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Pyrography and Kids!

by Kathleen Menendez

Exploring Pyrography With Children

The Heuples' House in Virginia

Pyroengraved wood checkerboard
with woodburned
checkers in the form of a maple leaf (not shown)
by Jantje Mulder, Andrea Mulder-Slater, and Geoff Slater

Photograph by Jantje Mulder

Jarea Art Studio

Self-taught folk artist Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder started Jarea Art Studio in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, about 8 years ago with her daughter Andrea, who was just finishing art school then. The name for the mother-daughter venture--Jarea--is from their two first names: JAntje and AndREA. They are fortunate to live and work in the same place, since they have a large studio-showroom in their home.

Besides their own work at Jarea, which is principally on floorcloths and pyrography, teaching children--art in general, including pyrography--is an important part of the Jarea Art Studio work. Artist Geoff Slater, whose focus is mainly on fine art drawing and painting, joined the studio in June of 1997 at the time of his marriage to Andrea. Above is an example of a typical checkerboard--this one customized for a client--produced at Jarea Art Studio from the combined effort of the three partners for sale over the internet.

Fishing Box

Pyroengraving on Wood Box, 5 in. x 5 in. x 3-1/4 in.

by Jantje Mulder

Folk Art Poker Work

Photograph by Jantje Mulder

Jantje Mulder

Jantje (who pronounces her name Yahnt'-ya) has firsthand knowledge of pyrography for children. She first tried her hand at folk art poker work back in her native Holland when she herself was only eight years old; her unlikely mentor was the kind blacksmith on the corner where she lived, who, when he wasn't busy working on horseshoes and wagonwheels, heated pokers to red hot over the blazing fire in his shop and burned images of windmills and sailboats on wood. These themes and others that remind her of home in The Netherlands are still some of Jantje's favorites, too.

Pictured above and below are both wood boxes done, like the checkerboard, in folk art poker work by Jantje. Because of its natural spontaneity, her charming folk art style is very appropriate for the children to emulate.


Pyroengraving on Wood Box
by Jantje Mulder

Photograph by Jantje Mulder

Here Are the Kids!!!

Andrea Mulder-Slater Working With
An Attentive Group of Children

Photograph by Ian McInroy

While still in art school, Andrea Mulder-Slater started teaching through the MacLaren Art Centre, a local public art gallery. Now, in addition to her own work and classes in Jarea, she teaches in many school classrooms as part of an artist in the schools program. She also gives classes through the city, at the local college summer camp, and for various local groups, including Girl Guides and Candlelighters (children with life-threatening illnesses).

Town Hall, done in 1996
by David Pascos at age 10
Pyroengraved Wood Plaque

Photograph by Jantje Mulder

Class Structure

Jantje, too, has taught workshops at the local gallery (the MacLaren Art Centre) and for the City, as well as at their studio. She and Andrea worked together teaching Saturday morning classes at MacLaren for two years.

For their pyrography classes, Jantje and Andrea work in tandem to provide the children close supervision and lots of attention. For general art classes, students can begin at 4 or 5 years of age at Jarea; however, to start pyrography, the age level is from 8 or 9 and up.

by Nicholas Pascos,
age 10

Pyroengraved wood plaque

Photograph by Jantje Mulder

For pyrography, even with the two of them teaching together, usually no more than six students are in a class (although they have taught up to ten at a time). In contrast, for other types of art classes, such as painting, drawing, and printmaking, they can teach up to 35 or 40 children at a time (in a school classroom) or 15 to 20 at a time (at the MacLaren Art Centre or at their own Jarea Art Studio).

Jantje and Andrea have introduced pyrography as part of an "all around" art class and have also offered classes just for pyrography. When pyrography is introduced as part of an "all around" art class, they might devote two or three weekly two-hour sessions to it. Generally, though, an introduction to pyrography will be a workshop accomplished in an afternoon or two.

Jantje with David Fancie

Photograph by Christine Fancie

Showing The Kids How to Use the Tools

For her own work, Jantje generally has three units going at the same time. She uses Lenk tools that vary from 750 degrees on the tip to 1300 degrees. The children use the same tool, but only the unit that doesn't exceed 750 degrees on the tip.

In all but one case so far, the children have never tried woodburning before learning with Jantje and Andrea. The children work on soft white Northern Pine pieces that are prepared ahead of time for them at the studio. Depending on what project the kids show most interest in pursuing, Jantje and Andrea might offer classes working on a plaque, a box, or a gameboard.

Jantje and Andrea don't provide ready-made designs, because the kids have their own individual likes and dislikes. As Andrea says, "Everything from flowers to hockey players appear on the wood." They help the students go through a process of sketching out a design that will transfer nicely to the wood, and work along with them, encouraging them to "keep it simple" the first time around, so they won't get discouraged.

James Bond
by Adrian Pascos, age 9

Photograph by Jantje Mulder

Working with a pencil on paper and working with a burning tool on wood are very different experiences, and it takes the kids a while to get used to holding the handle and maneuvering the tip. For most, the way they hold a pencil is the way they tend to grab for the pyrography tool. Jantje and Andrea watch the kids closely at first to catch the ones who are likely to have the most difficulty and give them more attention. For working with all kids, Jantje and Andrea offer this fantastic advice:

Practice quite a bit first
before the tool is plugged in.

Although Jantje and Andrea find the natural look of the wood the most beautiful, for those students who wish to add color to their completed pyrograph, they show them how to mix up a "tempera paint stain" to apply to the wood. Finally, they usually seal all the pyrographs--with or without color--with a water-based sealer.

Michael Fancie, age 9
Jarea Art Studio Class,1998

In rapt attention of
Jantje's instructions
on pyroengraving
a wood
practice plaque

Photograph by Christine Fancie

So What Do The Kids Think About It?

How popular is pyrography with these children? Andrea says, "They really get a kick out it. All of the children we have taught have really enjoyed themselves." Why do they find it interesting? "The fact that it is "different" and that it's something their friends at school probably haven't tried before," Andrea says. She adds, "One student expressed the feeling well when he said, 'I like that I'm making a mark that can't be erased or painted over.'"

When the kids take a workshop at Jarea Art Studio, they receive a pyrography tool to take home with them. Andrea says, "They all express an interest in continuing, and for those who have parents who are willing to sit down and work with them, they do continue."

by David Pascos,
age 12

Pyroengraved wood plaque

Photograph by Jantje Mulder

Thank you so much Jantje, Andrea, and kids for your enjoyable tour of Jarea Art Studio and the kids' classes there. We hope you kids do continue, and we hope Jantje and Andrea keep up this admirable effort teaching the kids to have fun and express themselves through their art and using the medium of pyrography. You're all doing a great job!

Forward to Part II of Pyrography and Kids:

Raffles Girls' School, Singapore--outstanding work by Christine Tan's teenage art students.

Forward to Part III of Pyrography and Kids:

A quote from a Welsh scoutmaster on teaching pyrography to scouts

The creative school projects of some children living in Dakar, Senegal.

Pyrograffiti Section:
- Important Bulletin Board Items
- Linked references for this 3-part article
- Related Items of Interest

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