Volume3 Issue1, January, 1999

Woodcarver Ezine
Back Issues
Carvers' Companion Gateway

Chinese Fire Works

Fine Line Portraiture by Ken Li

Page Two

by Kathleen Menendez

Manchurian Woman with Flower
by Ken Li

Pyrograph Portrait on Wood Panel, 1997

Photograph and scan by the artist

This Mhan or Manchurian portrait is another piece in the collection of ethnic groups. The Mhan nationality has a population of 4.3 million who live mainly in the northeastern part of China. Like the Han nationality, the Mhan mostly speak Mandarin, the most commonly spoken Chinese language. The customs and dress of the Mhan people are extremely formal.

Although today Ken is a self-employed pyrographer and tutor/translator of English, he was a Physics major back in the days of the Great Cultural Revolution of China that spanned the decade between 1966-1976 when he was studying at the Chinese University of Science and Technology. Reflecting the political climate of the times, all of the departments there, which have since become institutes, were in the science fields.

That period was a difficult time in China, and Ken, because of having relatives and a "capitalist" mother living abroad, belonged to one of seven groups that were particularly singled out for scrutiny. He recounts that even dating was a problem because many of the young women he met were wary of going out with someone in his precarious political situation.

Young Dong Woman

By Ken Li, 1998

Pyrograph portrait on basswood panel,
29 x 23 cm
after a photo taken by the artist last year

Young woman of the ethnic Dong group

Photograph and scan by the artist

The silver lining to Ken's cloud appeared in the form of a letter that came to him from a former student Fu Xiao Hong (Ken had taught her class a basic course of electricity and electronic engineering at one point when he was at the East China Petroleum Institute in Shandong Province) inviting him to pay her a visit if he ever went to Beijing. To Ken, the letter was heavensent. His mother's arrival from Indonesia soon provided the opportunity of a visit to Xiao Hong in Beijing where they fell in love. He married Xiao Hong in 1984, the same year he moved to Shenzhen.

Yao Woman
by Ken Li, 1997

Pyrograph Portrait on basswood panel, 20 x 29 cm

Young woman of the ethnic Yao group
After oil painting by Mr.Ho Yimin, former President of the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Ho (Mme. Deng Shu) are famous artists in China who executed the drawing for most of China's paper money including the 100 yuan bill.

Ken met them in 1966 when he was discriminated against everywhere for his overseas relations. Their honesty and kindness were most appreciated by Ken. They have been good friends ever since.

Photograph and scan by the artist

Chinese Woman
by Ken Li

Pyrograph Portrait on Wood Panel, 1997

Photograph and scan by the artist

Ethnic Portraits Collection

In answer to my questions regarding what seems to be a growing collection of pyrograph portraits of young women in the traditional dress of various regions, Ken explained that China is a big family of 56 nationalities. Han is the largest group, followed by Zhuang, Hui (a Muslim group), Zhang (Tibetans are mostly Zhang people), Miao, Kazak, Mhan (also known as Manchurian), Dong, Li, Bai, Jing, Meng (also known as Mongolian), etc. Each of these ethnic nationalities or groups, which are spread all over China, has its own culture. China's government takes some measures to respect their beliefs and preserve their distinct cultural identities. Marriage between the groups is discouraged. Universities and colleges of the respective nationalities have been set up in the provinces where those ethnic groups live.

Because of differing customs from one region to another, Ken also noted that in some tourist centers like Guilin, unusual wedding ceremonies and other celebrations of certain ethnic groups have become tourist attractions. Although significant improvements have taken place over the past twenty years in behalf of these ethnic groups, their living conditions are still relatively poor especially in remote areas.

Ken hopes to create a collection of Chinese minority nationalities. He explained that when he sees girls from the countryside in their ethnic dress, he is taken with their pure and honest demeanor. Their beauty, he says, is enhanced by their subtle, plain, but natural look. Their uniform traditional dress is quite different from modern cosmetics and fashion and makes them look beautifully less sophisticated.

An Eagle Would Be An Eagle

by Ken Li, 1998

Great Eagle pyrograph on a basswood panel
Done at the time of and in honor of President Clinton's recent visit to China

Photograph and scan by the artist

Welcome Home, Hong Kong!
by Ken Li

Allegorical Pyrograph on Unfinished Wood Panel, 46 x 54 cm

Pose inspired by a photo in a magazine;
flower symbolizing Hong Kong came from artist's yard.

