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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 23, Page Three of Three


Page One:
- Katherine Boland: Her New Exhibit On Fire

Page Two:
- M. Jordan Tierney: at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Page Three:
- Ivan Govaerts: Figurative and Ornamental Art
- Kenneth Wooten: Folk Style Decorative Art

Ivan Govaerts: Figurative and Ornamental Art

by Ivan Govaerts

Pyrography on basswood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

Many Skills and Talents

Pyrographic artist Ivan Govaerts "lives in a small town, Malines, in a small country, Belgium, in Europe, where he was born in 1971 on the 22nd of July" and where he was raised, too. It was thanks to his father, who was a gymnastics teacher, that Ivan grew up in a rich cultural environment of classical music and ballet, and even studied the ballet himself for eight years. But he says that's another story. . .

Box with Geometric Design
by Ivan Govaerts

Image courtesy of the artist

A Discovery

Ivan's discovery of pyrographic art was in a much more random way. It began in 1989, when Ivan went to a trade school to learn upholstering and simultaneously started to work in a seat factory. Over time, he learned by himself to use the woodworking machines at the sawmill and made some things from scrap wood. In 1997 he made a table for his computer from pallet wood, and went on to try more things. When he came to the realization that nearly everything that has to do with wood interested him, he began expanding his experiments to include chip carving, woodcarving, marquetry, and more.

And he bought a book about woodcarving. That was where Ivan read that carved birds can be detailed using a pyrography tool.

A Special Present

That little tidbit in his book on woodcarving sparked the idea that he could use such a tool to put his signature on the boxes he was making. His wife gave him a present of a pyrography tool before he had even a notion that so much more was possible with it.

Tool. Ivan's tool is the Lefranc & Bourgeois--a French-made pyrography tool that is designed to work with both the 220-V current used in Belgium, as well as the 110-V used in other countries.

Exploring the Possibilities

Ivan remembered his first attempts, and recounted that he "started to try something with this tool and realized it was possible to make simple drawings. The first one was a bird and some very simple landscapes drawn with lines."

Enter the Mentor: The Next Step

"In 1999 I met Francois Peeters," Ivan says, "who was demonstrating his pyro work at a wood show in Antwerp. I saw that there was a lot more possible with the tool than I was doing till then. He was working with a shading tip and made beautiful pieces. I asked him for some advice and got his address."

A happy coincidence. As it turned out, Ivan's new friend and mentor lived only about 2 kilometers (1-1/4 miles) from Ivan's house.

At the first opportunity, Ivan went to a shop to buy a shading tip and started to experiment. "After that," Ivan said, "I searched for new materials like basswood, which is hard to find in Belgium."

"From that moment I knew I wanted to stay with this art form for a long time."

Desk Accessories
by Ivan Govaerts

Scrap basswood, sculptured and burned with Celtic patterns

Image courtesy of the artist

Steps Forward Following Inspiration

At nearly 32 years of age Ivan Govaerts is a self-made man who, without relying on a formal academic education, has found his way in the world thanks to his own exploration and personal realization of the things that matter to him. Not only has he found an art form that is significant for him, he has defined a personal decorative style that reflects his passion for two main subjects that motivate his work: First, nature, which he considers the purest form of art there is; and second, ornament in a wide variety of styles, especially Celtic patterns and designs from classical styles like Gothic and Baroque.

It is apparent from the works here and admirable that, in the relatively short time he has been working in pyrography, Ivan has continually been experimenting. A visit to a varied display of his work in the Ivan Govaerts Salon in the E-Museum will further reveal how he changes the pieces he works on in type and shape, the subject matter he uses, and the look of each one.

Butterfly Gourd
by Ivan Govaerts

Pyrography on a gourd
The two large butterflies encircling the top of the gourd are a lid

Image courtesy of the artist

More Steps Forward

In May of 2002, Ivan decided to make his own web site http://home.tiscali.be/ivan.govaerts and with that accomplishment to his credit, he went ahead and joined IAPA. It is to his credit that in an English-speaking community, using only the English he learned in school and aided by a dictionary, he was able to hold his own--in excellent English--and become an actively participating member of the on-line group.

