Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pyrography.....what's that?

I've been talking about collections lately, so I thought I'd show you another one of mine, and do a little "show and tell" of pyrography, which are more commonly known as "wood burnt" items.

If, your definition of an antiques is an item over 100 years old.......these items are true antiques. 

In the late 1880 through the 1920s, women's magazines featured this new pastime, for ladies, called pyrography or wood burning.  Soon, art supply companies were making and selling wood boxes, wall plaques and small pieces of furniture with the designs drawn on them and the latest innovations in wood burning equipment for this new craft.

As time passed, and skills improved, ingenuity brought originality to the burned designs depending on the artistic ability of the craftsperson.  Paint was added to highlight the design and backgrounds were chiseled out to add depth and texture.

Apparently, safety was not much of a concern, considering ladies were using hand held devices that were heated with a benzine/air mixture plus, asbestos was added to reduce explosions.  Fun hobby, huh.....sort of like an "extreme sport" of the 1900s.

Thousands of these items were purchased and completed.  I've had a few more pieces over the years but I have edited down to these few pieces that I really like and enjoy looking at everyday.

ron 002This wall plaque is 20 inches by 9 inches and was produced by Flemish Art Company.  There is, of course, no way to know the name of the craftsperson who burned it.

Since, we are very fond of cats in this household, this is one of our favorite designs.

ron 004


  This wonderful magazine holder is 24 by 14 inches. 

I really like this one and I've been using it in my craft room, recently, to hold scrapbook papers.



wood 005


So, you get a sense of how it looks with magazines in it I took this photo.  It must have been designed to hang on the wall, next to your favorite chair, holding your reading material at the ready.




ron 005

This little sweetie would have hung on the wall and held your comb or brush in the tray.

A quick check in the little round mirror would have told you if you needed to use them! 



wood 003Behold, the detail!  Burned, chiseled and textured this little beauty is only 12 x 9 inches.

wood 002  More detail from the front of the brush holder.

wood 004 This sweet little frame, made to hold two photos of loved ones, is about 8 inches wide.

ron 007

The most common examples of pyrography, you will find these boxes, in various sizes and designs, in almost any antique store today. 

Here the top box belonged to my grandmother and is what piqued my interest in this burnt wood craft and where the collection began.

The bottom box is my most recent acquisition and is about 9x11x5 inches high.  The painted designs are my least favorite and, normally, I wouldn't have bought it.........except for the message on the bottom.  This is what makes this box so special.

wood 007The woman I bought it from told me Fred W. was her great-uncle and the box was done by his niece for Christmas 1910.

You can, also, see the manufacture mark on the left, it was produced by Flemish Art Company.  Thayer & Chandler was another company that produced a lot of materials during the popular years of wood burning. 

If you find these crafted items as interesting as I do, you can learn more by reading "The Burning Passion" by Carole and Richard Smyth and published by L-W Book Sales.

Thank you for allowing me to share, with you, what I think is a fun and fascinating collection from another era.

Remember, I blog for comments.....they are always appreciated!

I am linking to Metamorphasis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch, Tabletop Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life and Sue Loves Cherries at Rednesday.  Please join me and check out all the other great blogs.


Donna said...

Your collection is gorgeous, Jan! I didn't know it was called pyrography! I remember when ew were kids,my older sister had a woodburning kit. doesn't sound like a safe thing for kids to be using, though! Saw you over at Metamorphosis Monday!

Thoughtfully Blended Hearts said...

This is such an interesting post about these objects...I've never known anything about them and I certainly appreciate them much more now. It must have been so difficult to do this craft and of course sorta dangerous with the addition of the asbestos and benzene...Great info!!!

LaurenFaythe said...

Wow- a lost art! What beautiful treasures you have - I love that magazine holder!

Atticmag said...

These are really lovely documents of a more leisurely time. I remember when wood burning kits were something every child had.

News! On Friday we're starting a link-up-your-giveaway party (and we'll announce an amazing giveaway). Please join us at

Jane F.

Lynn said...

That is an interesting collection and a different hobby! The cats are really cute!

Marty@A Stroll Thru Life said...

What a fabulous collection. I remember seeing some of these and I had no idea what they were. Every one of yours are stunning. What a lost art. Thanks so much for sharing and for the education. Thanks also for linking to TTT. Hugs, Marty

Debbiedoos said...

Hi Jan...I love your magazine rack, such pretty wood. It sure is a great treasure.

Unknown said...

Wow- your collecdtion is wonderful. I love wood-burning. I made a mantel with a rose medallion for the shop faux fireplace.

Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

These are wonderful... I remember "way back when", my brother got a kit for Christmas, it was such an incredible hobby until he started burning things he shouldn't be... He was SO artistic Way back then, hehe!
Thank you for sharing these treasures.
Hugs, Donna

Chari at Happy To Design said...

Hello Jan...

Ohhh...what lovely examples of burned wood! You really do have a beautiful collection! I loved the boxes and ohhh, that gorgeous magazine/letter holder! Thank you so much for sharing some of your collection with us well as the history of interesting!!!

Warmest wishes,
Chari @Happy To Design

Romeo said...

Well I can certainly see why these are your favorite pieces! They are beautiful! Of course the cat one is THE best ;)

And "her" and I learned something this evening....we didn't realize that this craft started out as a ladies craft! For that time, that was really "out there"!

Thanks for sharing!



SueLovesCherries said...

Those are wonderful, and I'm glad for the history. I've only seen the boxes before.

reprise vintage said...

thank you for the education. you have some very beautiful pieces!

Sally Annie Magundy said...

Hi Jan!
What a wonderful and fascinating collection you have. I love the piece with the mirror and the double picture frame is so sweet. How precious that inscription is and how great you were able to talk to a family member and hear the back story (sad she didn't wish to keep it though!).

Happy Rednesday,

Ann said...

Hi Jan, Thanks so much for posting an informative post...I had no idea about this form of wood burning. Oh yes, I know about the kits that I did as a child but certainly not kits over 100 years old...very interesting and such works of art. Beautiful collection!
The Tattered Tassel

Lola said...

I've learnt so much from this post - TFS! And the pics are so charming and illustrative too.
What a lovely blog you have -will definitely be back to read through other posts…
Happy Rednesday!
btw My Rednesday post is here!

craftyles said...

I've seen things like this but had no idea how or when they were made. Really interesting post and great pic's also. I'll be keeping an eye out for these, next time I'm antiqing!

Bunnym said...

Just stopping by to say "Hey" and thanks for visiting me. I love your collections....very unusual...which makes it extra special. Have a wonderful day.