Bob and Del Neill, husband and wife team, spend much of their year travelling to art and craft shows teaching and demonstrating, as well as topping up the four galleries that Bob supplies with his pyrography. For the uninitiated, pyrography is the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point.
Bob works mainly on wood and the unique thing about his work is that he uses colour to enhance his designs. The process goes something like this: first choose the piece of wood, be it a board, platter, dish, spoon (plus many more), then prepare your design and the medium and then burn the pyrography onto the surface. The colour is applied at the end of this initial process. Sixties designs are the style preferred but some of Bob’s work has more historic attributions such as the Celtic knot-work wooden pebbles or the Art Deco bowls and boards. Then the colour is added as a secondary layer and for this, Bob uses water based acrylics, iridescent water based colours, even felt pen. The beauty of the water based medium is that you can see the pyrography design work beneath the colour; it acts just like a wash as in these beautiful platters and dishes below.
Bob creates a good range of items, of which some are quite small like needle cases (think small lighthouse with a lift off lid). Some are much bigger works, such as the vibrant wooden platters which measure up to 16 inches. There are also bookmarks in leather, greetings card designs on veneer or watercolour paper, coasters on cork, picture and mirror frames and some of the most impressive wooden spoons ever!
As part of his teaching and demonstrating, Bob sells all the kit you might need to get yourself started. At today’s workshop, he has a full stash of pyrography machines, templates in all sorts of media, a design book and signed copies of his very own book, first published by the Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd in 2005, which is aimed at beginners. It contains around thirty projects to get people started. Bob says ‘the book gives people the confidence to get going. The projects are easy to follow and the techniques are all explained well’.
Bob loves to live and work as a selling artist and teacher. He has found his niche. For Bob, his biggest seller is a personalised three-legged stool, crafted and personalised to celebrate a child’s birth. And lately, his cheeseboard has also really taken off, by adding the names of the different cheeses around the edge. He undertakes lots of commissions for weddings and has even done a piece for a divorce party when he had to split the item down the middle!
Bob has taught art for 20 years and was the former Head of Creative Design in a secondary school. In his early career in the 1960’s Bob was doing huge pieces of metal sculpture until he got involved with the wood carving fraternity. He was invited to shows as a demonstrator and tutor and has now found the real niche that so many creatives seek out. His lovely work is a joy to behold and definitely a great table top skill to master. The biggest outlay item is a good pyrography machine, which will set you back somewhere between £100 and £150. Then the creative limits are boundless!
Come and meet Bob and Del and try out Pyrography for yourself.