|Pyrography is the art of decorating wood or other
materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application
of a heated object such as a poker. It is also known as pokerwork
or wood burning.
Pyrography means "writing with fire" and is the traditional
art of using a heated tip or wire to burn or scorch designs
onto natural materials such as wood or leather. Burning can
be done by means of a modern solid-point tool (similar to a
soldering iron) or hot wire tool, or a more basic method using
a metal implement heated in a fire, or even sunlight concentrated
with a magnifying lens.
This allows a great range of natural tones and shades to be
achieved - beautiful subtle effects can create a picture in
sepia tones, or strong dark strokes can make a bold, dramatic
design. Varying the type of tip used, the temperature, or the
way the iron is applied to the material all create different
effects. Solid-point machines offer a variety of tip shapes,
and can also be used for "branding" the wood or leather.
Wire-point machines allow the artist to shape the wire into
a variety of configurations, to achieve broad marks or fine
lines. This work is time-consuming, done entirely by hand, with
each line of a complex design drawn individually. After the
design is burned in, wooden objects are often coloured, sometimes
boldly or more delicately tinted.
Light-coloured hardwoods such as sycamore, basswood, beech and
birch are most commonly used, as their fine grain is not obtrusive,
and they produce the most pleasing contrast. However, other
woods, such as pine or oak, are also used when required. Pyrography
is also applied to leather items, using the same hot-iron technique.
Leather lends itself to bold designs, and also allows very subtle
shading to be achieved. Specialist vegetable-tanned leather
must be used for pyrography, (as modern tanning methods leave
chemicals in the leather which are toxic when burned) typically
in light colours for good contrast. Examples of pyrography can
be seen at
Pyrography is also popular among gourd crafters and artists,
where designs are burned onto the exterior of a dried hard-shell
gourd, usually with dramatic results.
The process has been practiced by a number of cultures including
the Egyptians and some African tribes since the dawn of recorded
time. In the late 19th century, a Melbourne architect by the
name of Alfred Smart discovered that water-based paint could
be applied hot to wood by pumping benzoline fumes through
a heated hollow platinum pencil. This improved the pokerwork
process by allowing the addition of tinting and shading that
previously were impossible. In the early 20th century, the
development of the electric pyrographic hot wire wood etching
machine further automated the pokerwork process. Pyrography
is also a traditional folk art in many European countries,
including Romania, Hungary, as well as countries such as Argentina
in South America. Since 1997 on the base of woodcarver online
magazine (WOM) was established unique resource devoted to
pyrography from around the world - PYROGRAFFITIE and also
the international Museum of Pyrographic Art. The founder of
these resources is a pyrography artist Kathleen M. Garvey
Menéndez. The E-Museum of Pyrographic Art is not intended
as a commercial enterprise, the E-Museum is a unique cultural
resource designed to bring pyrographic art to artists, specialists,
collectors and connoisseurs.
In March of 1998 was formed the International Association
of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) 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 by IAPA Co-founder
Mixo Sydenham of Australia for IAPA members.