Bessie Smith demonstrates pyrography at the Blackbutt Show
Bessie Smith demonstrates pyrography at the Blackbutt Show Katherine Morris

Pyrography an intricate art

WALLY Smith has been working with wood since he was 14 years old but only in the last four years has his wife, Bessie, decided to join in.

Nanango's Bessie Smith has been doing pyrography with the Blackbutt Timbertown woodworkers.

Mrs Smith took out the first and second place in pyrography work at the woodworking pavilion at the Blackbutt Show this year.

She said it was a bit of a change from her crochet work.

Mrs Smith joined the woodworkers with husband Wally and wondered what she could do while he worked with the wood.

"I crochet and knit and didn't know what I was going to do at the wood shed,” Mrs Smith said.

"We came here and I started doing pyrography.”

Bessie Smith and her winner piece of pyrography at the Blackbutt Show woodworkers pavillion.
Bessie Smith and her winner piece of pyrography at the Blackbutt Show woodworkers pavillion Katherine Morris

Pyrography is the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point.

The term pyrography means writing with fire, from the Greek work "pur” for fire and "graphos” for writing.

It dates back to the 17th century when it became most popular but was practised in ancient Egypt and African tribes.

To make the pieces, Mrs Smith draws something on trace paper then burns it on to the wood or she might free-hand her work.

She has to sand the piece several times to get it right before she can start burningit.

Different woods give different results and deepening of colours.

"It's been around for a long time, it used to be called poker work,” she said.

A piece she is most proud of was on display this year at the Blackbutt Show and won first prize at last year's show.

The big winning piece shetook to last year's show was the result of four months, on and off, of intricate work.

"You can't keep working at it, it hurts your eyes if you keep at it for a long time,” Mrs Smith said.

"So you have to take a break and come back to it.”

Mrs Smith's favourite imagery to burn on is animals and nature.

A husband and wife creation is the palm crosses that Wally makes and Bessie pyrographs on.

"I do it at home and at the club here,” she said.

Mrs Smith's favourite wood to use is jacaranda, because it's a soft wood that's easy to burn.

She hasn't entered her work anywhere else expect the Blackbutt Show but may do so in the future.

"I've thought about entering in Kingaroy but Inever got around to it,” shesaid.

The main benefit, apart from the satisfaction of finishing each piece, is it keeps Mrs Smith's health incheck, thanks to the relaxing nature of the art form.

"My blood pressure has never been lower,” she said.

The Timbertown woodworkers meet on Wednesdays and Sundays at the Blackbutt Showgrounds from 8.30am-noon.

New members who are interested in woodwork are welcome.

For more information phone Marcia on 41700389.