Copper in the Arts

June 2007

Coppersmithing in New Bedford

By Michael Cervin

Copperlines Wind Dancer Copper Wind Dancer

Photograph courtesy of Ray Rose

Ray Rose had no intention of working with copper. How his company, Copperlines, came to be is something of a surprising evolution. After working in the textile industry (he ran a dye house) for 25 years near his home in New Bedford, Massachusetts, he knew he needed a creative outlet for his spare time.

One day at a country fair in Vermont, Ray came across a copper obelisk someone made. It piqued his interest and he promptly went home and made a trellis out of copper for his home.

"A neighbor saw it and asked if I could make him one," he said. "Then another person wanted one, and finally a friend suggested I take my copper trellises to the local fairs." And he did.

The next thing he knew, demand was growing and he branched out to other garden accoutrements. The trellises worked remarkably well within the marine environment at New Bedford. "Because it's copper, it won't rot. With wood, if it doesn't rot, then it needs to be repainted after a while," he said.

What started off as a side business in 1996 became full time three-and-a half years ago. In retrospect, Ray realized that his parents modeled artistic behavior for him.

"Mom was artsy and I got a lot of inspiration from her. Dad used to rebuild cars and I learned the handiness of welding and torching," he noted.

These elements have come together in his custom ornamentation, candelabras made of stone and copper, and "wind dancers," thin copper pieces with an S-bend connected with copper filament that sway in the breeze.

"I like to do things that have movement," he adds.

Copperlines Rain Chain Copper Rain Chain

Photograph courtesy of Ray Rose

He also has special design software that allows him to plot intricate designs on his computer which he then cuts with a plasma cutter. In addition to his own interior and exterior work, Copperlines acts as a supplier for copper fire pits, chimineas, weathervanes and other large pieces.

He fell in love with copper years ago and that's still his main media. "About 90 percent of my work is with copper and 10 percent is brass," says Ray, although he prefers copper because it allows him a greater control of color. "I can cover the copper the way I want. I can get red, blue and gold hues depending on what temperature I use to heat it. It's a beautiful metal."

Occasionally he'll use an applied accelerator to complement the patina, though he prefers the natural verdigris that only comes with time.

There's an irony in that Ray currently rents space for Copperlines in a building that was once a textile plant. He's expanded his business to the Internet and now he gets orders from across the US and overseas. His folks would be proud.

"My dad was a tin knocker. With all the hammering and pounding I'm doing, I guess I'm like a coppersmith." He thinks for a moment about that word, smiles and adds, "Yeah, I'm a coppersmith."

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