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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 25, Page Two of Three


Page One:
Cassie and Adri Pretorius: On a Lifelong Safari Together

Page Two:
Peni and Lee Powell: Displaying Their Flemish Art Collection

Page Three:
Introducing New IAPA Members:
- Stefano Bonfatti: Photorealism
- Pierre Doré: Decorative Interpretations
- Lestat de Lioncourt: Erotic Fantasy
News from Old Friends:
- Michael Janson: Listed in Russia's Artindex
- Houba: New Works for Exhibits in 2003
- Dino: Featured in an Interior Design Magazine
- Update on Husband-and-Wife Team Alejandro and Gabriela

Peni and Lee Powell:
Displaying Their Flemish Art Collection

The Powell Home

Making a House a Home

Although not a pyrographic artist decorative artist and teacher Peni Powell is one of the earliest members of IAPA. She joined because of her interest in collecting Flemish Art, one of the names for pyrography (along with the word 'pyrography' itself) coined during the turn of the 19th century to the 20th when that art and craft form became hugely popular. She has contributed to the pages of WOM on various occasions since at least 1999, and has had a salon of her antique pieces in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art since even before that. Her own website is a joy to behold for many reasons.

Peni and her husband Lee, now retired, live in Portland, Oregon in the northwestern United States. Their house is only a short distance from the Old Oregon Trail. They have taken great delight in the enormous effort they have made together to turn their generous 3300 sq. ft. house and surrounding property into the beautiful home and showcase gardens they have become. Lee joined in the enthusiasm for the collection, which has become very much a part of the interior decoration of their home. At this point, for lack of space, the couple has greatly curtailed their active collecting.

I had seen quite a few of the pieces in the collection thanks to the pictures that Peni has been sharing over the years. This time, however, Peni very graciously agreed to take some interior pictures to show all of us how they have been displaying their collection in their lovely home.

Foyer, Partial View

A large display of Flemish Art curiosities welcomes visitors to the Powell's.
The picture shows part of one wall that extends back out of view.
Eyecatching displays decorate the table in the entry hall as well.
And the reflection in the antique wall mirror reveals
there are more items displayed on the opposite wall.

Collecting the Collection

A great part of the fun of any collection, as Peni and Lee will tell you, is in the collecting. Peni goes to eBay off and on, she says, and has found the pyrography catalogues and a few art pieces there, as well, to add to their collection. The most fun, though, she claims, is in the hunt when they are traveling. They enjoy stopping at junk stores and antique shops, Peni says, and that is where they have found their best bargains, too. "Although bargains," she notes, "are few and far between."


A peek into the parlor reveals an end table with a wood plate in pyrography and color.
Poinsettias were a very typical and very popular motif of that era.
They add a nice little touch of color to the corner.

Library Wall, Partial View

This nice built-in was an obvious choice for nestling still more items of Flemish Art
among the books, other objets d'art, and family photographs there.

Den, Computer Room

Boxes and plaques make up the largest part of the collection.
What you are seeing in the picture is only a detail shot of one half of one
of the four walls in their den and computer room.
Using shelves near the ceiling that go around the entire room,
Lee found a way to make sure their boxes were all on view.
Peni knows that placing objects from a collection together
makes for a greater visual impression.
She is also pleased that she can enjoy their box collection
when she is using her computer in that room.

Downstairs Bathroom

You can certainly see that Peni put a lot of love into doing this room.
Look at the faux marble wall treatment.
In the corner is a lovely mural complete with bird's nest that Peni painted for it.
See the funny little canoe hanging by a chain?
It looks like one in Peni's salon in the E-Museum Antique Hall.
Notice the long box that they thought to hang on the wall vertically
to use like a narrow cabinet--how clever!

Kitchen Grouping

A charming grouping like this creates a focal point in a kitchen, breakfast nook, or dining room.
It also helps in creating a cozy ambience.

Caring for the Collection

Needless to say, with major groupings and small displays throughout their large house, dusting can be a challenge. In addition, Peni oils the pieces at least once a year so they won't dry out and warp; it is a task that can take up to a few days.

