On Christmas Day, Henry Hanzo tore off the wrapping paper to reveal a gift that would go on to to become his passion and hobby more than 60 years later.
“I was about eight or nine when I got a wood burner,” said Hanzo, of Oak Ridge, N.J., now 72. “It had something like a soldering iron with a different tip. It was kind of crude, but it worked.”
Pyrography, or wood burning, is the art of decorating wood with burn marks made from a heated object. Hanzo describes it as “painting with a hot tool.”
After a while, Hanzo lost touch with the hobby for many, many years. But his passion was reignited at a motorcycle flea market. Someone was selling a box with a whole bunch of stuff inside, so Hanzo bought the entire box. Buried at the bottom was a wood burner.
He has burned several pieces, but his favorite is a portrait of Jesus Christ, which has garnered him two blue ribbons – one at the New Jersey State Fair and another at a woodcarving show. Hanzo completed his portrait in two sittings at about two hours each time.
“It is extremely meditative,” Hanzo said. “You go into a different zone.”
Hanzo is the president of the 30-year-old Jersey Hills Wood Carving Club. Its 30 members meet the first and third Thursday of the month at Jefferson High School to create art out of wood. Several other club members have taken on pyrography as well, but mainly to accent pieces of art they have carved first, like feathers on a bird or scales on a fish. It helps add a level of depth to the piece.
The wood burning tool “is my tool of preference,” Hanzo said. “It’s part of your arsenal of carving equipment. Many people start to carve and then keep pushing the envelope.”