Marshall Stokes: Mixed Messages
From the Working As a Team Series:
Lesley and Jeff Wyatt--Nautical Themes
Sovereign of the Seas
This year, English artists Lesley and Jeff Wyatt of Bedfordshire are celebrating their 35th
Back in 1969, Lesley, an information analyst originally from Ealing W. London, had been living and working in Australia for about four years. From her office window, she could see the P & O Liner Canberra docked in the Sydney Harbour. One day she decided it was time to book passage and head for home.
Jeff Wyatt had left his former employ as an engineer with the Norwegian Merchant Navy with the intent of settling in Australia. For some four years he had been there, working in various mostly maritime capacities. He boarded the Canberra that November day because he had been called home by his family. His brother had been seriously injured in a road accident, and his father had had a massive heart attack.
A chance encounter was followed by a shipboard romance on the Canberra. Within months Lesley and Jeff tied the proverbial knot.
Sovereign of the Seas
It seemed inevitable. Lesley comes from an artistic family. Her mother
was an artist who painted portraits and landscapes in oils. Her aunt,
Smith, is a well known, award-winning wildlife artist who lives in
Australia north of Sydney and who exhibits in Sydney as well as in
faraway California. Lesley's cousin in Los Angeles, California has a
small film production company.
Lesley's own artistic passion was to work with wood without adding any color, and she started by becoming a woodcarver. One day she carved a cheetah. Of course, the cheetah needed spots, and the rest, as they say, is history. She bought a pyrotool to achieve the spots she wanted for her carving, and she hasn't looked back.
Lesley has continued to pursue her woodcarving and belongs to the on-line Woodcarvers Porch, as well. As for her pyrography, besides her fine-lined, surprisingly small works in nautical themes, she has also explored Celtic designs, landscapes, cityscapes, and wildlife. From working exclusively on wood, she has 'branched out' and now sometimes works on paper, as well.
Visit the Lesley Wyatt Salon in the E-Museum for more works by Lesley.
Vierge de Lourdes, Knotting Detail
Jeff has been interested in rope and knot tying since his days in the
Boy Scouts when he learned the basic half dozen or so required knots.
Taking him from there to his present amazing repertoire of an estimated
700 to 800 knots he can tie from memory was a very small ship--a very,
very small ship that changed the course of his pursuits.
Jeff was on board ship working for the Merchant Navy when he observed a colleague tying tiny knots in cotton to create the rigging for a ship in a bottle. Fascinated, Jeff began learning knot tying from his shipmate and developing expertise.
In the mid 1990s, Jeff joined the International Guild of Knot Tyers. It was founded as an educational non-profit (charity) organization whose members give demonstrations and talks with the goal of bringing awareness of this age-old skill to the public and keeping the art form alive. Jeff is presently completing his service as president of this guild.
Lesley uses different pyro tools to accomplish different aspects of her
works. She started with an English solid point Janik, then an English
Peter Child's wire point, a Welsh Davan unit with dual wire-tipped
pens, and finally the Canadian Razortip she acquired for the fine shapes
she requires to do the halyards on her ships. Her nautical works are
mainly done on Birch plywood. She admires the English Sycamore but
notes it is not available in anything but small plaques. In a recent
visit to the United States at the now famous woodcarvers get-together at
Joe Dillett's in Illinois, Lesley acquired a supply of basswood, which
she is looking forward to working on, as well.
As for Jeff, he, too, prefers only the natural colors of the wide variety of natural fibres he works with, such as hemp, jute, cotton, manila, and flax. A resource Jeff considers essential for anyone seriously interested in knot tying is a book by Clifford Ashley, The Ashley Book of Knots that is a compilation of more than 3900 different knots. Besides the knots Jeff can tie from memory, with reference to this book, he is able to tie any shown in it, making his ultimate repertoire even more impressive.
HMS Victory, detail of the pyrography
Above (and in the two images following) is the magnificent sailing ship
HMS Victory, the flagship of Lord Nelson, Admiral of the Fleet. This
historic ship, which is in drydock in Portsmouth, Hampshire, on the
southern coast of England, is open to the public.
This year, to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Lord Nelson, who died at Trafalgar on board the Victory, some added activities are planned for their annual Festival of the Sea. One such activity is that Jeff and three friends (The Starbolins) will be wearing reproductions of authentic uniforms from 1880 and demonstrating and teaching knot tying, a vital skill back in the days of Lord Nelson and his crew.
HMS Victory, detail of the knotting
Following is Lesley's brief explanation of how Jeff creates his
handsome, intricately hand-knotted frames around her nautical pyroengravings:
"Once I have made a start on a pyro of a sailing ship, Jeff finds a suitable frame and starts to make several different braids, each long enough to go all the way around it. He uses natural uncoloured fibres only, making full use of the different tones of brown, although some cord has been bleached white or cream."
"When the picture is finished, then sealed and varnished, Jeff glues it into the frame and starts by gluing a narrow braid on the picture itself. He then works his way to the outside edge of the frame, testing the combinations of braids as he goes. Some of the frames consist of eight or nine different patterns and no two frames will ever be the same. Although the braids are each made in one continuous length, the wider ones have to be cut at the corners and mitred."
When the frame is completely covered, Jeff makes four oblong corner pieces called ocean mats to cover the joints for a finished appearance. Then these are each decorated with a star knot for the final touch."
Once more a ship--this time a very large historic one--changed the
course of things.
HMS Victory is still a serving ship in the Royal Navy and still has a crew--including the Victory Riggers--to keep it 'ship shape' for public viewing. Some 8 or 9 years ago, they commissioned Lesley to pyroengrave a 5-ft wooden banner incorporating a picture of HMS Victory for display at their shows. Jeff liked Lesley's pyroengraving of HMS Victory so much that he asked her to repeat it for them to have one of their own at home.
Lesley agreed but stipulated one condition--that he make a frame for it using his knots. It has been their pride and joy, and was their first nautical art collaborative effort.
Today, Lesley and Jeff are both retired from their respective careers. They enjoy traveling to all parts of the world pursuing their interests and enjoying life.
Besides the Woodcarvers Porch mentioned earlier, Lesley Wyatt is a
member of five on-line groups relating to the Cavalier King Charles
Spaniels she used to breed, show, and judge (BritishCKCS,
CavalierPedigrees, Cavaliers, CavaliersUK); two more of her interests
(JudPub, Mosaic_for_fun); and the following pyrography groups:
- UKPyros (a small, friendly support group, which she founded herself. She has since met most of the members in person at shows and gatherings)
- uniting_pyrographers (on-line meeting place for the Int'l Ass'n of Pyrographic Artists--IAPA)
Visit the Lesley Wyatt Salon in the E-Museum for more works by Lesley--not only nautical but also wildlife, Celtic, and more.
Visit Lesley and Jeff's photo sites at:
and The International Guild of Knot Tyers.
Past articles in this series on couples working as a team are:
South African wildlife artists and business partners working on leather: Adri and Cassie Pretorius
American antique collectors Peni and Lee Powell Displaying Their Flemish Art Collection
Argentine artists and business partners working abstract fine art, folk and religious art Gabriela Lezcano and Alejandro Veneziani
Puerto Rican artists and business partners depicting indigenous peoples of the Americas Jose and Enith Pelegrina-Vissepo
American artists and business partners making musical instrument gourd sculptures (and music!): Linda and Opie O'Brien
Click here to go back to page one
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 ninth year of articles on pyrography for the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM), started January 1997, and the eighth 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.
2005, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.