E-Museum of Pyrographic Art


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Books on Pyrography, is an exhibit of those books dedicated to the instruction of pyrography, or those books highlighting pyrography as a technique and introducing pyrographic artists.

Fox Chapel Publishing has published about 20 books by world class pyrography artists and have also been publishing special magazine issues of Pyrography. At the first two links, you can see all of their pyrography publications. You can also preview at the link following, the first special issue of the magazine that came out in 2010, and the page dedicated to their second special issue of 2012, and their Pyrography Magazine Volume 3 from 2013, as well.

Volume 4, which was published in September 2014, is dedicated to pyrography as decorative art. This issue also offers (on page 14) a special feature article on the E-Museum. The E-Museum Curator wishes to thank the Fox Chapel editor Mindy Kinsey, the writer of this special article Toni Fitzgerald, and all the wonderful people at Fox Chapel who did this article and this issue, and who have given all of us interested in this art form all of the fine publications that are so welcome in our community of artists.

Larger Works with Pyrography, is an exhibit showing larger works that contain pyrographic references, or that contain works of art that have employed pyrography, but where it is not the highlighted technique. This exhibit is intended as a resource for those researching pyrography, and as a testimony to the broader uses of pyrography for the purpose of expanding awareness of this art form.

Pyrography Bibliography, is a resource listing antique, old, out-of-print, and also current new books on pyrography intended for those researching pyrography and for the purpose of expanding general knowledge on the history of this art form.

Contemporary Articles on Pyrography

Exactly a year before the E-Museum opened its doors to welcome the world on January 1st 1998, the curator of the E-Museum began writing feature articles on pyrography for the Woodcarvers Online Magazine (WOM) currently published by Matt Kelley on his Carvers Companion website. Over the years, the Pyrograffiti articles, as they came to be called, numbered over fifty. At the link here is the list of all of them. [Once there, a simple name search (Command F) will serve as an index to help you find topics or artists of particular interest to you.]

Note that, from the beginning, there have been mutual links throughout the E-Museum between many of the artists' E-Museum salons and their corresponding WOM articles.

For some years, the Sue Walters Newsletters have been a popular feature with pyrographic artists worldwide. Her articles often provide tutorials, as well. On her web site at the link here, you will find a place to sign up to receive notice each time a new one of Sue's newsletters becomes available. She also offers tools and books there.

In November 2013, U.K. Conservator Susan Millis presented an important conference paper, entitled UNDERSTANDING PYROGRAPHY, THE PHOTOCHEMISTRY OF 'SCORCHED' DECORATION at Transilvania University in Brasov, Romania, for the Ninth International Conference of WOOD SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM.

Linked here is the (Spanish language) thesis paper, entitled "EL ARTE DEL PIROGRABADO EN LA ANTIGUA GUATEMALA SU APOGEO Y EXTINCION 1900–1950" (THE ART OF PYROGRAPHY IN ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA: ITS PEAK AND DEMISE 1900–1950) written in 1997 by pyrographic artist María Victoria Méndez Ramírez, a fine arts graduate of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
It focuses on the beginnings of this art form as a traditional art industry in Guatemala in the old capital of Antigua—today a national cultural center for the arts—and describes the history of pyrography through the years until its seeming demise as a typical art industry by 1950. The thesis offers much historic background leading up to that tradition—such as early engravers in the House of Coin (the Guatemalan national mint), and illustrators—and also studies contemporary artists in Guatemala still working in this art form today.
[Curator's note no. 1: A small circa 1915 ring box in the E-Museum is likely representative of the work from Antigua. It can be viewed as the seventh/last image in the salon linked here.
Note no. 2: Related to the description pp. 99–100 of the contemporary artist Carmen "Carmela" Gutiérrez de Flores, is a salon in the E-Museum that exhibits works by the curator in the techniques taught by that artist. That exhibit, in turn, has a link in the commentary to an article by the curator describing those techniques in detail.]

