Pyrography is the art of creating designs on wood using heat to burn or char the wood. Evidence suggests the art form has been around for thousands of years right up to today.
Over those years, pyrography has had a host of names. For example, it was called “embroidery with fire needle” during China’s Han dynasty which reigned from 206 BC - 220 AD. Fast forward to the late 1800s and the term ‘pokerwork’ was a fairly common term as was ‘woodburning’. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the term pyrography gained in popularity. Not only has the name of the art form varied over time, so has the method to create the art.
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Original tools were pieces of metal, such as pokers, needles, and knives. The artist would place the metal over a flame or bed of hot coals to heat the metal sufficiently so that it would char or burn the wood. In the early 1900s, an electric pyrography pen was created and the art form became extremely popular during the Art Nouveau period.
Today, artists have several new choices to create pyrography art including temperature controlled solid point and wire nib pens as well as lasers. The solid point and wire nib styles are handheld devices that require the artist to master their use; a process that can take years. Whereas the laser version is a ‘printer’ that attaches to a computer which then controls the laser to etch/burn an image onto wood, thus allowing anyone to create amazing works of pyrography.
While the methods of pyrography have changed down the years, the medium remains popular due to its distinctive style and look. No matter how you create it, be it hot pieces of metal from a fire or hot pieces of metal from electrical resistance or just heat energy from focused light, the end result lies in the artists interpretation of the subject, the layout, and the overall ascetics of the work – just like any other piece of art.
To read more:
Scrub Jay, Pyrography by Brenda Wilkie
Thank you to talented pyrography expert, Brenda Wilkie, for this excellent article.
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