Woodcarver Ezine
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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 8

Pyrography in Multimedia Works

Stuart King's Turned, Pierced, Pyroengraved, and Colored Wood

Trio of Goblets
by Stuart King

Left, in back: Pyrography on turned wood goblet with pierce work
Right, in back: Green-stained turned wood goblet with pyroengraving
In front: Turned wood goblet with pyroengraving
Image courtesy of the artist

Multi-talented artist, writer, and lecturer Stuart King is from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, U.K. His excellent website Stuart King: Artist Craftsman in Wood, introduces the visitor to the Stuart King who "...has spent a lifetime researching, recording and collecting anything about the rural past [notably in and around his own region and a great deal in Eastern Europe, especially Romania] and [who] today is a well-known artist craftsman, demonstrator, international lecturer and photo-journalist, writing regularly for Woodturning magazine."

Not only does the website offer many examples of Stuart's own work, but also several examples of the illustrated articles he writes on many related topics, and illustrated examples of his slide-lecture topics.

Bowl, Interior Detail
by Stuart King

Pyrography on pierced turned wood bowl, inspired by the Buckinghamshire wild woods
Interior of a sycamore bowl turned from green wood, fretted and then decorated with a pyrographic pen.
9 inches (230mm) diameter

Stuart King's Poker Work

To those of you following this series for a long time, you may remember a reference in the article on Antique Pyrography where it was thought that Rembrandt and others had done poker work on the wainscots of the Dutch and English alehouses of their time. There are those of you who are interested in poker work for the purpose of mediaeval re-enactment, as well. Read Stuart's account of his own Poker Work Beginnings:

My first 'work of art' was real poker work, literally scorched with a hot poker. I was working in a veneer factory in High Wycombe at the time C. 1965. The winters were very cold and a slow combustion stove was kept 'stoked up' with fire wood. During my lunch breaks, I would take the poker and heat it to red hot before decorating the plywood sides of the walls. My subjects were landscapes; these are still among my favorite subjects today. I often wonder what became of those panels. The factory has since been demolished!

Stuart on His Tool and Favorite Woods. "I think turned objects lend themselves very well to scorched decoration. Ideally, the wood should be light in colour. One of my favourites is English Sycamore, which is close to Sugar Maple and not the same wood as American Sycamore, which we refer to as London Plane or Lace Wood."

Although very few of his pieces are truly functional, Stuart categorizes his work as decorative art. All of his pyrography is done on wooden items he has turned on his lathe.

He says, "I enjoy adding that 'little extra' to my turnings. Some of my pyrography is combined with colour, which can be very effective. I use a 'Peter Child' 'wire' pen that I have owned for approximately 15 years.

Magical effects can be achieved by turning wet wood. Pyrography techniques can be used to burn designs into the wood and cellulose paint sprays to decorate it."

Pedestal Bowl with Landscape
by Stuart King

Pyrography on turned wood bowl with pierce work and color
Image courtesy of the artist

Stuart will have two salons in the E-Museum Decorative Arts Hall soon, one to house more examples of his beautiful work and another to show some pieces that he has collected during his extensive travels and lecturing tours.

In August, Stuart had just returned from the United States where he had been demonstrating artistic woodturning and pyrography to clubs. After that trip, he went to Canada to a place called Emma Lake to spend a week with 140 specially invited artists and craftsmen and women from all over the world for a collaboration festival.

Special Techniques: Dawn Southworth's Assemblages

Secrets in Stony Places
by Dawn Southworth

Multimedia assemblage employing burning
Photograph by Dana Salvo

American artist Dawn Southworth is from Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA. She graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and has exhibited many times in both one-woman and group shows over the years in galleries in and around the Boston area. She has also had her work placed in galleries in other States, such as Texas, New York, California, and Virginia. The long list of her awards, grants, and fellowships received is likewise impressive.

Excerpts from the on-line write-up by the Clark Gallery, where Dawn had a one-woman show this year, reveal insights into the symbols in her work: "The found materials engaged within these mixed media paintings bear the touch of human hands and possess a history of ritual tasks."

