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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 4

E-Museum Acquires a Picasso!

It has been many months since the E-Museum discovered that a very special little Picasso museum existed in a small town in Spain not very far from Madrid. This is the story of how it came about and how the E-Museum acquired its (virtual) Picasso:

Pablo Picasso had a 30-year friendship with a Spaniard he met during the period he lived in southern France. That man was Picasso's barber, Eugenio Arias. Later when Picasso eventually moved back to his native Spain, Arias did the same. Where they lived in southern France, they had already found a shared passion for the same spectator sport--the traditional Spanish bullfights, which, of course, they continued frequenting when they returned to their homeland.

Over the course of their friendship, Picasso and even his wife Jacqueline, gave their friend Arias pieces of Picasso's art work as presents. After the world-famous painter's death in 1973, Arias eventually decided to donate his collection of over sixty pieces to his county in Spain with the condition that they be housed and displayed in Arias' own home town of Buitrago del Lozoya, and so it happened.

Many of these pieces are not some of the most formal of Picasso's works like the ones housed in the big museums of Barcelona and Paris, but informal works in other media that Picasso enjoyed. Amongst this unique collection is one little unassuming box with a sliding lid--the perfect token of Picasso's friendship--a narrow box for the barber to store his scissors and other implements of his trade, with a pyroengraved dedication from his friend right on the top and decorated with pyroengraved scenes of bullfights in much the same style in which Picasso did some of his well known bullfight etchings.

The E-Museum's research department did quite a lot of telephoning (the little town does not even appear on international telephone lists) before the curator was able to contact the Picasso museum's director and curator Lalo Alonso, who very graciously mailed catalogue pictures of the piece in question. He advised, however, that in order to reproduce the pictures in any way, the E-Museum would need special authorization from an organization in Paris that has exclusive copyright to all his works. After further significant research, contact with that organization was finally made and permission to display the Picasso was granted to the E-Museum on 13 December 1999.

It is with great pleasure that the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art invites you to view the
Pablo Ruiz Picasso Salon linked here.

Icons Interpreted

Jennifer Ferraro calls her images sacred faces--faces of the human and divine, which is the name she has given to her very beautiful website linked to her name here.

A native of the New York/New Jersey area of the United States, Jennifer moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in the southwestern part of the United States, because of pictures she saw of New Mexico when she was a teenager. Like so many others, Jennifer says she felt spiritually drawn to Santa Fe. What she hadn't imagined is that she would be making and selling art as part of her livelihood. Soon after she arrived in Santa Fe, Jennifer remembers:

"One day I happened to see a woodburning tool at a craft store and immediately my mind was
set ablaze with possibilities."

(Heart of) Original Sadness
by Jennifer Ferraro, 1999

Pyrograph on wood panel

"I knew that it would work for my particular style and subject matter. I began experimenting, and soon after, I began selling my woodburnings downtown at the shop where I worked. I was surprised at the response. Sometimes I was able to work on woodburning in the store and people could come in and watch, which they loved."

I started out burning religious icons not even aware that this region may be the country's largest market for icons. There is the tradition of the santero here that attracts many buyers from all over. Santero is the term for a traditional hispanic maker of saints and religious art of a certain style."

"I have met many santeros here, and without fail, they have responded strongly to my work."

The Chalice by Jennifer Ferraro, 1999
Pyrograph on wood plaque

"Overall," Jennifer feels, "Santa Fe is a great town to be an artist, in any medium. It is probably the best major art market for cross-over between traditional handicrafts and fine art. The Native American and Spanish colonial arts are very present, and attract people from all over the world. For what I am doing with woodburning, I think this is the best place I could be. The cultural diversity and art awareness make it easy to find or create a niche." Jennifer has been working and selling her pyrographed icons in various venues; however, she has yet to try and break into what she calls the high-end galleries.

Classical Style of India
by Jennifer Ferraro, 1999

Pyrography on wood panel

Jennifer is still exploring and experimenting. One of her latest experiments is the classical style work above drawing inspiration from Indian art. Other new works have gone into the Jennifer Ferraro Salon in the E-Museum, linked here. In future works, she is planning on working on larger pieces and incorporating carved/engraved frames. Up until now she has been using pine or basswood, but intends to try some plywoods and experiment with finishes. She has been very satisfied with her professional level soldering-iron type tool, but is just now realizing more possibilities in tools thanks to the internet.

Jennifer tells more about her work and what motivates it on her Sacred Faces website linked here. For this interview, she summed it up this way: "I love the feel of burning into wood, the smell, the sensuous way the shading seems to melt into it, how depth and dimension miraculously appear. It is easier and more comfortable for me than drawing or painting. I love especially doing portraits this way. I feel it was 'meant to be' that I discovered this medium."

