Julia Surba: New Works from Ancient Kuzhebar
PFC Camilo González: Wartime Folk Art
Nancy Boitos: Large Rustic Furniture Projects
DeAnn Cote: Hello, Hitty!
Mystery Corner: Who Is the Artist
Who Did "The Last Stagecoach"?
Lady with a Bonnet
American decorative art painter, teacher, and author Peni Powell of Portland, Oregon, has been a member of IAPA from
the very beginning because of her interest in collecting antique
pyrography. Pieces from her Flemish Art collection are featured on her
own website paletteofcolors/hispeed.com
and in previous articles in the WOM, including one that was a home
tour of her collection on display. In addition, a sampling of her
collection is also featured in the E-Museum Antique
Hall, and the E-Museum Antique
The lovely piece above, however, is not one of her antiques, but a painting Peni herself did in a very effective imitation of pyrography. The illusion of woodburning is delightful.
Pair of Ceramic Mugs
I have always been fascinated to see how one technique or medium imitates another. The Mexican pyrographic techniques I learned in Guatemala imitated many other decorative art techniques--for example, wood inlay, marquetry, ivory inlay, ceramic tiles, porcelain painting, low and high relief porcelain, mother-of-pearl inlay--all pyrographic works, which were most often mixed media pieces themselves combining pyrography with paints and stains, and more, to get the desired effects.
Girl Scout Postcard and Young Woman Golfer Postcard
1916 and 1920, respectively
Heavy tan card stock embossed to look like pyroengraved thin wooden postcards
Each 6 in. by 3.5 in., on paper
Image source eBay
In the case of the pyrographic techniques I learned, which imitated
myriad decorative art techniques, I thought that, besides bursting open
the pyrographic artist's range of design sources and new ideas, perhaps
the pyro techniques had been developed as the "poor man's"
decorative art, that is, a sort of inexpensive substitute for the real
In part, I think that was most likely the intent; I certainly could observe that in a book I have on Norwegian folk art traditions brought to America*, where there were certain wooden items for household use that were carved and otherwise embellished by established artisans for sale to the more prosperous, in contrast with similar items in a more rustic style made in the rural areas and decorated in burning.
However, ultimately the conclusion is inevitable--for the greatly varied Mexican techniques I learned, as well as the rustic Norwegian ones, and so many others I have researched--that the pyro decorative art techniques have their own distinct beauty and great merit.
* Norwegian Folk Art: The Migration of a Tradition, Marion Nelson, editor; New York: Abbeville Press, 1995.
Trois Desmoiselles, detail
Trois Desmoiselles, detail of the
Somewhat to my surprise, while doing my pyrography research, I have similarly come across other decorative arts that resemble pyrography. Because pyrography itself has generally proved obscure and had little recognition among art critics as a legitimate technique, it intrigued me that I could find other--far better recognized, far more sought after--art forms imitating it. Yet, albeit not a common occurrence, that has indeed been the case, as the pieces here attest.
American Kid Cigar Label partial view
The Weller Pottery Co. of Zanesville, Ohio, U.S.A., did an entire series of varied designs, shapes, and sizes that they called their Burnt Wood series. I have come across many examples of these. When doing so, I have also noticed they are still very coveted items, which sell in the hundreds of dollars and are listed in antiques catalogues. Following are a few examples of these warm, beautiful ceramics that date back about a hundred years.
Tall Vase c.1900
Egyptian Vase c.1900
Flower Pot c.1900
The Last Stagecoach
The Last Stagecoach, Artist Unknown
The only clue to the identity of the artist who did the nice old piece
above is an undecipherable signature in the lower right on the front of
the wood panel. The owner, Marlene McQueen, bought the piece in the United States, at an
antique sale in So. California.
Detail of the Signature
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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.