Hendrik Vrey


hendrik vrey

Pyrography (“pyro” means FIRE in ancient Greek) is done by burning pictures or designs onto wood or leather with a hot iron. Since ancient times, people have used this technique to decorate their weapons and tools.

In 1967 I rediscovered this technique and began to experiment burning pictures on apple box planks. These days I use electric soldering irons on tanned cow leather. Through over 40 years of dedicated, daily practice I have developed my work to its present form. I do not use any type of colouring or dyes in my work, only darker or lighter shades. Though many have followed my example over the years, I am proud to say that I founded it in my country.



– African Wildlife

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– Character Studies

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– For Trophy Hunters

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– Landscapes

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– Portraits

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– Other

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How it’s done

Other pirographic artists may have different tools, leather and methods, but I have been doing it my way for 45 years.

I use vegetable tanned cow (Bovine) leather, also called tooling leather. Chrome tanned leather does not work as well. Some vegetable tanned leather burns easier than others – depending on the tanning process.

As tools I use “Stanley” 30 and 45 Watt as well as heavier 75 watt soldering irons. I shorten, hammer and file the tips to suit my hand. Normally, they are shaped like bended, sharpened screwdriver tips. The 75 watt soldering iron is also flattened and smoothed with a file or sanding paper. The smoother, the better. For the grass and leaf effect I make a square tip and file in grooves with a triangular file. The 110 volt “Wood Burning Kit” also does a good job.

I glue the leather onto hardboard (or thin plywood) with contact glue. I then smooth the leather using a smooth wine bottle. This gives me a smooth, hard surface to work on. This also prevents the artwork from being damaged by bending or folding.

The design is drawn directly, in pencil, on the leather before I burn it. Other, more complicated designs are drawn on paper first and then transferred to the leather using black carbon paper.

The outlines are done with the sharp point and the shading with the flat surface of the soldering iron. The more time and pressure in the strokes, the darker the burns. Less time and pressure results in lighter burns. If the tip is too hot, I switch it off and let it cool for a few minutes. It takes a lot of practice.

After the artwork is done, I varnish it with a matt Polyurethane wood varnish. This protects the artwork from water splashes, moisture and dirt. I advise customers to clean their artwork with an aerosol furniture polish/cleaner (like Cobra Touch or Mr. Min) every six months. Spray it on lightly and wipe it off again. This prevents the varnish from drying out and cracking. If the artwork is framed behind glass, no varnish is needed.

Company information


Mr. Hendrik Vrey

hendrik vrey

I was born on a farm in Niekerkshoop in South Africa on the 11th of September 1951. My father was a bore-man and a hunter and our family of eight lived a nomadic lifestyle for many years, travelling from farm to farm and living in a tent.

From a young age I found myself drawn to the stark and beautiful nature surrounding me. As a small boy I would often spend whole days alone in the bush playing with small and sometimes even poisonous and dangerous animals that I would find there. I think that this was where my love of the African bush was born. When I was old enough to go to school, we settled in Walvis Bay, in what is now Namibia. In those days I enjoyed camping in the Namib desert (usually with with a bicycle), fishing and diving for rock lobsters.

I always loved drawing and other forms of art, but never received any formal instruction in it. My dream back then was to become an architect and after school I studied it, quite successfully, in South Africa. Then, during my fourth year, the written examinations were unexpectedly changed to an oral exam. I have a speech impediment and my lecturers advised me not to continue with my studies.

Embittered and heart broken, my one dream in life shattered, I returned to the bush. I spent years studying the nature, behaviour and anatomy of the animals and the landscapes that surrounded me there by observation, drawings and photographs. I became a keen observer of nature and everything around me.

Without money to fill an empty stomach, I was forced to turn my hobby, art, into a full time job. I survived by selling my works from door to door. Those were difficult time, but with perseverance, discipline and a helping hand from above, there were better days to come.

I am an ambitious and productive person, working long hours daily, and usually late into the night. Over the years I have become quite well known in Southern Africa I have had successful exhibitions in Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, the USA, Canada, South Africa and, of course, Namibia. I enjoy the support of a large network of loyal friends and clients from all corners of the word. By working hard I have been able to support myself (and my family) with my art for over 40 years. I like to say that I have been practising for 40 years and still learning something new every day.

Today I reside in Windhoek, Namibia’s capitol city. I am married to my wife, Annette and we have a son, Willem and a daughter, Christine. I still work about 15 hours every day and love every minute of it.


Address: Rautenbach street 18, Klein Windhoek

P.O.Box 21560, Windhoek, Namibia

Tel: +264-61-233705

Fax: +264-61-233705

E-mail: hendrikvrey@gmail.com

URL: http://www.hendrikvrey.com


My greatest love is African wildlife and landscapes, but I also draw inspiration from a wide spectrum of other topics, such as portraits, character studies, domestic animals, etc. I often make small personalised artworks at exhibitions to demonstrate my work and some of my larger works are up to three meters across. I have also tried my hand at wildlife from other continents with great success.


As a true Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ is steering me through life – with all its joys and sorrows. I believe that an artist’s work is a reflection of his deepest inner feelings from his heart and soul. I love the fact that I create works of art depicting God’s wonderful creation. He inspires me to great heights, success and happiness in what I am doing.




Category: Leather Products, Region: Khomas