Additional Resources for Antique Pyrography
Thanks to Richard Withers

Thanks to pyro artist and IAPA European Director Richard Withers of Wales (note new website address linked here), the E-Museum has some significant reference material for those researching antique pyrographic art. In the UK, past pyrographic artists have left a rich legacy, and Richard has taken the time and made the effort not only to visit some prominent sites but to document his visits as well. There is an important collection in Birmingham, in particular, that deserves special mention, which is the Pinto Collection. Richard got permission to study all the pyrographs there (stored in drawers to avoid exposure to the light). Richard not only studied but catalogued all of those pieces, some of which are important pyro works. Some of Richard's information is already available in the E-Museum Antique Hall, linked here. For pyrographic artists and connoisseurs planning on touring the UK, this is a wonderful resource for planning an itinerary. If you wish to e-mail Richard Withers, he has a new e-mail address linked here.

Decorative Art Gourds by Carol St. Pierre

Quail Trio
by Carol St. Pierre, 1999

Pyrography and paint on gourds

Another recently discovered pyro is Carol St. Pierre who is already well known in gourd art circles. She is presently writing the National Gourd Society's newsletter. In addition to her own website linked to her name here, Carol has a very special piece on display in the E-Museum--don't miss it. Following are excerpts from her biography:

Carol St. Pierre received her fine arts degree in painting and illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I.

Carol co-designed with William Coltellaro, an exhibit for the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. of Dr. Louis and Mary Leaky's discovery in Tanzania of the Leaky Man (homo habilis). The Leaky dig had unearthed many aboriginal artifacts. That project seeded her love for the primitive.

Of all known plants, the gourd is the only one experts believe spanned the entire globe during prehistoric times. Carol believes these self-contained organic vessels lay the perfect ground for artistic interpretation both as it was in prehistoric time and as it is today. Moreover, she believes her entire process--from selecting the gourd, then cleaning, sanding, drawing, burning, and painting it--creates a unique bond with the aboriginal intention, as well as contributing to her contemporary idea. She believes there is no greater inspiration than what nature has already provided, and in this union she finds her passion.

The Bounty
by Carol St. Pierre, 1999
Pyroengraving on gourd sculpture

IAPA's Harp Corrigan Announces A Unique On-Line Project

In a recent e-mail to the International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) mailing list, Robert "Harp" Corrigan announced to IAPA members his exciting plans to build a harp on line starting now in January!

Harp anticipates his ambitious project will take about three months from start to finish. Although he does not have the technical capability of running a streaming video of the entire process, he plans to upload regularly scheduled images from his East-Wood Products studio with captions to explain every step of the process.

The project is a Celtic lap harp, about 3 feet tall, with a stave-back soundbox. It will be made of maple, with a spruce-ply soundboard, 22 strings (3 octaves), and a full set of Robinson sharping levers. Once he has the instrument completed, Harp says "I plan to use my pyrography to etch some Celtic designs on the soundboard."

Harp says, "I'm really excited about this project. I think it's going to be a lot of fun to do. It'll be a bit of a challenge for sure, but--hey!--that's what makes life interesting." Look for the official announcement on the main page of Harp's website linked here.

Kids Corner: A Budding Talent

Teddy Bear with Flowers by Jaime, age 11

Flemish Art collector and decorative painter Peni Powell wrote recently "proud as punch" to show the very first pyrograph that her 11-year-old granddaughter Jaime had just completed. Peni recounted that Jaime used some of her stains and watercolors to finish it up before they varnished.

Jaime is very creative and has painted with her "since she was a little bit," Peni wrote, and added that Jaime has been working in Filmo Clay and is quite good at that, too. Jaime, who besides her gift for things artistic, is also a very good student, completed her first pyrograph in only a few hours. Peni laughingly says, "Maybe we have a new pyrographer in our midst--wouldn't that be great?" I couldn't agree more. You can write to Peni Powell and granddaughter Jaime at the e-mail linked here. Way to go, Jaime!

Special: Bark, Bears' Bread, Burl, and Conk!

Spirit Wolf Reflections
by Lynda Gibbs Eaves, 1999

Pyrography and oil paint wash on slice of Bird's Eye maple burl, 17 in. by 28 in.

You've most likely seen richly grained burl veneers on fine furniture. They are made from the wood that comes from a large, rounded outgrowth that sometimes occurs on a tree trunk or a branch. Canadian pyro artist Lynda Eaves, however, likes to either slice burl or smooth one face of a big piece of burl to create a canvas for her pyrographs of Canadian and other wildlife, especially endangered species.

Twin Wolves
by Lynda Gibbs Eaves, 1999

Pyrography and oil paint wash on Bird's Eye maple burl, 17 in. by 28 in.

Lynda and her husband not too long ago made a choice for health reasons to move from Birmingham, Alabama in the United States to Lynda's homeland, where they have settled in a little cabin on 35 acres of land in Arthur, Ontario.