"I entered the IAPA message board where I met with some great artists who inspired me to do a lot more with other materials." Ivan says, "One day somebody talked about gourds and I wanted to find out what these things are. After a search to find gourds in Belgium, I started to burn on these many-sided things, inspired by the book Pyrography on Gourds by Jim Widess. The road to new materials is not ended yet."

Ivan Talks About His Perspective on the Future

"I always will try to improve and try new materials. Maybe one day it is possible for me to do a real exhibition here in my city or country. Because pyrography is very unknown here in Belgium, I would like to introduce it as much as possible. The highest goal or maybe dream is to make pyrographic art my profession, but I do not want to do something that becomes a must, because when somebody obliges me to do something, I react in the opposite way. In Belgium it is nearly impossible to make a living as an artist when you did not get an education. Maybe it is my destiny to convince people that an educational background is not always necessary to become someone special."

Kenneth E. Wooten: Folk Style Decorative Art

Grizzly Bear
by Kenneth E. Wooten, 2003

Pyrography on scrollsawed wood ornament
approximately 3-1/2 inches by 4 inches

Image courtesy of the artist

Folk Art from the Alaskan Wilderness

American Kenneth Wooten has been living in Alaska since April 1970, and much of that time, he has spent in remote areas, including two and a half years living among the Athabascan Indians.

He only discovered his passion for scrollsawing and pyrography, however, since the spring of 2001. "My emphasis at the moment, Ken says, "is pyrographed intricate scrollsaw landscapes of Alaskan wildlife. "

Canada Geese
by Kenneth E. Wooten, 2002

Pyrography on scrollsawed wood ornament
approximately 3-1/2 inches by 4 inches

Image courtesy of the artist

Technical Aspects

Wood. Ken uses solid birch, which he cures himself from the raw tree and processes every step of the way to the pieces you see here. "It is quite a process," Ken says, "but brings a lot of satisfaction when the final product emerges."
Technique. One example of Ken's technique is a framed pyrographed picture of a scrollsawn Ptarmigan sitting in a willow tree. This piece is displayed in the Kenneth E. Wooten Salon in the E-Museum. The Ptarmigan is on birch that Ken worked down to about 1/16-inch thickness before scrollsawing and then pyrographing (all difficult to do without breaking the piece). He then mounted the work in a birch frame made from the darker heartwood of the same birch tree thereby creating a contrast of wood tones.

Canada Geese
by Kenneth E. Wooten, 2002

Back of the scrollsawed wood ornament
showing the pyrographed signature

Image courtesy of the artist

The round and heart-shaped objects Ken designed originally as Christmas tree ornaments and made them all approximately 3-1/2 by 4 inches. Ken's designs are all his originals and he signs, numbers, and names each on the back.

Pieces made from designs he repeats always turn out slightly varied because of cutting imperfections and the fact that he does much of the brush in the scenes free hand. In addition, some variations with the burning and shading occur because of the varying hardness encountered in any piece of wood.

Trumpeter Swans
by Kenneth E. Wooten, 2003

Pyrography on scrollsawed wood ornament
approximately 3-1/2 inches by 4 inches

Image courtesy of the artist

Closing Thoughts

Kenneth Wooten has lived in Alaska since April 1970 and much of that time was spent in the back country. He says that all of his scenes have been inspired from his personal experiences: his own observations made in the wilderness and his direct encounters with wildlife. He even lived with the Athabascan Indians for two and a half years, so he was able to hunt and fish with them and learn first hand what nature has to offer.

"Since I never had tried anything other than stick men before April of 2001," Ken says, "this has turned out to be a rather surprising and gratifying endeavor for me. I am 55 years old now and regret that I didn't find this talent many years ago."

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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, this is the seventh year of articles on pyrography for the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM), started January 1997, and the sixth 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.

2003, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.