My interest in pyrographing designs onto platters started about five years ago, when I drew up my first design for a Celtic inspired platter, but I foolishly chose what must have been about the most unsuitable piece of wood in the world. Pyrography involves the burning of lines for text of images, into the surface of timber with a heated stylus, traditionally heated over an open flame but more latterly the equipment bears a closer resemblance to a soldering iron, generally with a temperature control and a choice of nibs for burning different effects. It works best on even, close grained timbers like beech or sycamore, although it can be done on other, coarser timbers, but the coarse grain gives poor results.
My first attempt was a platter entitled “Isodendron”, which means timber in balance, and the design stemmed from a painting that I did on the bows of a sailing dinghy. The design involves two creatures, the greyhound as the symbol for the power of the wind and the sea serpent, as the symbol for the power of the sea. Traditionally, Celtic fishermen would paint or carve these symbols onto the bow of a boat and the belief was that the wooden boat would be held safely afloat thanks to the balance of the natural forces.
In my naivete, I chose a magnificent piece of poplar burr, but in reality, poplar is too soft and any burr has too random a grain pattern, but I managed to fit the design in between the outcrops of knots and swirls. It took me hours to complete and now lives on the bedroom wall of a friend who just couldn’t resist it.
Having learned my lesson about the choice of timber, I selected a fine piece of beech for a later design, which was a private commission as a surprise gift for a gentleman with Celtic roots, linked to both Cornwall and Wales, and who had a greyhound. The only choice for me was to use the greyhound and dragon symbols from “Isodendron” and re-work the design, making it symmetrical and set around an impressive piece of Cornish Serpentine stone. I even managed to sneak in a piece of tinned leather, as a hint back to the Cornish tin mining industry.
Last Christmas (2017) we were commissioned to make a similar platter, but with more significance to the Snowdonia National Park. This design used a piece of local sycamore, which grew in Parc, just a few miles away from my workshop, and used two symbols of great relevance, the dragon of Wales and the eagle, or eryr in Welsh, which gives its name to Snowdon/Eryri, our highest mountain.
The most recent commission for an engraved platter was very interesting for me. Bala is home to one half of an industry which produces children’s pyjamas. Called Aykroyds & Sons Ltd, the business is based in Manchester and has had a presence in Bala for many decades and is one of our largest employers. 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the business I was asked to design and produce two identical platters to help to celebrate the anniversary. One was made out of local sycamore, for the Bala office, whilst the other was made of Cheshire beech, for the Manchester office.
The celebrations took place last week and I was delighted to see a picture of the Manchester platter being held aloft by Mr David Aykroyd. My design incorporated the English Lion, facing the Welsh Dragon, each placed to the sides of the company logo, which was etched into the centre of each platter. The rest of the design was the lettering chosen to mark the occasion.