A Vivid Arts and Crafts Poker Work Book Box


Origin: English
Period: Arts and Crafts
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1900
Height: 8 inches
Width: 6 inches
Depth: 2 inches

A wonderfully vibrant and well-made book box, the flower head, petals and leaves all beautifully coloured, with the three-dimensional effect that poker work brings, set in Autumnal colours and designed in the Arts and Crafts style. There is perhaps a hint of the Art nouveau influence in the characteristic curves of the vines and stems, the box being made at the turn of the century, and thus, within the transitional period of one style to the other.

The top third of the box lifts off to reveal the hardwood interior with which to keep ones private possessions. The box is in excellent all round condition, with no cracks or crazing, with the colours remaining lively and the execution sharp, meaning that this craftsman was highly experienced.

Poker work, or pyrography as it is now known, literally means "writing with fire" and is the traditional art of using a heated tip or poker to burn or scorch designs onto natural materials such as wood in this instance, or perhaps leather. The process has been practiced by cultures including the Egyptians and some African tribes since the dawn of recorded time. In the late 19th century, a Melbourne architect by the name of Alfred Smart discovered that water-based paint could be applied hot to wood by pumping benzoline fumes through a heated hollow platinum pencil. This improved the pokerwork process by allowing the addition of tinting and shading that previously were impossible.

This book box is quintessentially Arts and Crafts in design, in original condition,and is as attractive and well accomplished an example, as you are ever likely to see.