A Copper Alliance Member
Copper in the Arts
Issue #60: April '12 - Cont'd
Nothing Fishy: The Copper Work of R. Hanes Hoffman
Bluewater Copper Works, creating individual hand-crafted, signed and dated solid copper fish.For R. Hanes Hoffman, based in North Carolina, the idea of a copperhead fish takes on a whole new meaning. Hanes runs
“I grew up in a very artistic environment, exposed to hand-made art, and was intrigued by the process,” he says of his childhood. “I work exclusively in copper. Most of my work is done by hand and with hand tools therefore I need the malleability of copper,” he says. His work is three-dimensional, one-sided, bas-relief sculpture of fish. He starts with pre-annealed sheet, then cuts out his image and begins hammering the copper, crafting it into the likeness of a marlin, bass, salmon and other sea creatures. Striving for authenticity while still having an artistic license, he uses neither accelerators nor chemical patinas to affect his work, believing heat alone best expresses the individual fish markings and iridescent colors.
“I use heat induced patina, which I call painting with flame, and the coloration process is where I consider I have a leg up in my art,” he says. Certainly in working with flame and heat there is initial trial and error, but after time, Hanes innately knows his copper.
“I have learned to anticipate the color change, and control the flame as copper is extremely conductive,” he says. “It’s a test of patience every time I pick my torch up. It’s all dependent on ambient temperature and humidity, temperature of the host metal, even the gasses you’re burning. Every day you have to see what the metal will let you do.” Hanes then seals his copper work with high grade urethane.
He buys copper sheet from various roofing companies in 50 foot rolls, mainly 16 oz, though sometimes 24 gauge as well. Much of his copper fish work however has been the result of a focused segment of society. “I have a relationship with the fishing industry and my work needs to have a considerable element of realism, and copper provides that,” he notes. Working closely with fish and tournament associations, Hanes crafts custom-made awards for 15 to 20 fishing tournaments annually; some are ones and twos, and some tournaments require as many as 15 individual pieces. He sees these tournaments as a “gateway” to larger pieces for individuals who become enamored with his work. “I’ve dug out a nice niche for myself.” And, like many artists confronted with changing business tactics, he has harnessed the power of the Internet. “The art buying community has become much more comfortable with purchasing online,” he notes. And online sales provide him with direct customer interaction, something he craves.
His commissioned work has included local banks in Winston-Salem, and hotels including Hilton in Wilmington, but he also does large scale installation work; multiple piece scenes which create an ocean environment including schools of fish, crab and ocean bottoms. His work can always be seen at the New Morning Gallery in Ashville and though he doesn’t engage in group shows or even one-man shows, his business continues along swimmingly.
“I have received lots of comments over the years that people love copper; it has a way of fitting into a wide variety of home décor,” he says. “Copper is a warm metal picking up highlights from different light sources throughout the day; it’s very prismatic.”
Bluewater Copper Works, 1319-CC Military Cutoff Road, Wilmington, NC, (910) 262-6020Back to Top
Grace Gunning: Capturing Time, Box by Box
Copper artist Grace Gunning has treasured the art of memory since she was a young girl.
“I’ve always loved boxes,” she says. “I have many from my life. They tend to hold things from the time I got them. As I look into them, I remember that time from my life.”
For example, one of Gunning’s memory boxes holds the Valentine from her fifth grade boyfriend, as well as a Buckeye ring he carved for her.
“They are my diaries in objects,” she explained. “A personal time capsule.”
From this simple tradition, Grace Gunning’s copper reliquary boxes were born.
The definition for reliquary is “a receptacle of relics.” Most people are familiar with the term from the Catholic religion. The bones of saints are referred to as relics; their boxes, reliquaries.
“People think ‘reliquary’ is a religious word,” Gunning told me. “But no... Saints’ bones are relics.”
In her art, Gunning redefines reliquaries, believing that they can hold any object sacred to a person. This way, memories take on a holiness and live on.
The timelessness of copper is perfect for completing the sacred intention of the boxes. Each reliquary is entirely copper and padded with red velvet - like a tiny vestibule in an old church. The metal is smooth and soft; the patina causes it to appear tarnished, the color of antiquity.
Originally, Gunning fashioned reliquaries from glass.
“I sandwiched fabrics between two layers of glass for the lids,” she recalls. “They had somewhat of an abstract landscape feel.”
After twelve years of making glass boxes, Gunning felt like she needed a change. She started making moon luminaries (candle holders) from copper and fell in love with the metal.
“Copper used to be an inexpensive metal,” she explains. “That has changed somewhat. But my love for its warmth and ease of working with it has grown.”
When Gunning switched to copper, she changed her entire manufacturing technique. Through the help of friends, she acquired different machines, dating back to the 1800s, to cut and fold the copper into boxes. It took her six months to learn the process of soldering. Then she debuted the reliquary boxes at a wholesale show. They sold immediately.
Today, Gunning takes 25 steps, using different machines and processes, to form the reliquary boxes. First, she starts with a 3’ by 8’ sheet of copper. Next, she uses a kick shear to cut basic shapes. A notcher cuts right angles into the copper to allow the sides to fold properly. A pan and box break folds the sides of the top and bottom. The window is cut from the lid with a modern scroll saw. To create the patina, Gunning applies a commercial brand from Jax Chemicals.
When deciding what to place in the boxes, Gunning chooses objects for personal reasons or because she thinks they might sell. Lately, she’s been using graphic images. For example, she combines the image of an antique bicycle with antique kimono fabric. Then she transfers it onto acetate and lays it over pearl. The lid windows are recessed, so there is a little space that has tiny silver and crystal glass balls that roll around on top of the image.
“This series is called ‘Pearlie Boxes,’” she told me. “They have been selling quite well.”
