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Pyrographic Art on Musical Instruments

by Kathleen Menéndez

Page Two

Hourglass Mountain Dulcimer
by Robert (Harp) Corrigan, East-Wood Products

Pyroengraving on Wood Dulcimer, 1997

Photograph by the artist

East-Wood Products Studio

Robert (Harp) Corrigan says that mountain dulcimers are wonderfully fascinating instruments that are easy to learn and fun to play. Just like his famous harps at his East-Wood Products studio and workshop, Harp's dulcimers are custom handmade and decorated.

On How He Got His Nickname

Harp got started in his father's wood shop when he was only 10, and he's been a woodworker ever since. His father, a Colonel in the Air Force and a part-time woodworker, liked to build furniture; however, Harp's interests always leaned more toward small, decorative items.

In 1991, he saw a door harp at a friend's house. Although he was taken with the charming instrument, Harp was frustrated with the design: The clapper balls were hung on strings that tangled. Before long he was back in his workshop designing his own door harp of finely polished hardwood with clappers that were hung on dowels that wouldn't tangle. He soon started getting requests for those door harps, and he was in business.

Harp Corrigan At Work

Working on a Dulcimer

Robert (Harp) Corrigan
pyroengraving an hourglass mountain dulcimer
with a soundboard made of walnut and Baltic birch.
He uses "the most basic pyrography tool, a Wonder Pen by ATF."

Photograph and scan by the artist

Working on a Dulcimer

Robert (Harp) Corrigan
Pyroengraving a mountain dulcimer.
He also offers Sitka spruce tops and bottoms (the soundboards) on his harps and dulcimers. He uses a variety of hardwoods for the bodies of his instruments.

Photograph and scan by the artist

At some point he picked up, along with his nickname, a grand repertoire of instruments--Aeolian (Wind) Harps, then Celtic harps, Irish folk harps, mountain dulcimers, and now hammered dulcimers. Harp uses fretwork, chip carving, and pyrography to decorate many of his musical instruments and other specialty items like cigar humidors that he does on custom order. His work is now in most of the 50 states; his harps have also found their way to Canada, France, Australia, and Saudi Arabia.


Pyroengraved Decoration on Wood Dulcimer

by Robert (Harp) Corrigan, East-Wood Products

Photograph and scan by the artist

The dulcimer shown above was made of figured walnut and birch. Harp's wife Lin loves hummingbirds, so this one has scroll saw hummers for the lower sound holes "feeding" on flowering vines that were burned into the wood. The upper sound holes are flowers of the same vine, which runs the length of the sound box. This dulcimer has a hand-rubbed, natural oil finish with several coats of clear polyurethane applied for protection.

Aeolian Garden Harp
by Robert (Harp) Corrigan, East-Wood Products

This curious piece is a reproduction of a luxuriously elegant 17th Century French style Aeolian Garden Harp. Designed to be placed outside when entertaining on the terrace or in the garden, it has a triangular soundbox with vertical strings on all three sides and will sing regardless of wind direction.

The soundholes were cut with a fret saw, carved into 3-dimensional relief, and then pyrography was used to enhance the depth of the carving.

Photograph and scan by the artist

Aeolian Harp
by Robert (Harp) Corrigan, East-Wood Products

The handsome piece above is an 18th century English style Aeolian Harp. It is shown here with the hinged cover raised revealing the 3-dimensional carved Celtic Knot soundhole in the Walnut soundboard.

The pyroengraved inscription on the oak facade is a line from the poem "The Aeolian Harp" by Samuel Coleridge.

Photograph and scan by the artist


Artist Unknown

Pyroengraved Decoration
on a Wooden Instrument
from Mali in West Africa

Name of instrument, when pronounced in the French, is anomotopaeic to imitate the sound of the instrument--a sound something like "kuhza' kuhza'"

by Dino Muradian

Pyrograph of Mountain Lion on Unfinished Wood Guitar Body

Photograph and scan by the artist

This concludes our tour of some special musical instruments decorated in pyrography. There were many more fascinating musical instruments from around the world that could have been included such as an Aboriginal didgeridoo or a Persian bamboo flute.