Antique Articles on Pyrography

In The Overland Monthly magazine is a 1912 short story entitled The Road to Romance by Harry Cowell. It tells the story of a man returning to San Francisco wearing a hat with a leather hatband of ten fire-etched portraits. The story begins on p. 131 at the link here to its title.

In The Modern Priscilla magazine is a 1908 article entitled Pyrography on Wood and Leather with the subtitle "Treatment of Designs by V.S.F." It offers excellent designs and ideas for projects.

Exhibited here in its entirety is the Flemish Art Company's 1907 Instruction Book for Pyrography. Still meaningful and compelling, this small book is a testament to the intense interest in pyrography that flourished at the turn of the century.

In the 1904 book entitled The Cyclopaedia of Home Arts is a chapter entitled Pyrogravure with the subtitle "Burnt-Wood Etching." The chapter is credited to Emma Haywood, and the book compiled and edited by Montague Marks, who was well known as the editor of the very prestigious Art Amateur Magazine. The chapter here offers excellent designs, helpful descriptions of the various pyrographic applications, and techniques for doing pyrogravure projects on wood, leather, and glass. Of particular note is that it offers a design for a frieze by J. William Fosdick on p. 351.

Pyro-Ceramic Art Magazine 1904

It is remarkable that this specialty magazine was likewise published in Stamford, Connecticut, like the 1903 Pyrographic Art Magazine. It seems that both magazines must have been on newsstands simultaneously for a time.

Following are two articles from this March–April 1904 issue of the large format Pyro-Ceramic Art Magazine:

Exhibited here at this link along with the article entitled LESSON IN PYROGRAPHY: Leather, Staining, Selection, Etc. is the header of the title page of this magazine bearing additional details of the publication itself.

by F. Stewart Greene offers some helpful advice not only for what the title implies but specifically for those people looking to produce drawings and designs for pyrographic work (as, of course, the title of the magazine itself implies) and potentially painting in conjunction with it. This exhibit also includes information about the author of the article (an artist previously known to the E-Museum), as well as images of his work.

A 1904 N.Y. Times article entitled HOLIDAYS' TINY WORKER offers a glimpse of pyrography as a performing art, as a sales novelty, and child labor from the perspective of that time.

A 1904 article by Alice Chittenden entitled With a Pyrography Outfit takes a look at considering this 'new' art form to broaden one's artistic experience.

In The Household Ledger magazine is a 1903 article by Edith W. Fisher entitled A LESSON IN PYROGRAPHY with the subtitle "With Designs Drawn for the Household Ledger by the Author" It offers excellent designs and instruction for decorating a large chest.

Pyrographic Art Magazine 1903

According to the History of Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1639–1928 (p. 285), the "Pyrographic Art Magazine, published in New York, [was] issued from the house in which Theodore Roosevelt was born, [a four-story brownstone] at 28 East Twentieth street." This magazine was started in May 1903 in Stamford, Conn., and, unfortunately, by June 1904, discontinued.

Pyrography illustration on a specialty magazine

Adapted with permission from a photograph
by John P. Lewis, © 1979

In a 1902 book entitled Modern Mural Decoration by Alfred Lys Baldry is a chapter entitled BURNT WOOD WORK offering an overview of the art form and its applications along with wood carving.

In The Ledger Monthly magazine is a rare 1902 article on pyrography written and illustrated by the famous California artist of block prints, William S. Rice. It is entitled HOME DECORATIONS IN PYROGRAPHY with the subtitle "With Designs by the Author"

UPDATE—December 2011: Thanks to William S. Rice's granddaughter, Ellen Treseder Sexauer, who is currently working on a soon-to-be-published book on the famous artist from California, we have the following two articles on pyrography by him found in the family's files. In addition, the chair illustrated in the preceding article from 1902 is also in the family's collection of his works. She has also graciously offered to provide images of this chair to the viewers of the E-Museum, planned for display in the near future.

