Raymond Koh Poey Hooi (Raymond Koh) mainly works with wood to create his captivating pyrography, but he has been adding watercolor paper to his burnings lately. As a Malaysian born Chinese residing in Johor, he relies on maple ply as his main source of material due to the limitation of choices in the region. “Material is hard to come by locally and it is expensive,” he says. Pyrography was first introduced to Raymond back in the late seventies by an American lady who was a Peace Corps volunteer. “She didn’t do much, just a small introduction to the craft and some basic steps, nothing fancy. But that’s all it took for me to fall in love at first sight with the art,” he says.
It would be a self-taught journey all the way for him. Raymond learned much through this process of trial and error which began with a crude and heavy soldering iron that he would use for many years before owning a proper burning kit. The usage of soldering iron remains a valuable tool for certain aspects of burning, particularly because of the speed at which it burns. For Raymond, the rudimentary process through which he learned the craft sustains its value still today. Creativity and art have always been a fundamental part of Raymond’s life. Even though his profession as interior designer delved into creativity, Raymond decided to change directions to devote his time doing social work.
He spent sixteen years working with an NGO helping the needy, poor, and marginalized. All along, pyrography was a hobby that not only allowed him to polish his creative bone, but it also gave him a much-welcomed supplementary income. But Raymond’s love for art and his desire to reach higher levels in the art of pyrography gave him the courage to make the bold decision to dedicate himself fulltime to the art. His decision to dive into this new venture only took place recently. “Being able to express my inner thoughts and feelings, to be able to project them into works of art, that is indeed a gratifying experience,” Raymond says. When asked, Raymond describes his artistical inclination as his general state of being.
He appreciates everything that contains beauty, which he believes can be found in anything. This appreciation for the beauty that surrounds him is what triggers his inspiration, from fellow artists and their works to all that surrounds him. Inspiration flows naturally through Raymond from the little things that he does, says or sees day in and day out. Pyrography is virtually unknown where Raymond lives and he might be the only one practicing this form of art in the region. His hope is to share the beauty of pyrography with the public at large. Besides producing his own artwork, Raymond also takes custom orders on various topics of interest. Wildlife is his favorite, but he also loves working with other subjects like portraits. Nevertheless, he does not let his preferences limit him because his ultimate goal is to become an all-rounder and an accomplished artist. Within his family circle, Raymond’s seems to be a pioneer in the arts. “l am not from an artistic family. None of them are talented in this field. Though they were typical conservative Chinese, l was fortunate to be given the liberty to do whatever l wanted and to be supported with silence,” he says.