Music is an extension of the human voice and spirit. In addition, throughout the ages, artists have been drawn to the visual beauty of the musical instrument itself and often portrayed musical instruments in their paintings. For them and all of us, a musical instrument holds a sort of magical symbolism because of the intrinsic beauty of the object itself and our association with the music we know that object can produce in the hands of a virtuoso. For some of us, the association is still greater, evoking memories of the pleasure an instrument provides when we ourselves produce music with it.

If artists like to paint musical instruments into their paintings, it only follows that decorative artists such as pyrographers would wish to adorn the object itself further enriching the audio-visual artistic experience.

Last Issue: "Chinese Fire Works:
Fine Line Portraiture by Ken Li"

See Ken Li's exquisite pyrographic work, read his unusual story, and learn about the exciting invitation for pyros worldwide to participate in this year's International Art Exposition in Beijing!


China beckons!

Pyros are joining together to have group representation at this August's China International Art Exposition of 1999. Click to find out how you can participate in this special project and unique opportunity.

The International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) is up and running since March 1998 with internet meetings on some Saturday afternoons (if you're in North, Central or South America; that translates to Saturday nights 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 Café Flambé listing on the Directory page of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art. The next meeting is scheduled for Saturday,
6 March at five o'clock EST.

Designed as a resource for pyrographers and collectors both, The E-Museum of Pyrographic Art is a virtual monument to the art of pyrography present and past. Visit the Portraits and Paintings Hall, the Decorative Art, Sculpture, Antique, and Folk and Traditional Art Halls, and even a Special and Children's Hall plus the Bookstore and Tools Exhibits. In addition to its own collection, the halls and salons of the E-Museum are linked and crosslinked to this series of pyro-articles and many, many websites; for this reason, it is truly becoming monumental in scope. A new bulletin board will inform of still more real world resources, including information on the International Exposition in Beijing this August 1999.

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 Menéndez

Of Interest:

Featured artists Linda and Opie O'Brien of Burnt Offerings Studio, have shown here their pyroengraved gourd and carved wood musical instruments; however, their gourd sculptures are worked in many ways, many more of which can be seen on their own wonderful Burnt Offerings Studio website and in their Burnt Offerings Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, as well.

New book Gourd Musical Instruments is at the publisher's and should be available in May. Judging by the first excellent and beautiful gourd book by Jim Widess and Ginger Summit, this one promises to be another big hit. It will even include an audio CD! More examples of work (visual and audio) from Burnt Offerings Studio will be highlighted in this new publication and the CD.

The November '98 issue of Crafts Report Magazine featured Linda and Opie O'Brien and two pyroengraved gourd sculptures from Burnt Offerings Studio. You can read a condensed version of that very informative and entertaining article and see guiro instrument "Mictlantecuhtli" on line. That particular sculpture is a representation of Mexican Day of the Dead figures.

The Day of the Dead is the Mexican equivalent of Halloween--both are folk holidays related to the religious holydays of All Saints Day (November first) when Catholic Christians honor their dead (to remember those saints who are not famous or canonized) and All Souls Day (November 2nd) when they honor and pray for their own deceased family members and friends. The Mexican holiday takes place on the first of November and reflects a mixture of Christian and Aztec customs.

Visit the website of artist woodworker Robert (Harp) Corrigan to learn more about his wonderful line of harps, dulcimers, and other wood products--including his latest endeavor, sports teams themes in pyroengraved intarsia works--made by hand and custom decorated in his East-Wood Products studio and workshop. (Beautiful musical background on your website, Harp!)

Always a favorite! Return for a visit to Dino Muradian's website for a tour of his beautiful repertoire of portraits, musical instruments, and cigar humidors, including some new additions.

