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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 34, Page Three of Three


Page One:
Julia Surba: New Works from Ancient Kuzhebar

Page Two:
PFC Camilo González: Wartime Folk Art
Nancy Boitos: Large Rustic Furniture Projects
DeAnn Cote: Hello, Hitty!

Page Three:
Faux Pyrography
Mystery Corner: Who Is the Artist
Who Did "The Last Stagecoach"?

Faux Pyrography

Lady with a Bonnet
by Peni Powell

Painting on wood panel imitating pyrography

Image courtesy of the artist

A Surprise from Peni Powell

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 Tools Salon.

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
by Duncan Ceramics of Scotland

Pyroengraving effect on pair of ceramic mugs
of mother owl with chicks in textured browns
on smooth glossy white ceramic mugs
Height: 4 in. diameter (excluding handle): 2.75 in.
Embossed on base: Duncan Ceramics. Made in Scotland.

Image source eBay

Imitation Is the Highest Form of Flattery

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

Pyrography Imitating Different Decorative Arts

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 thing.

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
by R. Capron

Whimsical textured and fired clay hanging rack imitating wood with pyroengraving,
23 cm by 15 cm

Trois Desmoiselles, detail of the artist's signature
by R. Capron

Technique used on the clay is much like the technique of pyroengraving on wood

Images source eBay

Art Imitating Pyrography

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

Faux pyrography on cigar label

Image source eBay

Weller Pottery

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
by the Weller Pottery Co. of Zanesville, Ohio

Pottery vase from the Weller "Burnt Wood"Series
11.5 in. tall

Image source eBay

Egyptian Vase c.1900
by the Weller Pottery Co. of Zanesville, Ohio

Pottery vase from the Weller "Burnt Wood"Series

Image source eBay

Flower Pot c.1900
by the Weller Pottery Co. of Zanesville, Ohio

Pottery flower pot from the Weller "Burnt Wood"Series
5.5 in. wide by 5 in. tall

Image source eBay

Pot c.1900
by the Weller Pottery Co. of Zanesville, Ohio

Pottery flower pot from the Weller "Burnt Wood"Series

Image source eBay

Mystery Corner: Who Is the Artist
Who Did "The Last Stagecoach"?

The Last Stagecoach
by Unknown Artist

Pyrography on wood panel, framed

Image courtesy of Marlene McQueen

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.

See a detail of the signature in the image on the left. Please e-mail us to solve the mystery if you have any additional information regarding the artist of this piece.
To learn more about other antique pyrographic works, visit the Antique Hall in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

Detail of the Signature
from The Last Stagecoach

Click here to go back to page one

Click here to go back to page two

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 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.