Q: I have a pyrography-decorated wooden wall plaque of five kittens. It’s about 12 by 8 inches. On the back, it’s marked “Flemish Art Company, New York” and “866.” Can you tell me anything about it or its value?
A: The word “pyrography” means "writing with fire." It’s sometimes called “pokerwork” because the design is burned into the wood with a thin poker-like tool. The earliest examples were done in China over 2,000 years ago. The technique became popular in the United States in the late 1800s, when a method of coloring the designs by using benzoline was developed. By the early 1900s, boxes, candlesticks, plaques, novelties and furniture were being decorated with pyrographic designs. The Flemish Art Co., also known as Flem-Ar-Co, was the major producer of pyrographic items in the United States. The term “Flemish art” is sometimes used generically to refer to any pyrographic work. The company was in business in the late 1800s and early 1900s and sold finished pieces, unfinished pieces, woodworking supplies and pyrographic kits through Sears catalogs. Pyrographic wall plaques usually sell for less than $10 today.