Copper in the Arts

December 2007

Copper Keepsakes to Make your Holiday Shimmer

By Donna Dvorak

Tom Pollard
Ireland Brass Ornament
New York City Brass Holiday Ornament

Photographs courtesy of Tom Pollard Designs

Now that the holidays are here, deck the halls with boughs of brass! Many custom designed, artisan ornaments are available for your tree, fireplace, garland, windows, as well as a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind menorah, candlesticks and more. Today's contemporary coppersmiths are adding a special glow to homes across the country with these fabulous copper, bronze, and brass holiday accents.

Pollard NYC brass ornament
New York City Brass Holiday Ornament

Photographs courtesy of Tom Pollard Designs

Tom Pollard, from Tom Pollard Designs, offers custom brass ornaments created through a unique process involving a thin, polished plate of brass coated with light-sensitive film. A picture of the ornament is printed on this film, and the exposed parts develop a film layer that's inserted into certain acid solutions. The plate is submerged in an acid-bath, which etches the unexposed areas away. The process is done in stages, so surface details are added to the ornament by repeating the actions with different exposures. The brass is either gold plated or pad printed, a special process that adds color. Pollard didn't have formal training and never attended school to learn the brass/copper business-he has a natural talent.

"I'm a photographer and merchant, and I've done postcards and photo related things for forty years," he explains. "In 1988, someone asked me if I knew how to create an ornament. It took me a year, but I finished it. I realized, very quickly, that if I wanted to continue doing this type of work that people truly mattered. I'd have to surround myself with the right team. The best ornament I've ever created was when I made a deal with a lady named Sue Douglas. I asked her to do artwork for me, and she asked, 'Why should I?' I told her, 'Sue, if you come to work with me I'll always have a project for you. Three years later, after picking up a job and leaving her apartment, I didn't have a project. I'd usually pick one up and dropped off another. As I walked towards the door to leave, she asked me about the next job. It was imperative that I think of something very quickly. I told her to do something for Ireland, and that's how my nationality series started. That particular Irish piece is my favorite one. I've been lucky with situations, and finding the right people and working with them. I don't actually manufacture, but deal with people and companies in the USA."

All of Pollard's specialized brass ornaments make unique gifts for any occasion. His commemorative designs are magnificent works of art and manufactured to the most demanding specifications, perfect for custom Christmas ornaments as well as a specialized group of brass Christmas ornaments in different series that include lighthouses, occupations, cities, towns and states, Pennsylvania Series, 3-Dimensional ornaments, Redneck and Bikers, Amish, Animals, Nationalities-the list is endless. And, it doesn't end at Christmas. They always have more than 100 collectible stock ornaments that can be used all year round, or, their customers can design a special one.

"Our occupation series make great gifts for teachers, EMS workers, nurses, postal service workers, firemen, crossing guards, and school bus driver, among others," says Pollard. "Our lighthouses include Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island, Absecon Light, Atlantic City, Brandt Point Light, in Nantucket, Mass., Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia, Ocracoke, Hatteras, Bodie Light and more, in North Carolina."

Pollard's amazing selection also includes his nationality series, filled with incredible ornaments from Israel, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Germany, England, Greece, and other countries.

"This year I've included a new photo-frame series," he explains. "They're all themed pieces for anyone on your list - hockey and soccer players, graduates, cheerleaders and more. I even created an 'I love my cat or dog' photo frame, which makes perfect gifts all year round."

spoon menorah

Brass Menorah by artist Joe Spoon

Photograph courtesy of Joe Spoon

For those who celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah, and are searching for a magnificent brass Menorah that will illuminate your Hanukkah candles and table, or even a candlesnuffer in brass with a brass or copper cone, your search is over. Joe Spoon, of Charleston, Illinois, creates one of a kind pieces.

"The one that I sell was designed ten years ago and it's one of the more complicated pieces that I create," explains Spoon. "It contains many parts and lots of solder joints, because I fabricate all of my work, rather than using a casting process. This is a brass alloy that contains 60 percent copper, which I purchase from Copper and Brass Sales, in Chicago, Illinois. The menorah is done in my own style of art nouveau, and contains nine candleholders. I reproduce the same design, but, on the other hand, no two are exactly alike. They're available at a splattering of galleries across the country and Judaic shops. The Cooper Shop, a gift shop at the Jewish Museum of New York City, carries my menorahs, and I sell my work at the Buyer's Market of American Crafts, in the Philadelphia Convention Center, twice a year, usually February and August. February's show is the largest craft event in the USA."

