As in other various art forms, pyrography or pyrogravure can be divided into two main categories – traditional and modern. In this article, we will focus on traditional pyrography which uses any heated metal equipment in order to burn not only on wood but on other specific materials, like bamboo.
It can be surmised that ancient pyrography originated in China. This is briefly explained in Cultural China.
“The pyrography works in old times were often produced on wooden materials, such as board, tree bark, and gourd, on which uneven textural changes generated naturally certain relief effect. Dark, beige or black were the usual colors. Today, materials such as rice paper and silk are boldly adopted, thus further enriching this art form.”
Furthermore, in Korean traditional pyrography, the tools used are quite simple without any electric component. They even use charcoal to heat the metal implements with different sizes and shapes of points that are then used to draw pictures or paint on the surface of bamboo. Painting on the surface of bamboo is known as Nakjuk. To understand this art form more deeply here’s a very insightful article from Antique Alive.
“Nakjuk, which literally means, “burning on bamboo,” is a traditional Korean pyrography art in which an artist produces a calligraphic work or a drawing on the surface of a piece of bamboo with a red-hot burning instrument, called an indu. The pyrography art is used to decorate a plethora of household objects, including combs, spools, fans, brushes, brush holders, folding screens, and furniture. Records show that the art was developed by a late Joseon Dynasty artisan named Park Chang-gyu who came across and learned advanced nakjuk techniques in Beijing China when he visited the city in 1822.”
Aside from using bamboo, another technique uses a different kind of wood.
“Nakwha is Korea’s traditional art which [creates] drawings or patterns [by] using heated iron to burn the surface of the paper, textile, wood, or leather. Nakwha is a form of painting but classified into craft because this form of art has been applied to various fields of craft for a long time. Nakwha can be applied to various areas, including paintings, various home goods, and accessories, and is characterized by the beautiful and natural colors created by burning natural materials. Its originality and artistic value make it as attractive as any other forms of craft or painting.”
Nowadays, materials about ancient pyrography and their existing forms prove rare and the artworks of great masters are attached with hefty price tags. But one thing is certain – traditional pyrography has indeed withstood the test of time again and again because of its exquisite beauty, classical touch and a more dramatic effect that is vastly different from any modern art.