To answer my query regarding cleaning and restoring an old piece you've just acquired, Peni replied that she has found a product for cleaning dirt and grime called Kramer's Best Blemish Clarifier, which she applies with either a soft rag or, for resistant spots, four-zero steel wool.

For after cleaning, she also recommended a second product called Kramer's Best Antique Improver for putting a little sheen on the surface and oiling the pieces. "It has beeswax in it, I believe," she says.

Peni is careful not to alter an original piece in any significant way; refinishing, for example, could not only spoil the patina but could actually devalue a piece for later resale.

Although she personally has always bought her Kramer's products at antique shops, she looked up the www.kramerize.com website for me and recommended reading the 'what it can do' page.


As our tour heads upstairs, we can see that Peni and Lee have really taken advantage
of that wonderful deep rose wallspace
(showing up more lavender in the digital image)
to hang a large selection of cameos of Victorian ladies.
Here is a grouping sample of ones you will spot in the lower right in the following image.


Here is a bigger picture of the same staircase display.
Are you beginning to get a sense of the size of this collection?
Let's see what awaits upstairs!

The Master Bedroom

For this room, Peni chose a romantic grouping to display on the wall between the dresser and the window.
She selected pieces reflecting Victorian designs in themes of love:
Hearts, couples, etc.
They create a Victorian focal point
yet fit in so well with the furnishings of the room.

The Guest Room

Peni was thrilled to find this great old chest at an antique show in Portland.
What a nice welcome for a guest!

Treasure Chest--of Books

This wonderful chest at the foot of the bed in one of the guest rooms is not only a favorite piece in their collection but it hides another important part of it. Peni found this chest ideal for storing their early 1900's collection of books on pyrography, including original catalogues of the Thayer & Chandler manufacturers and another company, A. H. Abbott & Co., which is less known but one of the oldest manufacturers and importers of art materials. Although the catalogues do not bear copyright dates, Peni and Lee are able to estimate them with some certainty because they own signed and dated pieces of Flemish Art offered in those catalogues.

Her most prized possession among her books is a 1912, second edition, two-volume set of Charles Dana Gibson drawings (originator of the famous Thayer & Chandler "Gibson Girls"). Peni says she never tires of looking at all his drawings and the humor in his captions.

Upstairs Bathroom

A shelf in the upstairs bathroom makes a decorative corner for still another display.
Peni painted those roses on the wall there, too.


Here's the Abraham Lincoln that is mirrored in the foyer picture at the beginning.
Next to him is an "Our Teddy" picture
that is supposed to be Teddy Roosevelt as a child.


Tool collection. In addition to their collection of over 400 pieces and their extensive book and catalogue collection, Peni and Lee have acquired most of the tools that were used in the early 1900's and that were able to be ordered in the antique pyrographic catalogues of that time. Their "latest and greatest" find is an original set of carving tools. Peni says, "I just wish that it had a date on it, but it is signed. Not all of the carving pieces are there, but most are, along with several platinum tips that were used in burning."

Carving sets from that period offered as pyrographic accessories, were primarily used for removing a layer of background wood so as to leave the pyroengraved foreground figure in low relief. Usually the lower area of background was also darkened and textured by burning.

Thank you, Peni and Lee Powell, for being such gracious hosts.

Related Items of Interest

Peni has her own delightful website Peni's Palette of Colors designed to transport you to a relaxing place where you will want to spend some time enjoying the scenery: it features not only Peni and Lee's Flemish Art favorites but also Peni's own decorative art paintings, the how-to books she has co-authored on decorative art, their lovely home, and the beautiful landscaped gardens that are Peni and Lee's pride and joy.

Visit the salon of Peni Powell's Collection of Flemish Art in the Antique Hall of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art. Also on display in the exhibit of Antique Tools in the E-Museum are more items from their collection of tools, especially accessories related to the old Flemish Art work: special paints, a jewel inlay tool, and their latest find, a carving set.

For background reading on Antique Pyrography, including the early 20th Century pieces like Peni and Lee's Flemish Art, see the WOM article Antique Pyrography linked here.

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