Dawn uses words such as "burns, scars, sutures and gestural marks" to describe the symbols that appear on the wood surfaces, as if to suggest their own regenerative properties. "Slicing and cutting, stitching and mending are all acts of invasion and healing that bring us full circle in examining our wholeness."

"Shifting surfaces, eroded and renewed, become embodiments of disease and death
with affirmations of healing and regeneration."

Tree Man
by Dawn Southworth

Pyrography, linen, cotton, canvas, paper, thread, twine, paint, stain, wax, nails, and staples on wood triptych,
24 inches by 64 inches by 5 inches
Photograph by Dana Salvo

Assemblage elements and their metaphors. The center panel of the triptych Tree Man is a found painting nailed to the wood background panel with brads (tiny tacks). She also included Hindi writing and stitching. The circles in the piece are cells, biology, and other metaphors for science. The individual panels are raised from the background 4-1/2 inches so that the piece stands out from the wall. The panels are like pages of a book.

Historical and familiar association. Tack board was used for the wood part. Dawn's grandmother was a shoemaker who immigrated to America and joined the Lithuanian community. She later married and had two daughters. Dawn found the tack board at an antique store. When she used it for this piece, it brought her many memories of her grandmother. The tack board, which has holes in it, reminded her of the one that her grandmother had used for her leather work, to hang drying hides and such. Dawn also got 5 ft. by 6 ft. boards at a flea market and then had a cabinet maker custom make her piece.

Dawn's techniques and their metaphors.Other elements that make up this piece are: embroidery on an antique napkin, an Indian ledger book, and some old envelopes addressed to a doctor, which Dawn found at a flea market. Of these, she stitched some together to signify healing.

Special Burning Techniques. With the envelopes as with other elements and on other pieces, besides the hand sewing and staining she does, and traditional pyroengraving done with a woodburning tool, such as the woodburned circles, which have circular cut-outs inside them, Dawn also employs burning done directly with lighted matches:

She smokes the paper, for example, holding it upside down; she scorches some elements--these are all metaphors for her. Many of these techniques are meant to be medical references, especially things like tearing and burning with matches. The surface is like skin; the skin in turn a reflection of the scars of life.

Tree Man, detail
by Dawn Southworth

One panel in a triptych with pyrography, linen, cotton, canvas, paper, thread, twine, paint, stain, wax, nails, and brads on wood
Photograph by Dana Salvo

In Tree Man, Dawn explained that she echoed the root shape with a woodburning tool.

"In much of my most recent work on wood, which are multi-paneled constructions, I have incorporated elements of the landscape into my imagery. While employing...techniques such as distressed fragmentation, collage, and nailed and sewn surfaces, much of the work comments on the landscape tradition, while also presenting conflicting issues of beauty and foreboding.

My work crosses disciplines, while incorporating many different materials and processes. The surfaces of my mixed media pieces on wood and paper are often layered and scratched, which both obscure and reveal photographs, newspaper, childlike marking, letters, and text, as well as a rich vocabulary of shapes and symbols: the circle, arch, skeleton, and vessel shapes. Or, they may bear objects of bent metal and sticks, which are also often wrapped, bandaged, or burnt. The sewn, wrapped, and distressed surfaces suggest the passage of time, the recollection of memory, and conversely, disease and death." --Dawn Southworth

To Ashes
by Dawn Southworth

Pyrography and other media on wood, 54 inches by 72 inches
Photograph by Dana Salvo

To Ashes was "assembled" around a checkerboard-patterned oil cloth Dawn found in Guatemala on a trip she and her husband Dana Salvo took together to visit Mexico and Guatemala. Dawn makes use of family trips to these areas to collect meaningful found objects for her art work.

In their travels in the highlands and outlying regions of Guatemala, she was moved by the feelings she had there knowing of the years of hardship the people in those regions had undergone caught in the middle of turmoil. Of particular poignancy was the realization that in some places where their guidebook indicated a small village, there was no longer one there.

Dawn Southworth's assemblage work is on display in numerous private and public collections in the United States. The E-Museum of Pyrographic Art is also honored to add more virtual examples of her work to the collection in the Portraits and Paintings Hall.