This work was shown in the Shenzhen Art Exhibition Hall at the time of Hong Kong's recent return to PR China. Its display prompted the artist's admission to the Shenzhen Artists Assn.

Photograph and scan by the artist

A New Invitation to Beijing!

Ken received a letter from his friend Tu Duobin in Beijing, suggesting that he and all of the new found group of pyros of the International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) should take part in the next expo to be held in Beijing late August this year for the CHINA ART EXPOSITION '99. Tu had told the exposition's general manager Mr. Guo Lu about our pyroworks and Mr. Guo enthusiastically invited participation from IAPA for this coming August!

A trip to Beijing for the exposition would also mean taking advantage of the opportunity to do some touring to that most famous site--The Great Wall of China, as well as many other beautiful and historic sites in and around the city of Beijing, such as the Forbidden City, the Great Hall of the People, Tiananmen Gate, Tiananmen Square, and the splendorous Lama Temple. (The link here takes you to a website that tells about all of these sites and shows some pictures, too.)

The Beijing show is a fine arts juried show (meaning transparencies would have to be sent in advance and approved) that provides a standard 9 m sq (10 sq ft) booth consisting of an open front and three walls, each 2.5 m tall (about 8 ft 2 in tall) and each about 3 meters from left to right (about 10 ft wide). The floor space could be utilized for display as well perhaps in the form of glass cases for 3D objects. The booth fee is about $1,000. (there is no commission) and a 14 percent tax is levied on all sold works. There is no tax on unsold works. Plans are underway to accommodate both large and small exhibits (partial booth space for a proportionate fee). Sponsorship is also being researched.

Ken excitedly passed on the good news to the group, saying:

It would be a chance for us to meet and to demonstrate our works. You know...Chinese people adore western arts, and there are a lot of foreign people from all over the world in Beijing, too. If you all come, I will be your interpreter. Think of it, we all meet together, taking pictures on the Great Wall!

Next Feature: "Pyrography Decorating Musical Instruments"

A medley of musical instruments
decorated in pyrography
by a chorus of talented artists

Last Feature: "Pyrography with Relief Carving
by Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson "

Expressions of Whimsy and Satire in Multimedia Art Works


China beckons! Be part of the CHINA ART EXPO '99 this August!. Look for more information below under "Of Interest"in Ken Li's reference and the one following.

Excitement is mounting for an International Pyrography Exhibit still in the planning stages for this spring in Washington, DC. Link for more information. Your participation and collaboration would be most welcome in this exciting, first-time ever event!

Three pyrographers have put pyro-chat rooms on their websites: Drop by for a visit to Bubba's Pyro Club belonging to Rodney Earle and Kris Kirkland'sPyro-Crafters Unite chat room, as well as the most recent one by Melody McFann, who like Kris, started a chat room in an effort to facilitate IAPA meetings. (The geocities chat room has been problematic.)

Share your ideas, questions, and comments with your fellow pyros at The Front Desk Pyro Forum.

The Victorian Touring Collection is a collection of Australian and international work touring in various places in the Australian State of Victoria throughout most of this year.

The International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) is up and running since March '98 with internet meetings on some Saturday afternoons (if you're in North, Central or South America; that translates to Saturday night if you're in Europe or Africa, and Sunday mornings if you're in Asia or Australia). If you'd like to join in, just check out the Cafe Flambe listing on the Directory page of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

The E-Museum of Pyrographic Art--a virtual monument to the art of pyrography present and past. See work by Dino Muradian, Mixo Sydenham, Sophia Albu Ionita, Al Chapman, Jarea Art Studio, Marcia Wilson, Ken Li, and many others, plus antiques, books, and tools. Visit the Children's Hall, too.

Remember, if you are a pyrographer or a collector of pyrographic art, come share your favorite masterpieces (with just a photo or scan), 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 or collection in pyrography.

--Kathleen Menendez

*Of Interest:*

Ken Li does not have his own website as yet, but you can see more of his works in the Ken Li Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art. There are still more works by Ken Li being shown in the Pyro Cafe Down Under. If you would like to contact Ken to discuss his work or ask questions about the Beijing Art Exposition this coming August 1999, or just to say hello, you can contact him by e-mail at: szkenli@public.szptt.net.cn

If you would like to find out more about the CHINA ART EXPOSITION '99 that will take place in Beijing this August of 1999, go to the website linked here to see pictures of what last year's EXPO was like. You can also contact the general manager Mr.Guo Lu. Besides these links, here are some particulars written out for your future reference:

Mr.Guo Lu
General Manager
Exhibition Center
China Cultural and Art General Co.

