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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 31, Page Two of Two


Page One:
- Brian Warburton: Drawing with Fire
- Sue Burne: A Life Filled with Art

Page Two:
- "carbón's" New Website of PyroSculpture on Leather
- Abby Levine's Latest Project
- From St. Petersburg, Update on Michael Janson
- Celtic Harps of Old--and New!

"carbón's" New Website of PyroSculpture on Leather

Untitled, No. 10
by "carbón"

PyroSculpture and color on leather

Image courtesy of the artist

New Web Site

Costa Rican artist Carlos Alberto Borbón, whose nom d'artiste is "carbón" was introduced here with his unusual sculptural technique in the WOM's September-October 2000 Pyrograffiti and is featured in his "carbón" Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

I am happy to announce here that he now has his own handsome web site at Art on Leather. It is well worth a visit to see more examples of "carbón's" latest art works and to read his interesting story.

posing at an exhibition with one of his works

PyroSculpture on leather

Image courtesy of the artist

Abby Levine's Latest Project

The Life of Anna Louise Strong
by Abby Levine, 2004

Pyrography and color on wood cut-outs

Image courtesy of the artist

Abby Levine's Biographical Assemblage of Anna Louise Strong

Another intriguing piece by American Abby Levine has arrived in the art world. Abby's most recent work was done on commission and tells the story of a most intriguing young woman of the early 1900's. Though it is hard to imagine a woman from Friend, Nebraska, daughter of a Christian minister, as being a radical, she is described in an account on HistoryLink.org as "one of the notable radicals in the history of the United States."

Anna Louise Strong led a remarkable--although many might add misguided--life that was driven by her passion to help needy children and working class people.

The Life of Anna Louise Strong, detail of the bottom section
by Abby Levine, 2004

Pyrography and color on wood cut-outs

Image courtesy of the artist

To orient the viewer, Abby explains that her piece is "loosely organized chronologically from bottom, to center left, to center right, to top left, to top right (got that?). Sort of a point-to-point meander, which is pretty much the character of ALS's activities."

The piece begins by showing Anna Louise Strong's involvment "with an Episcopalian idealistic progressivism practiced by her father and with some of the early settlement houses like Jane Addams' Hull House in Chicago that led to an involvement with the Seattle General Strike in 1919. It then chronicles her involvements in the Soviet Union, her inclusion in the merry band of those denied passport renewals by the United States during the Red Scare, and her eventual settling in China."

"Wow! That is a big oversimplification!"

Abby's description will help guide you through the art work, and I think you will find it worth your while to click on the History Link above to familiarize yourself with the story of Anna Louise Strong. It is really quite fascinating.

Visit the Abby Levine Salon in the E-Museum for more works by this artist and additional web links.

From St. Petersburg, Update on Michael Janson

Non-Magic Square
by Michael Janson, 2004

Pyrography on wood, 50 cm square

Image courtesy of the artist

A Book and an Exhibit

The second annual Russian ArtIndex has been released, and this catalogue is even bigger and better than last year's. Whereas ArtIndex 2003 featured 187 artists, ArtIndex 2004 features 395 artists and weighs almost ten pounds!

And once again IAPA member and abstract pyrographic artist from St. Petersburg Michael Janson is featured in this publication, this time with his own personal page showing his work Universum, which you can see in his Michael Janson Salon in the E-Museum.

In conjunction with the release of ArtIndex 2004, a special 5-day exhibit, showing works by artists from that catalogue. The exhibition, which Michael visited with his wife, opened on November 10th at the Russian Museum of Ethnography. Michael was represented at that exhibition--his first ever as a pyro artist!--with his work Non-Magic Square shown above.

Visit the Russian ArtIndex website (look for a tiny link at the top for the English version) at www.artindex.spb.ru . In the English language list of artists there, Michael's name is written as "Yanson Mikhail."

Celtic Harps of Old--and New!

The Trinity College Harp
Library at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, 15th Century

Pyrography, carving, and color on a harp

Image courtesy of the Alison Vardy web site

Pyroengraving on the Celtic Harps

There is hardly a pyrographic artist who hasn't tried his or her hand at a Celtic design--one look at those intriguing designs and you know you want to pyroengrave one on something. It's as though they were designed with pyrography in mind.