Gallery Director Jock Reynolds wrote that Dawn's works are like "...a group of relics that are famliar and yet strange, objects that seem to simultaneously exist in the present and past."

Special Techniques: Sculpted Leather Pyroengravings by Carlos Borbón

by Carlos Borbon

Pyroengraving on sculpted leather

Carlos Borbón arrived in Los Angeles, California, USA, back in the late 1950s without knowing English. He studied and worked in various sorts of factories and eventually shaped a career in electronics with RCA's Service Branch in Hollywood.

Carlos had married not long after arriving in Los Angeles and when he moved back to his native San Jose, Costa Rica some years later it was with his wife and three children.

After about ten years in Costa Rica, Carlos and his wife divorced and she and their children returned to the United States. He decided to move away from the city at that time, and to pass the lonely hours, he got himself a Navarro Pyrocarver and started doing some pyro drawings on leather with just two of the basic points.

First Experiments. Carlos explained that, since burning produces very few tones--a black that he obtained by making dots, a reddish tone and a pale reddish tone--he began to combine those first designs with some backgrounds he obtained by stressing the leather with chisels, but the effect wasn't exactly what he wanted.

After having done some ten pieces, it occurred to him that the leather itself could give him the contrasts he was looking for. That's when he began designing tools in order to obtain all sorts of textures. At the same time, using a part from the motor of a car, he came up with his own method for producing bas-relief work with the leather.

by Carlos Borbón

Image courtesy of the artist

His Own Technique. At that point, he named his technique because the first thing people said was that they had never seen that type of work. He named it Pyro Sculpture on Leather: Pyro because of the burning and Sculpture because of the textures and the relief work. Soon after, his volumes appeared as he got to know better that "noble and beautiful material that is leather."

by Carlos Borbón

Pyrography on leather
Image courtesy of the artist

The Perfect Pseudonym.When I first discovered Carlos Borbón (see a picture of "carbón" with his work at a gallery opening in the references at the end of an earlier E-Zine article ), I naturally thought his pseudonym to be an obvious combination of his first and last names (as did his friends). Moreover, I noted the happy (and I presumed deliberate) coincidence of its being likewise an obvious pyrography reference as well because of its literal meaning (the same in English as in Spanish). Contrary to my earlier belief about the origins of his pseudonym, however, Carlos tells the story in an entirely different way.

Carlos Borbón was dubbed "carbón" by his host, Delfina Collado, at a soirée of writers. Carlos had started writing poetry at the same time he started doing his pyrography. At the time of this particular occasion, he had been studying oriental philosophies and in that instant took his host's spontaneous ("Now it's "carbón's" turn [to read]") to have a symbolic meaning. He put his own interpretation on it--of "carbón" (that he should be ever humble) and diamond (yet that he should be always proud of who he is). His host told him in a subsequent conversation some time later that if that was how he interpreted it, then that was all that mattered.

With that diplomatic answer, of course, we still don't know his host's intentions; however, it seems less likely, given the context, that there was an intentional pyrographic reference. At the same time, perhaps we, too, are granted our own interpretation? I'm sticking with mine--it's just too perfect.

by Carlos Borbón

Pyrography triptych of leather in wood frame

It's been 19 years since "carbón" started working on leather--that's 19 years of developing his own techniques and 16 years since he left electronics altogether to dedicate himself exclusively to artistic pursuits.

Adding Color. For the first 18 of those years, "carbón" had always produced his works by means of textures, burning and pyroengraving, relief work, creating volumes and tonalities without using any external color of any kind such as in his first image shown in this segment. However, in the last year he began to combine all of the above techniques with paint.

For about a year now he has been using acrylic paint followed by a special antique finish. He feels that the total effect of the techniques together--pyrography, various burnings, various textures, relief work, volumes, and paint then patina combine very harmoniously on the leather.

Special Burning Techniques. As you no doubt noticed, "carbón" uses the terms pyrography and burning in the same context. He does that because, besides those effects he obtains with what is generally termed pyrography, at times he burns by means of friction utilizing different tools, which he designs. At high speeds, those machines give him additional burned effects and tonalities than those he can achieve with only the standard pyrography tool.