Tel: (010)64923842
Fax: (010)64951006

Website: http://www.cncac.com/

E-mail: cncacart@midwest.com.cn

Note: As it becomes available, information will be placed on the bulletin board of the E-Museum, so please check there, too. This is a very special opportunity for pyrographers around the world to show their work as a group.

An International Pyrography Exhibit is in the planning stages for Washington, DC, USA for this spring. If you think you would be interested in participating in a special show highlighting pyrography and designed to be both cultural and commercial, follow the links for more information.

The Northern Virginia Carvers have in recent years included pyrography as one of the competition categories in their annual carving show. This year's winners were Ann Coquelin and Rita Ferrara in Advanced with an honorable mention for Vera Zurndorfer. In Intermediate, Marshall Burgess and Jeff Fleisher took ribbons,and in Novice class, Marilen Recinto. There is another category in the show that is called Ornamental, and Ann Coquelin took a second place with her pyrocarved box in that category. Sy Wengrovitz does pyroengraved ornamentation on his woodcarvings of clothes. He also took an honorable mention in the Ornamental Advanced and some first place Advanced ribbons in Relief Carving and Special categories. It should also be mentioned that Sy was the winner of a first prize at the prestigious Artscape show in Baltimore, Maryland last summer. Congratulations to all!

Artist and Scientist Clayton Bailey's website has many interesting pages; however, two of them deal specifically with pyrographs--of a very different type from what we have heretofore seen. I'll let your intellectual curiosity take over so you can see for yourself what his pyrosphere and solar pyrographs are all about.

Mushroom pyrography is the unusual specialty of wildlife artist Marie Heerkens. Learn about her interesting work with this exotic material and see the results of her artistic efforts.

Multi-skilled specialty artist Bob Morris of carousel fame has a new link he would like to share and a new collection of work that he has added to his website--definitely worth a return visit and a new bookmark.

Anna Wilson invites you to her new website "on an adventure in the Canadian wilderness with Wildlife In Wood."

Mixo Sydenham has added still more artists and a whole new "Woodies" section, as he calls it, to his Pyro Cafe Down Under featuring decorative pyrographic work on wood objects.

Pyrographer and painter Kris Kirkland has been working very hard to get her website up and running with all sorts of features, including the pyro chat room mentioned earlier above. She has recently displayed her pyroworks on her website. So, drop by and see her work and say hello while you're there.

New displays await you in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art including work by David Kreider who also has his own new website linked to his name here, does pyrograph portraits and landscapes subtly enhanced with color; he also works a lot in pyroengraved calligraphy. His themes are in great part drawn from the Middle East and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the United States.

Another striking display in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art is that of Gabriela Lezcano and Alejandro Veneziani who work together as a team doing pyrographs with acrylic color on leather in autochthonous themes of Argentina. They have their own website as well, linked to their names here.

Also in the Portraits and Paintings Hall is a posthumous tribute to the great artist and architect Benjamín Cañas. During his abstract period, he combined pyroengraving with painting on wood panels.

In the Decorative Arts Hall are remarkable portraits of Blues musicians on boxes by Lorraine Zaloom and another new exhibit there is that of

Opie and Linda O'Brien of Burnt Offerings Studio, another couple team, this one of artists and lyricist/musician who work in pyrography on gourds. The next feature article will highlight that work of theirs that is specifically to do with music and pyrography decorating musical instruments.

Don't miss the Antique Hall with a new piece in the private collection of John Moore--an extraordinary Hungarian pyroengraving on a wood panel dated 1610.

Congratulations to artist Robert McGehee, recent addition to the E-Museum. He reports that a piece of his, which is a pyrograph on wood entitled "Brotherhood of the Circle," was accepted at the Santa Fe Classic--an annual juried competition of national and international artists held at the William Vincent Fine Arts Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

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.

Thanks to meeting so many talented pyro-artists through the internet, the year-end also marks the completion of the first year of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, which opened its cyber doors on January first of 1998. It is dedicated to pyrographers and their unique art form in all its myriad manifestations. This past spring the Cafe Flambe of the E-Museum hosted the very first meeting of the International Association of Pyrographic Artists, which has since met on many occasions primarily for the planning of real world pyrographic exhibits.

©1999 Kathleen M. Garvey Menendez