Writing with fire


BURNING WOOD — Marquette Regional History Center showcases Liz Roberts wood burning piece, “Wolf,” a Norse Mammen design made of maple, an example Roberts will use in her upcoming workshop on Sept. 14. Jackie Jafetson/NW

Jackie Jahfetson

Long before Leonardo da Vinci painted “The Mona Lisa,” cultures around the world took charred remains forged from a blaze and carved them into shapes of wood, creating some of the earliest forms of art. Since the dawn of history, pyrography, or wood-burning, has been practiced by a number of cultures such as the Egyptians and some African tribes. But you don’t have to travel back in time to grasp the torch of wood-burning, a local workshop will be bringing the craft to you. And all you need to know is how to use a pencil.

As part of a larger series featuring an exhibit and workshops throughout the year, the Marquette Regional History Center (MRHC) will host the “Pyrography: Wood-burning Workshop” from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 14. Instructor Liz Roberts from Little Chute, Wisconsin, will use her historical works as examples, and participants will hear more about pyrography history and create their own masterpieces.

Today’s wood burning uses modern pyrography tools or a metal implement heated in a fire, focused with a magnifying lens. Like other craftwork, this workshop is a way to integrate history with culture and ancestry, MRHC Curator Jo Wittler said.

“We have everything from beadwork to quilt work, then we have woodworking, Scandinavian textiles, book binding, hair jewelry from the Victorian era and seed saving as well,” Wittler said. “It’s been a really great way teaching some of these crafts that are not as often available, but there are people who still practice them.”

As the curator, Wittler believes these workshops are a way to incorporate current artists and historic examples and it doesn’t always have to be “historical reproduction,” she said, explaining that people can use historical examples as an inspiration to create a modern version of that art.

“Whether you pursue these crafts, I think you gain an appreciation of what goes into them,” Wittler said, adding, “I’m just always so fascinated myself how things are made, what that process is and that’s always a fun thing. Also, having a great hobby is a wonderful thing and it connects you to your past. Wood is such a common element we all work with and see.”

Along with Roberts’ woodburning design on display, the MRHC also features examples of hot poker work where the artist uses a poker or nail and then taps it in pace so it follows a simpler pattern, Wittler noted.

Participants can bring their own projects to work on, but Roberts will have basswood and maple pieces to use as well. If people have pyrography pens, they’re encouraged to bring them to the workshop, but tools will be provided and if participants want to use a reverse image to transfer onto the work project, they’re more than welcome to do so, Wittler said. Pre-registration is required through MRCH with a $45 fee. To sign up, call 226-3571.