Carlos remarried in March 1999 to Cecilia, "the person I dreamed of all my life, so I am very happy." They are planning a trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, in September 2000.

New IAPA Continental Directors

It is a great pleasure for the original founding members of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Pyrographic Artists to announce that European Director Richard Withers joined the board some months ago, and two new members have been added in August 2000: Asian Director Ken Li and South American Director José Eduardo de Almeida Benelli. We look forward to their representation and efforts bringing more global participation in IAPA. Welcome to the new members of the IAPA Board.

Harp Corrigan's On-Line Project Is Nearing Finish

Celtic Harp Soundboard
by Robert "Harp" Corrigan, New Mexico, 2000

Pyroengraved Celtic design on the soundboard of a Celtic harp in progress

The image shown here is from Chapter 13 of Harp Corrigan's on-line project Building a Celtic Harp. For anyone interested in undertaking such a project, Harp has provided a wonderful resource. For those of us who cannot imagine doing anything so complicated, it has been fascinating to follow the carefully written steps and vicariously share in the experience by watching Harp's beautiful Celtic instrument slowly taking shape. Since he has had to work on this project between other commissioned jobs, it has been a longer process still--all the better for us viewers because it has allowed us more time to take in each lovingly executed step of the process. The project is definitely nearing completion as evidenced by the ornamental pyroengraving, one of the final touches. Next issue should bring an image of the finished Celtic harp.

More Internet Galleries of Pyrographic Work

Two significant internet galleries of pyrographic work are well worth a visit. One, the Janik Gallery sponsored by the Janik Pyrographic Tools people, has work on it by members of IAPA.

Another is a gallery sponsored by Hakko of Japan (once at the website, click on JAPAN to not get lost.) A curious "Small world, isn't it?" discovery occurred at that site. I found a piece that immediately struck me as work in a technique and style that I had studied in Guatemala. When I questioned Yoshihiro ("boo") Sasaki about that piece, he told me that two women in the group of artists exhibiting on that website gallery had studied pyrography in Colombia when their husbands were sent to that country for a couple of years with a Japanese company. The techniques I studied in Guatemala, which are of Mexican origin, are taught in many countries of Latin America.

Multi-Media Artist Dokoupil: Special Techniques

Dokoupil At Work

The artist creating a pyrograph by means of a candle
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1997
Photograph by Mario Dazzan

The flame of a candle replaces the paintbrush. The E-Museum's Research Department turned up this most curious story of multi-media artist Jiri Georg Dokoupil, internationally famous for not only his many (some very unusual) media, but also the wide range of styles he has explored in over three decades of work, for which one critic refers to him as "a master of the breach in style and a wide range of techniques. He is consistent in his inconsistency..." Because there is no consistent style in Dokoupil's work, it has defied definition in common classifications. For this reason, Dokoupil has been described as "an exemplary post-modern artist."

In addition to employing pyrography of the traditional method in his works, he also developed his own and most famous technique by which he places a wood panel or canvas above him and holding a candle below it, paints with the soot given off by the candle. Using this original technique, he has done many works, which have come to be known as his "Ružbilder" or "Soot Series."

Untitled Diptych
By: Jiri Georg Dokoupil

A very impressive solo-exhibition, sponsored by the Queen Sofia National Museum in Madrid, Spain, of Dokoupil's most significant work groups from the past 20 years just closed mid August at the Velásquez Palace there.

Another current exhibition, at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger (where his works were first exhibited in 1987), lasts until 16 September 2000. That gallery now represents the artist exclusively worldwide.

Dokoupil currently lives and works alternating between Berlin, Madrid, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

N.B. The links in this segment not only represent websites with further information and illustrations, but are also reference links to the sources used here. An internet search will reveal still many more websites about this very famous artist, considered one of the most influential of the 1980s. K.M.

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 marked 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 eGroups uniting_pyrographers mailing list, member list, and chat forum set up by Mixo Sydenham of Australia for IAPA members.

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