Link there to other sites that feature his guitars and humidors, too, and check out his salon in the E-Museum as well, including a new addition of a gorgeous Arabian horse.

Dino's latest project, well underway as this goes to press, is an enormous pyrograph mural after Leonardo Da Vinci's famous Last Supper.

Read an interesting account of the famous antique Trinity College Harp and Queen Mary Harp--mediaeval harps with pyroengraved decoration. There are no images shown here. Any information on images of either of these harps would be most welcome.

Recently rediscovered in a new website is Welsh "down-bass" singer in the Dowlais Choir and pyrographic artist Mike Edwards of Merthyr in S. Wales, UK. For those of you who have seen his work in the E-Museum and made inquiries, you will be pleased to know that he has now added examples of his wonderful decorative work in pyrographed Celtic knotwork to his new website. (Like Harp Corrigan above, Mike has a great musical theme background for his website, too.)

Although Welsh pyrographic artist Richard Withers' website is brand new, you may well be familiar already with his work--he is one of the artists featured in Stephen Poole's popular book The Complete Pyrography. If you've been to Machynlleth in Wales, you might well know his work, too. Richard's shop at the Corris Craft Centre on the main A487 road between Machynlleth and Dolgellau has been there since 1984. Click on the 'Corris Craft Centre' link to see his new website.

This writer had the opportunity to meet Richard very recently when he was visiting in nearby Baltimore, Maryland. We exchanged many notes on our respective tools and pyro work. Richard brought a wealth of information about pyrography in Wales and other parts of the UK, and particularly about his visit to the Birmingham Museum to see the Pinto collection there. More about that in a future article.

American pyrographic artist David Kreider works out of his Woodburning Studio in Harrisonburg, Virginia and makes his living selling his work at juried art shows and festivals. It was at one such festival that this writer had the pleasure recently of meeting David and seeing his compelling pyrographs, which focus primarily on portraiture, calligraphy, landscapes, and animals. Despite the fact that his work was selling like hot cakes, we were still able to carry on a lengthy and animated talk--especially interesting were his accounts of his years in the Middle East, a factor that greatly influenced his work. Examples of his work can also be seen in the E-Museum.

Joy Mitchell of County Cork, Ireland does her own version of Ireland's famous Celtic knotwork. See her colorful work at her Jem Creations website. She is also featured on the Pyro Cafe Down Under website.

American pyrographer Marcia Weybright of Boise, Idaho has recently added her woodburnings to her husband Ken's carvings.

You've probably seen the work of pyrographic artist Richard Voepel from Vermont, U.S.A., in the E-Museum. Now he has his very own Wood Illusions website.

American Jeff Valure is a recent newcomer to pyrography, and already encouraged by his success selling his work at fairs, he just put up his Pup Shop website to show his work on the net. If you are an educator, especially in the field of math, you will have a double reason to enjoy this site where you can also see Jeff's creative approach to teaching math.

Wonderful news! Two real world exhibits of the work of the late artist and architect Benjamín Cañas, 1933-1987, whose work is featured in the E-Museum, have quite unexpectedly come to light: one in Washington, DC and another in New York City.

The one is a recently opened temporary exhibit of his work, which has returned to the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, DC facing the park on 18th Street near Constitution Avenue. Unlike the first posthumous exhibit of his work there about a decade ago (with a larger, more comprehensive exposition of his body of work), this smaller one is more educational in purpose, focusing more on some earlier works and sketches. Fortunately, it does display some of his paintings that employ pyroengraving.

The second exhibit is a permanent collection of some of this brilliant artist's masterpieces at the Museo del Barrio in New York City at 1230 Fifth Avenue (near the Metropolitan Museum of Art); telephone (212) 831-7272.

The Author

Pyrographer Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez 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 the internet, the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art 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 of 1998, the Café Flambé 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 Menéndez

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