In The Art Interchange magazine is a circa 1900 article on pyrography written and illustrated by William S. Rice. It is entitled DECORATIVE BREAD-BOARDS.

An additional magazine article on pyrography by William S. Rice from his family's private collection is also believed to be from circa 1900. It is entitled LEATHER SOFA CUSHIONS IN PYROGRAPHY.

In the Pyrography catalogue of the Erker Bros. Optical Co. of St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., is a 1901 illustrated article entitled
A Practical Lesson on the Dignified Art of Burning Wood by
C. Frank Ingerson of Chicago. It offers helpful advice for the 'would be' pyrographic artist and serves as the introduction to the catalogue.

From 1900 is this two-page article, by Emma Moffet Tyng, entitled Etching on Wood or Leather: Its Decorative Uses and Value that was published in Good Housekeeping Magazine.

From 1900 is this two-page article, by L.A.K., entitled The Art of Pyrography that was likewise published in Good Housekeeping Magazine.

From 1898 is this (large format) single-page article, by Florence C. Fetherston, entitled Some Useful Things in Burnt Wood that was published in THE LADIES' HOME JOURNAL.

From 1897 is this single-page article, by Florence C. Fetherston, entitled Christmas Gifts in Burnt Leather and Velveteen that was likewise published in THE LADIES' HOME JOURNAL.

From 1895–1896 is this series of eleven articles entitled "Burnt Work" by Harriet Keith Fobes that was published in The Delineator Magazine. The series of eleven articles begins with the March 1895 issue and concludes in January of 1896. All of the "Burnt Work" articles are available at the following links, respectively:
- March 1895, the Art Defined; materials for decoration.
- April 1895, the tools and their uses.
- May 1895, the tools and their uses—concluded.
- June 1895, adapting designs to burnt decoration on leather.
- July 1895, simple designs for small leather articles.
- August 1895, marine and landscape work.
- September 1895, natural and conventional designs.
- October 1895, figure designs; portraits and silhouettes.
- November 1895, large scale projects.
- December 1895, burnt work on ivory.
- January 1896, burnt decoration on paper; conclusion.

By Ellen T. Masters is the 1893 article Pyrography Upon Glass, offering a detailed description and illustrations for this unusual pyrographic technique. She also quotes Maud Maude to describe a variation of the technique utilizing gold.

By Mrs. Maud Maude is an excellent 2-page illustrated article in The Delineator Magazine entitled The Art of Pyrography or Poker-Work—No. 1 published in January 1892 in both London and New York. It does an excellent job introducing the technique and detailing the use of the benzine tool and the platinum tips.

The second in the series is a 3-page article in February 1892 that offers conventional border patterns appropriate for pyrography.

The third and last one, in March 1892 familiarizes the student with both the technique for natural drawing as well as decorative adaptations of natural subjects. It also offers patterns and tips to familiarize the more advanced student with the techniques for doing flowers and plants, landscapes, and portraits with both light and dark backgrounds.

In Ingalls' Home and Art magazine are two illustrated article segments from 1891 and 1892 entitled "Scorch Work" and "Scorch Work—Now better known as Pyrography" by L. and M. J. Clarkson. It also mentions Maud Maude and offers additional designs.

Poker Work" a Fashionable Decoration is an 1889 article in a trade journal for stationers. It encourages pyrography as a profession for young women artists and cites J. Wm. Fosdick as a role model. This article came out only a year following the artist's return to the United States from France to begin his own career.

Charles Dickens, All the Year Round is the name of a weekly journal he "conducted" in conjunction with Chapman and Hall, who published it in London. In an 1870 article he wrote* for that publication, he cited some of the important artists of pyrography, who worked in the 19th and even 18th centuries, as follows:

- Smith of Skipton [see the Joseph Smith salon entries here in the E-Museum's Antique Hall in the early part of the 19th and into the late 18th centuries].

- Cranch of Axminster [see an entry and image of Cranch in the Antique Hall in the 18th century].