These designs can be found on the early harps shown above and below. Sadly, these harps' richly colored and beautifully pyroengraved Celtic designs have faded drastically, the colors almost completely.

There is documentation to show that Irish harps date back as far as the 10th Century; however, as yet--although it seems highly probable--I cannot affirm they had pyroengraved ornamentation back that far. The earliest surviving harps from Scotland and Ireland date to about the 15th century, like the famous Trinity College harp above and likewise, the Queen Mary Harp of Edinburgh, Scotland, shown following.

One of Ireland's national treasures, the Trinity is Ireland's national symbol and is on display in the library at Trinity College in Dublin, in the same room as the famous Book of Kells.

The Queen Mary Harp
Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K., 15th Century

Pyrography and metal ornamentation on a harp

Image courtesy of the Alison Vardy web site

Highlights of The Long History of the Celtic Harp

Although folk legend credits the Irish with bringing the harp to Europe, scholarly accounts exist theorizing that that claim may not be totally accurate. Regardless, for more than a thousand years the harp and Celtic harp music have been tied to Irish culture and nationalism.

For centuries, the harp was an integral part of Irish life. Traveling harpists in Ireland were known to be at the focal point of rebellions--so much so that the harp was banned. Under the English, starting in the 1700s, the Irish harp as a folk and court instrument was suppressed to prevent a resurgence of nationalism. Harps were burnt and harpers executed.

Famous in Irish history is Turlough Carolan (1670-1738), a blind Irish folk harpist who wrote hundreds of tunes, many of which are still popular today. Because of Ireland's turbulent history, however, the rich tradition of Irish folk harp playing and music was often broken, and much has regrettably been lost.

King Griffith of Wales employed harpists in his court at the end of the 11th Century, and it was only with the Welsh that the folk harp tradition has remained unbroken.

With thanks for the above images and historic excerpts to Alison Vardy, an internationally renowned harpist, who has traveled to many countries of the world to learn their traditional harp music. Read more about the harp's history and Alison Vardy's harp music at the enchanting Alison Vardy web site, where you will no doubt want to spend some time, as I did.

The Witcher Trinity Harp
The harp itself plus its carving, silver and jewel ornamentation by Jay Witcher, 2000
Pyroengraving and color by Charlotte Hallett, 2000

Pyroengraving and color on carved maple wood harp
with silver and jewel incrusted ornamentation

A reproduction of the decorated Trinity harp,
also known as the Brian Boru harp

The original is on display in the library
at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland
in the same room as the Book of Kells

Image courtesy of The Harp and Dragon, Cortland, New York, U.S.A.

The Witcher Trinity Harp

On a commission from The Harp and Dragon of Cortland, New York, U.S.A., expert harpmaker Jay Witcher of Houlton, Maine, U.S.A. made the magnificent reproduction above showing how the original Trinity Harp would have looked in all its glory so many centuries ago. Although not a standard concert harp of today, it is a playable wire string harp of museum exhibition quality. The harp is made out of maple, which according to Jay, "has excellent acoustical properties and strength." Besides making the basic harp himself, Jay did the carving, silver ornamentation, and jewel incrustation for the harp. The exquisite Celtic style pyroengraved and color ornamentation was done by Charlotte Hallett of Haverhill, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Jay has made a wide variety of harps, including other historical copies of surviving Irish and Scottish harps. In addition to the Trinity, shown here, which he reproduced for The Harp and Dragon, he has reproduced the Sirr, O'Ffogerty, Lamont, Queen Mary, and others.

In case you would like to own the above Witcher Trinity harp, it is currently for sale at The Harp and Dragon for $10,000. Be sure and click on The Harp and Dragon link for another pleasurable harp experience.

Look for follow-up antique and reproduction harp exhibits soon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

May Your Holidays Be Filled With Joy and Music,
And The New Year With Harmony and Peace

Click here to go back to page one

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 end of the eighth year of articles on pyrography for the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM), started January 1997, and the end of the seventh 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 for IAPA members by IAPA Cofounder Mixo Sydenham of Warragul, Victoria, Australia.

2004, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.