Despite her success, Gunning is constantly thinking up new possibilities for reliquary boxes and started making lamps. After visiting the Museum of Natural History in New York City, Gunning found herself “floored” by the dioramas. “Boxes in the fulture will be influenced by this, I’m sure,” she said.
Most interestingly, Gunning has been commissioned to make boxes for the ashes of loved ones or pets. For an artist who began creating boxes for objects that connected her to those she’s loved, it’s understandable that these would be the most rewarding reliquaries to produce.
“It’s an amazing process, and a lovely part of my work,” she says.
Grace Gunning, Rhinecliff, NY, (845) 876-4151Back to Top
Winged Camel Metalworks: Functional Copper Artwork with Unique, Whimsical Figures
SUNY Oswego where both obtained masters degrees. Malcolm's background included a stint in the Alaskan bush and living on a houseboat in New York Harbor. A self-taught welder, he learned blacksmithing and did decorative ironwork. Mary Ann discovered metalworking techniques and taught. Mutual artistic interests brought them together. They married in 1976.J. Malcolm Owen and Mary Ann Spavins met at
In Syracuse, Malcolm worked as an auto body technician and Mary Ann pursued metalworking, exhibiting at the Rhinebeck fair to begin building a clientele. Eventually, they purchased 18 acres of rural land at the foot of the Adirondacks near the Canadian border. They built a garage with an apartment above for their studio and have steadily been constructing a home on the property.
Mary Ann attributes their long, successful partnership to the fact they have separate studios. "Malcolm works out of the garage and I use the completed basement in our house,” she says. “He'll make the clock barrels and other parts then bring them over to me. He loves tools and has produced many of the stakes and hammers we use daily. I create themes, lay out jewelry and smaller pieces. He enjoys mechanical aspects and larger sculptural/decorative art. Everything we do is completely handmade and involves collaborative effort."
lost wax method for creating the tiny silver figures on much of their artwork starts with designing rubber molds which are injected with wax then encased in plaster. Wax is melted in a kiln, hot molten silver is poured into the opening in the plaster until it is cooled, then cracked away.The
"When the cost of silver skyrocketed, I started using more copper,” she recalls. “I like copper’s malleability and its non-ferrous properties. It also doesn't tarnish. On my jewelry, I mix copper with gold-filled wire to contrast color variations. We use a combination of local suppliers, found objects and on-line distributors to acquire 3" copper pipes and consolidated sheet metals. We've sometimes purchased plumbing fittings at auctions. Our hot and cold connections utilize oxyacetylene, hot silver solder and plumbing solder at various temperatures, often lower so it doesn't anneal.”
Their fully-functional clocks are a combination of copper, brass elements, tiny sterling silver figures. To create their signature look, they apply a patina of sulfurated potash to the entire piece (clocks, office accessories or teapots) giving the copper a dark finish. Once the patina dries, a paste wax is applied to produce a durable, permanent finish.
They began creating teapots serendipitously, at the recommendation of a gallery owner.
"I had produced small copper cans for watering potted bonsai trees,” she recalls. “Then, a gallery in Massachusetts suggested we enter their teapot show. I designed collectible teapots of copper and brass in limited editions of 25 with sterling silver standing figures about 3/4" tall. We cut pipe to lengths of 5" by 1" or 2" and use silver solder to connect the base and spouts. Many of the figures are on a base or block, designed for strength. Ultimately, everything is put on the piece with soft solder. They do hold water and pour well but are for decorative purposes only.”
A few teapots can be seen at "Hot Tea" in St. Louis, MO, through April, 2012 and their artwork was shown last November at Paradise City Arts Festival in Marlborough, MA, where they hope to exhibit again this winter.
Winged Camel Metalworks, 145 Irish Settlement Road, Colton, NY, (315) 386-4129Back to Top
Copper in the Arts: NEWS
Cincinnati Art Museum Welcomes New Bronze Sculpture - April 01, 2012
Cincinnati Art Museum this spring welcomed a new bronze sculpture by celebrated artist, and Cincinnati native, Jim Dine to its entrance.The
Dine’s twelve-foot bronze sculpture, titled Pinocchio (Emotional) was unveiled in a public ceremony Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 10:15a.m. by students from C.O. Harrison Elementary School and Silverton Paideia Academy.
“The acquisition of Dine’s Pinocchio creates a joyful and welcoming art environment even before you cross the building’s threshold,” says Jéssica Flores García, associate curator of contemporary art. Inside the Art Museum, visitors will see up close just how Jim Dine has incorporated the story of Pinocchio in his work for more than a decade, as they explore a newly acquired print portfolio of Dine’s illustration of Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) that will be on display through August 19.
In 2005 Dine devoted his time to a personal interpretation of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio by creating a lithograph for each of the 36 chapters of the book. The story is more real and more complex than the sentimental fairy tale of the animated film. According to Kristin Spangenberg, Curator of Prints, “Each chapter is preceded by a synopsis and Dine quotes from those individuals’ introductions, the words woven together with his images.”
In 2010 the Cincinnati Art Museum presented Dine with the first Cincinnati Art Award, which celebrates an outstanding Cincinnatian who has had a significant impact on our culture at a national and international level through the making, collecting or promotion of visual art. The Art Museum’s permanent collection includes 50 works by the artist, primarily prints, drawings and paintings.
“We are proud to have Dine’s work with us in such a major manner,” said Art Museum Director Aaron Betsky; “We have paintings and drawings that highlight the work of our best contemporary artists. This sculpture will announce our collections in a way that we think everybody can enjoy.”
Cincinatti Museum of Art, 953 Eden Park Dr., Cincinnati, OH, (513) 721-2787Back to Top