Celebrating the Alaska Centennial with Pyrography from the Alaskan Gold Rush
Tom Schulz: In the Spirit of Alaska Today
Mystery Corner: Researching a Rare Pyro Work on Velvet
Announcing Two New Websites
- Denise Needham
- Jordan Tierney
Vern Robinson Asks for Our Help
Vision of the Past
Since his Wisconsin childhood, pyrographic artist Tom Schulz has felt the pulse of the outdoors through his love of fishing, hunting, and photography. All throughout his life he has surrounded himself with the comfort of these elements. Tom migrated to Alaska in 1985 taking his dream of building a more rustic, self-sufficient lifestyle with him. A father of four, he has always worked with his hands, from building a log home for his family in Wisconsin to developing skills in many areas of manufacturing and construction.
Horse and Owner
Tom started out as a leather artist some 25 years ago. Always into art,
music, photography, and hunting, the great outdoors was his inspiration.
Tom enjoyed leather tooling everything from belts to wildlife pictures,
but found it slow with little profit. Somewhere between 15-20 years
ago, he had the idea that a pyrographic tool might speed up his work....
He started working on wood in 1993, when he was commissioned by The Great Alaskan Bowl Company in Fairbanks to pyroengrave traditional Alaskan designs on Birch bowls (so far, more than 2, 300 of them!).
Exposure from there led to many more opportunities to design awards, trophies, memorials on plaques, and custom designed wood pieces of all sorts coming from individuals and numerous civic, arts, military, and sports organizations, among them the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the Alaska Dog Mushers Association, and an invitation to be one of 40 artists in an invitation-only art show this March during the International Sled Dog Races.
Fight Between Two Bullmoose in Rut
Recipients of Tom's work have been many of the finest musicians,
singers, politicians, and other dignitaries who have been guests of the
diverse and unique Alaskan community.
The popularity afforded Tom's work within the community has finally allowed him to concentrate full time on his art work and come closer to fulfilling his goal of an independent lifestyle supported by his art.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Tom's tools. Tom uses the Detail Master and has several of their
wire tips sharpened
for detail. He is generally used to smaller and finer detail in his
pieces; however, because his moose hide (shown at the top of this page)
is such a large piece, Tom discovered that using a little blowtorch here
and there speeds up the work.
Wood of choice. Tom decorates his bowls in Birch, and although he's tried other woods for other projects, Birch is still his favorite wood. He says, "Birch has character in its grain that gives different color with different techniques used with burning, and is hard enough to allow the very fine detail that I strive for."
Finishing the wood. "I use Deft spray lacquer on most wood, sometimes Block oil."
Finishes on leather. "The nice thing about leather or hides
is that you
don't need to use any finish at all. My sister has one of my wildlife
scenes done on cowhide about 20 years ago, and [the piece] still looks
as it did then, not to mention the moosehides done here back in the
early 1900's, [which are] still as they were then with no finish."
"I have used carnauba cream on belts, but it darkens the leather and is not needed for wallhangings."
Favorite leathers. "I really like the thick cowhide leather. It allows me to use my leather tools to give it an added depth along with the burning, and an eraser for highlights."
"I've found that moose hide is also thick enough to get this effect and without the use of tools. As you burn hot and dark you can feel the depression that gives the added depth or dimension."'
"It would be a great thrill to bring back a market for this moosehide pyrography, like there was here in the early 1900's."
Besides those opportunities when he can be outdoors working on his
pyrography from his boat, Tom usually works from the next best
place--his studio in a cabin in the hills outside of Fairbanks. From
there it is not uncommon to hear his sled dogs barking at a moose--or
maybe at a fox or even a lynx--that is wandering through the yard.
Of course, when you're a wildlife artist and photographer, there is the inevitable field work that is part of the job. Tom's photo album shows a picture of him in the McNeil River Bear Sanctuary with grizzly bears walking only 10 feet away. Another favorite haunt for Tom is Denali National Park where dall sheep, caribou, bears, and moose abound. In another memorable experience there, Tom also witnessed a pack of wolves around a remote "fly-in" lake where they were "singing" to locate each other. Later that night, he was awakened when the wolves came into camp to investigate.
The field work and photography make the job all the sweeter for Tom, who has found the place where his love of art and his love of the wilderness come together. According to Tom, "Living in Alaska provides opportunities for a wildlife artist and photographer not found in many other places on earth."
Innis writes that she has an oak firescreen, signed simply "A.
M." with a picture of a large owl in pyrography on velvet. The
dramatic owl with wings outstreched on a tree branch is very detailed.
Three bats and a painted crescent moon add to the drama of this lovely
old piece, which is in pristine condition as evidenced here.
You can view this piece in greater detail in the E-Museum Salon. Please contact the E-Museum curator and this writer or Martha Innis if you can offer any clues about this piece that might help to discover more about its origins.
Denise Needham is no stranger
to the internet. Her work is already well known to most from the
earlier Pyro Cafe Down Under site of IAPA Co-founder Mixo Sydenham. She
is famous for her poignant images from the pioneer days of Australia to
the present. Look for her salon in the E-Museum.
Fans of Denise Needham and her work will be pleased to know that she has her own website and has launched a didactic video series to teach her techniques. Learn more about the series, read her biography, and see her work on her PYROZ website, well worth a visit.
The story of American contemporary artist Jordan Tierney and her
intriguing assemblage works were a large segment in a previous Pyrograffiti
article in the WOM plus there is a collection of her work in the E-Museum
both linked here.
Based in Washington, D.C., in the artists' cooperative Azimuth Group whose gallery is called 57N Fine Art, Jordan now has her own presence on the internet. Visit her elegant new M. Jordan Tierney website.
Vern Robinson's update on the progress of his new TV
show for woodcarving and pyrographic artists was featured in an
article in the last issue of the WOM that came out in January 2002. I
recently heard from Vern again, and am sharing some of his letter with
you here so that you, too, can help to make his TV show the big success
it deserves to be. Read on and do your part!
We at Zephyrn Productions are pleased to let you all know
that "A Chip
Off The Ol' Block" has been very well received and that we are now
contract negotiations with an international distributing company. We
excited and look forward to going into full production soon.
-- Vern Robinson
One of our marketing tools has been your support via our website www.achipofftheolblock.com. Distributors and broadcasters like to see that there is a loyal and growing viewing audience out there. Your logging on and telling us "WHERE YOU ARE FROM" and "WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE" helps us to pitch/sell our series in targeted areas.
We will be marketing our show internationally, so if you have not visited our website and dropped us a line "please do." Wherever you are from--Canada, United States, Europe, Great Britain, Australia, etc.--let us know! If you belong to a carving club, share our website with your members, post it in your shop; let's stand together and show the broadcasters what we want!
The AuthorKathleen 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, this is the sixth year of articles on pyrography for the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM), started January 1997, and the fifth year of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, which opened its virtual doors 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 Yahoo Groups uniting_pyrographers mailing list, member list, and chat forum set up by IAPA Co-founder Mixo Sydenham of Australia for IAPA members.
2002, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.