Spoon also creates gorgeous ceremonial Kiddush cups, as well as an assortment of elegant, utilitarian tableware, serving pieces, gourmet cooking items, cocktail or iced tea spoons in brass and sterling silver, short and tall single taper candle holders, and even a candle snuffer in brass boasting a brass or copper cone. Each piece is individually created in America and uses this master craftsman's traditions to form function items. He signs and dates every piece, which becomes his personal guarantee that attention to details is first and foremost in his work.

baldwin brass ornament

Baldwin Brass Tree Topper

Photograph courtesy of Wolfe's Baldwin

Brass Company

"I actually went into business for myself in 1972," he recalls. "The first eight years of my career was spent creating jewelry and working in 14K gold and sterling silver. I have a Master's Degree in metalsmithing, from Eastern Illinois University. After eight years of creating jewelry, I started to think about an alternative. I had worked with copper and brass in graduate school, and began thinking what other objects I could make from copper and brass. At that time, cooking shows became popular on television, so I began making 'art for the kitchen'. I created ladles, skimmers, spoons, and other pieces. I took them to trade shows and they outsold the jewelry. I quit the jewelry and have been creating copper and brass candlesticks, decorative bowls, plant stands, ceremonial goblets and more. About ten years ago I began doing Judaic pieces."

And, who better than Wolfe's Baldwin Brass Company, in Malvern, PA, to provide brass tree toppers, stars and angels? Their philosophy stems from the belief that the items that sit on your tree should have all the quality, brilliance and rich dimensions of the lives it chronicles.

The company was started by Ann Marie Gillinger's parents, who are now retired, but she continues the family legacy. They employ approximately eight employees and have a showroom, in Pennsylvania, where customers can come in and browse.

Brass Santa Ornament
Brass Santa Ornament

Photograph courtesy of Wolfe's Baldwin Brass Company

"We offer more than 100 designed ornaments, as well as tree toppers in a star, angels and other shapes," she explains. "This is the last year for the tree topper, that's 24kt. gold electroplate over solid brass. They're very intricate and detailed, and many boast a rainbow of colors on them. Our brass angel is nine-inches tall and fits an eight to ten foot tree. Our seven and half inch star fits a five to seven inch tree. Although we introduced it in 2002, we're retiring it this year. Our ornaments are popular, too. They're very collectible, and there are a few that are released just once a year. This year we offer a Christmas tree, nutcracker, mailbox with letters, hearts of the season, sparkling snowflakes, a winter window and a star. We've sold Baldwin products, and our stock is licensed by Baldwin Hardware Corporation."

Instead of hanging a garland or wreath to signify the holiday, try something a little more avant guarde - wreaths and angels hand-crafted in copper by Peter Goebel, from Goose Bay Workshops, a family run business, in Bridgeville, DE. Goebel, a master coppersmith, makes every copper, tin and brass piece by hand. Although the business began with period lighting, it's now expanded and includes cookware, writing implements, folk art, pans, skillets, kettles and so much more.

If you'd like to order copper wreaths, they offer an antiqued copper wreath, with large, medium and small sizes available, as well as a hanging hook on the back

Peter Goebel copper wreath

Peter Goebel Copper Wreath

Photograph provided by Goose Bay Workshops

"The Ivy wreathes are taken from actual ivy leaves in our garden," explains Goebel. "Each leaf is hand cut and veined, soldered to a stem and then soldered to a circular wire base about 16 inches in diameter. I use a number of different size leaves, in a random pattern with the occasional tendril added. The whole wreath is solid copper, aged with an acid bath, and sealed. Obviously, no two are the same. I make them year round and charge about $85 and up, depending on how dense the leaves are requested or how large the wreath needs to be. I've created them four-inches across up to 35 inches. The 16 to 18 inch size seems to look the best."

According to Goebel, wreaths are a nice departure from his normal work of providing historic reproductions for museums, movies and re-enactors.

No matter which holiday decoration you purchase this year, take a break from the original green tree and wreath, and astound your guests with copper!

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