswick, taught by his mother in his native Greece, has distinctive styles of presentation, one of which is monochrome with intricate textures and the other delicate coloration blended with extremely fine burnt outlines. The latter is similar in technique to Australia's poker work from the medium's popular period in Australia in the 1920's and 30's. Paris and his wife Jenny manage a gallery in Brunswick.

Michael Vincent Rori of Ballarat is managed by Tom Byron (also manager to other renowned Australian artists). Mike works in pyrography on leather. In addition, he has developed a new technique for producing limited edition prints of his pyrographs directly onto canvas. (This technique will soon be available to other pyros.) Mike is also setting up an arts school in Ballarat for street kids.

Denise Needham of Hoppers Crossing, is in the process of producing her own instructional video, designed primarily to assist and encourage beginners in pyrography. A key exhibitor in the Pyromania '96 exhibition in Melbourne, Denise is known for her pyrography on table tops and plaques.

Jan Crawford from Bairnsdale, recent winner of prestigious awards at the '97 Royal Canberra Show's inaugural Pyrography category, she is co-manager of the Woodheap Gallery at Bruthen.

Ross Minor of Canada, a newcomer to Mixo's website, but with over 2,500 works of art to his credit, definitely not a newcomer to pyrography.

Thanks to artist Sharon Garvey for her thoughtfulness and special effort to take many of the photos of antique pyrography for this article and the e-museum, with a special thanks to the remarkable Anna North Coit of North Stonington, CT, who facilitated Sharon's visit to the historical society there where the gracious nonagenarian is still a very active and vital member of the community.

Thanks to pyrographer Sheri Hopping Myron who provided the quotes from the magazines, and for her assitance researching some of the questions raised in this article.

The Burning Passion by Carole and Richard Smyth is a delightful and very informative book aimed especially at collectors of American turn-of-the-century pyrography. It even includes a helpful price guide to aid beginning collectors in their quest of what the authors term, "the last great American antique collectible." Whether you plan to collect antique American pyrography from the turn of the century or not, it is a worthwhile reference to add to your library. According to one chain bookstore, this book is out of print; however, The Burning Passion, Antique and Collectible Pyrography, is still available through the authors themselves. Send a check or money order for $19.95 plus $3.00 shipping to Carole Smyth Antiques, P.O. Box 2068, Huntington, NY 11743. (You'll need to add 8.5 percent sales tax if you're a New York resident.)

A worthwhile reference book for your collection is a lovely work on turn-of-the-century Australian pyrography, quoted on page one of this article and cited once before in this series. It is Australian Poker Work, A Guide, by Helena Walsh. (A source for this book in the United States is Jim Widess at The Caning Shop.)

Bob Boyer's book, The Amazing Art of Pyrography, comes highly recommended. Despite a certain unevenness in textual content and obvious commercial intent, this is, nevertheless, a very comprehensive work and a laudable effort. Bob Boyer has done something here that no one has done before in the way of works on pyrography. His is a large, hard-cover book that attempts to expose the reader to pyrography of every kind imaginable and includes generous portions of "how to" information as well. Anyone interested in this art form will want to own this book, which you will undoubtedly see cited here again in the future as we look at still more types of pyrography.

Do you remember Howard Finster, the folk artist who works in pyrography? (He was featured in the May 1997 issue of the WWWoodc@rvers E-Zine.) Look for his salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art in the Traditional and Folk Art Hall.

His family has now put up The Official Howard Finster Website to sell his work, souvenirs, and other folk art by Finster family members. This link will take you directly to the art work.

The Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History, Lima, Peru is where the mate cup was found. Text is in Spanish.

Thanks to The Boulder Museum of History for the photos of their recently acquired pyrographic kit dating from the beginning of this century. If you're in Colorado, stop by and see the historic Harbeck-Bergheim House displaying Boulder's history from the conquest of the American West to the beginning of the space-age. This museum is part of the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries (CARL) and has many of its photos digitized for access by patrons from across the nation. It is located at 1206 Euclid Avenue, Boulder, Colorado 80302-7224, tel. (303) 449-3464.

Essay by Claudio Cavatrunci of the National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography--known as the Pigorini Museum for its founder Luigi Pigorini (1842-1925)--on the Moche civilization of Peru. Text is in Italian. (Note that on the homepage of this website there is an English language version available on the history of the museum itself.)

This site contains several beautiful examples of period antiques, including the remarkable piece with pyroengraved ivory (shown on the first page of this article) from the collection of The Estevez Museum of Argentina. Text is in Spanish.

Some turn-of-the-century Russian pyrography can be found in the little Russian dacha museum on the estate of the late Marjorie Merriweather-Post in Washington, D.C.

This website illustrates a curious piece of Victorian furniture--a conversation piece chair-table with some very nice pyroengraving. It is a query from someone who owns this chair to an antiques appraiser and the advice of the appraiser.

This website is an antiques catalogue and the piece you should look at here is a Viennese sewing table (catalogue number 495) dated at between 1820 and 1830 and adorned in poker work. These early nineteenth century pieces of poker art are very rare.

Still another place on this same website, this time showing, catalogue number 482, an Austrian sofa and chair, part of a set of sofa and six chairs, upholstered on walnut frame with poker work, c. 1820. Again, these are pieces you won't often see.

Another website with a query, this time from someone who owns a settee with Flemish Art to an antiques appraiser and the advice of the appraiser.

Same website with another query to the same antiques appraiser, this time from someone who owns a box with Flemish Art.

Dino Muradian Yes, it's really a photo of Dino--standing next to his lifesize pyrograph of horses!

Look for his work in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art in the Portraits and Paintings Hall.

His website has once again been updated with some significant new work. His custom humidors are now being displayed at a specialty site, linked here, in addition to his own.

The Author

Pyrographer Kathleen M. Garvey Menendez learned her pyrography techniques in Guatemala. Her sister, Artist Sharon H. Garvey later joined her there to form their company Pyrographics, and collaborate on a pyrography project designed to promote this art form in the United States with the help of the Navarro Pyrocarver--the pyrographic tool Kathleen represents.
This is the beginning of her second year writing articles for the WWWoodc@rvers E-Zine. She is immensely pleased that, thanks to a most gratifying year discovering so much pyrography and meeting so many talented pyro-artists through the internet, the e-museum of pyrographic art has been made possible.

©1997 Kathleen M. Garvey Menendez

Graphics thanks to Bimsan

Back to Page 1, Antique Pyrography A Look Into the Past of the Art of "Pyr," Just How Old Is This Ancient Art, Far and Wide As Well

Back to Page 2, Antique Pyrography The Advent of the Ladies Magazines, That Marvelous Invention--The Victorian Pyrographic Kit!, The Factories

Back to E-Zine Table of Contents