They have bravely chosen to lead a simple life and work at things that interest them most. Ever since she turned from her portrait work to woodburning back in 1997, Lynda has focused on endangered species; however, when she got to Canada, she discovered those wonderful Canadian hardwood burls, such as yellow birch, Birds Eye maple, and B.C. red cedar, which she has so much enjoyed using for her woodburned wildlife art. Besides her Northern Lights Studio website, Lynda has other sites linked from there where her work is shown. Look for the Lynda Eaves' Salon in the E-Museum, too.

Author Bob Ferris is Now On Line

From The Dalles, Oregon, American pyrographer Bob Ferris, author of a popular how-to book on woodburning (The Art of Woodburning) that was published in 1976, has recently arrived on the internet scene and joined IAPA. After woodburning for many years, it seemed only natural that Bob would 'branch out' to bark burning, as evidenced in the handsome example displayed here.

Mt. Birch
by Bob Ferris

Pyrography and color on tree bark

Bob at some point decided to also experiment with a far more curious material, which is conk, a hard, shelflike fruiting body of a fungus, especially of genera Polyporus and Fomes, found growing on tree trunks. It is sometimes called 'artist's conk' because it is well suited as a canvas for artwork such as Bob's pyrographs. A variety of his work is on display in the Bob Ferris Salon of the E-Museum and in his own Bob Ferris website.

Tree of Life
by Bob Ferris
Pyrography and color on conk

Besides doing pyrographs of western figures on wood from his days working in Hollywood films, Glen Merryman has more recently taken inspiration from the wildlife in Kodiak, Alaska where he currently lives. He now enjoys doing pyrographs not only on wood but on Bears' Bread as well, which, it turns out, is one more name for conk. Linked to his name here is his very friendly website.

International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA)

Announcing Initiative for New IAPA Resource

Many of you are aware of the role in the E-Museum of the Café Flambé, which is the icon for IAPA meetings and group interaction, that is, essentially a link to the forum utilized by IAPA for our day-to-day communication.

What is less known is the Bulletin Board in the 'basement' of the E-Museum--that part of the E-Museum set aside from the beginning as the designated place for studios and classes. The Bulletin Board was up and running some time ago; however, it is about to be assigned some new importance.

IAPA Secretary Fred Barnett has generously agreed to take on the important task of gathering data on classes, instructors, and shows where our members are showing their work, to post to the E-Museum Bulletin Board. He will maintain a current listing as a resource for all the members to make known classes they have heard of or are teaching, and shows where their work is on display. If you have information you would like posted there, please e-mail Fred and let him know.

End of Year-Century-Millennium Notes

It's been a great few years for pyros. Many friendships have been forged around the world. That's a pretty exciting end to this century, which holds such great promise of good things for the beginning of the new one. Although science and technology have made the internet possible, and although the internet is the medium that has made the difference for all of us by allowing us to find each other and share our passion for this particular art form, we always know that, in the end, the arts are what make the world go 'round and that our work, like that of so many other artists in the visual, audial, and performing arts, is what crosses all boundaries and reaches out to all in the most direct and most human and spiritual of ways.

There was so much to 'show and tell' for this newsletter that I ultimately had to forego elaborating on many things, such as Nicole Manzo's new and first website, Bob Morris's recent efforts at pyrography on paper now displayed on his website, Fred Barnett's new astronomical pyrographs newly on his website, Sue Walter's trip from Australia to Canada and her new work on a photo site as she embarks on her second pyro career, and many newcomers to the IAPA members list in the last few months.

There are also quite a few more stories to tell discovered by the E-Museum's research department, but not enough time and space for all of it to be told for the time being. The research department is already working on still another famous artist's work for display in the E-Museum. There are more projects in mind for IAPA, too, but it is still premature to elaborate. It will all have to wait for other issues.

As you read this, it will be January 2000. Let's all look forward, "minds and spirits ablaze with the possibilities," (to use Jennifer Ferraro's words) of making the New Year-Century-Millennium wonderful. May every blessing be yours now and always.

kathleen menendez

The Author

Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez learned her pyrography techniques in Guatemala in 1975-1977. Her sister, Artist Sharon H. Garvey, later joined her there to collaborate on a pyrography project designed to promote this art form in the United States by means of a didactic book and a pyrography tool made by Navarro of Mexico.

Thanks to the internet, January 2000 marks the beginning of the fourth year of articles on pyrography for the WWWoodc@rver E-Zine, started January 1997, and the third year of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, which opened January 1998. In March of that year, the International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) was formed and members began meeting on line. Linked from the E-Museum's Café Flambé, which hosts the IAPA meetings, is the E-Group mailing list, member list, and chat forum.

© 2000 Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.