- Thompson of Wilts [no further information available]

- Collis of Ireland [no further information available]

- Mrs. Nelson (fifty-three works), and
- Miss Nelson (thirteen works) (noted by Dickens for a joint exhibit of their works in London at the beginning of the 19th century at the farrier's adjoining the Lyceum, in the Strand) [see the Elizabeth Nelson salon entries here in the E-Museum's Antique Hall in the 18th century].

* It is now believed that most likely it was Charles Dickens' son, of the same name, who wrote this article, not the great master himself who was the one who knew Ball Hughes.

In an 1868 English publication, entitled Notes and queries, is a topical thread on "Poker Drawing" that documents personal accounts sent in from readers with significant anecdotal information about some of the well known artists like Smith, Dr. Griffith, and John Cranch, as well as some additional recollections. The readership of this publication was significant in that the accounts are excellent, and even the Librarian at Knowlsley contributes to the discussion.

In the English Journal of the Society of Arts is an 1859 article segment entitled "Charred Wood" that most surprisingly reveals pyrography as a popular pastime as far back as the 1820's.

In an English magazine entitled Ainsworth's is a remarkably early 1847 book chapter (Chapter the Seventh) by Charles Hooton, entitled "Launcelot Widge" that uses 'poker-drawing' within the framework of a piece of satirical humor.

Bookbinding in Pyrography

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Pyrography and color on leather bookcover
By an unknown artist

From the collection at Pauchunganuc Farm,
the circa 200-year-old,
ancestral home and museum
of Anna North Coit
of N. Stonington, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Sid Huttner's Lucile Project*, display of pyroengraved antique book covers in split suede plus an introduction and links to Sid Huttner's quest to locate individual examples of the many published versions of the book Lucile as a way of encapsulating 19th C. bookbinding techniques.

Note from the Curator to Collectors:
At the following website, dealing with Rare Books, an interesting entry was found concerning a rare book not on the subject of pyrography, but rather bound with a vellum decorated in pyrography. The entry is quoted here:
101. (FINE BINDING). Guerin, M. de. Le Centaure. La Bachante... Boutitie, Paris, 1921. One of 320 numbered examples. 4to, bound in full vellum, front and rear covers with a superb Art Deco design of the figure of a Centaur bearing a chain of flowers, surrounded by a geometric design. The outlines are rendered in pyrogravure; the design is painted in the manner of an enamel, in rich hues of green and blue. The rear board is signed George Baudin.In all, a quintessential piece of Art Deco design. Silk endsheets, marbled fly-leaves, original wrappers bound in. 60 pp., with 16 lithographs by Raphael Drouart. A rare example of this style of binding, in fine condition.

Pyrogravure is a technique for incising the surface of vellum with a heated stylus. Vellum is a difficult material in which to produce a design in blind, but this technique enables the artist or binder to produce a design free-hand with comparative ease. In France such bindings enjoyed a brief vogue. $650.00

You are leaving The Book Store and Library.

Continue your stay at the E-Museum with a visit to:

Pyrographic Art Exhibit Halls:

Portraits and Paintings

Decorative and Applied Art


Traditional and Folk Art

Antique Pyrography

Children's Pyrographic Art

Special Pyrographic Art

Pyrography Tools and Techniques Exhibit

Your comments and questions are welcome and appreciated. Please e-mail the E-Museum Curator.

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© 1997, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.
Updated 30 November 2010. Updated 23 February 2011.
Updated 28 March 2011. Updated 11 April 2011. Updated 6 July 2011. Updated 31 July 2011. Updated 10 August 2011. Updated 20 September 2011. Updated 18 October 2011. Updated 4–5 December 2011. Updated 18 March 2012. Updated 28 June 2012. Updated 18 October 2012. Updated 5 November 2012. Updated 11 November 2012. Updated 21–24 February 2013. Updated 14 February 2014. Updated 07 June 2014. Updated 21 August 2014. Updated 01 October 2014. Updated 20 November 2014. Last updated 23–30 March 2015.