Copper in the Arts

October 2007

Nature's Creations: Creating One-of-a-Kind Copper Keepsakes

By Donna Dvorak

Leaf by Nature's Creations Leaf art, created with copper electroforming

Photograph courtesy of Nature's Creations

Copper has been used in jewelry, arts and crafts for thousands of years, but Dennis Ray, owner of Nature's Creations has created unique, imaginative ways of incorporating copper with natural botanical and organic leaves, flowers, and more. His natural pieces are covered in copper, and finished with a patina or precious metal.

"We have two different methods of electroforming," explains Ray. "One method entails the use of scrap copper - typically from old electrical cables and twisted wires. The other method is phosphorized copper pellets, a copper that's been treated and processed with a percentage of phosphorus, which allows it to dissolve in an electroplating bath. I get my copper in two ways; one is from scrap art, and the other from Univertical Corporation, in Angola, Indiana, a large American producer of copper."

According to Ray, his company designs imaginative new jewelry and art. Each beautiful piece is great for gifts or yourself, and is uniquely handcrafted. They're available at fine art and craft events, flower shows or through their online store. They have approximately 40 exhibitions a year, with half at botanical shows, including the famous Philadelphia Flower Show, where he won first prize for botanical and first place for botanical jewelry.

"We'll be there this year with a massive display," he says. "I love what I do. I never had any formal training. This is a unique art form that started in the 1940's in Copenhagen. I saw a number of different pieces, and was like a boy scout meets a chemistry type of guy. I invented my own methods. The people in Copenhagen did it in electroformed silver, but mine are copper electroformed. Also, I had all of my equipment designed and built, therefore there aren't any other electroforming shops in America that does it the way I do. Artists will use heat, torches, casts, energy and gas to form copper into things, but my method is 100 percent efficient. For the small amounts of electricity that's used, the copper is dissolved in a solution at room temperature and is layered around the botanical organic material without the use of any extraordinary heat or physical force - it's all natural."

Copper Cicada bugs Copper Cicada bug jewelry

Photograph courtesy of Nature's Creations

This year Cicadas have returned, and the 17-year cycle emerged around Chicago. Ray created an unusual piece, perfect for Halloween, from Cicada shells.

"It's a real Cicada shell," he explains. "They crawl out of their shells, and I pick the shells up without the bugs, so no bugs are harmed in the creation of the pins. Good Morning America called us for samples, when they had their Cicada Watch Program two years ago. They had a chef doing them in chocolate and we were the ones dumping them in copper!"

Other examples of Dennis Ray's work include a magnificent tri-color leaf that's actually redwood in copper and finished with a vibrant patina. There's also an orange leaf, created from Vermont maple leaves and covered in copper, as well as beautifully bronzed acorns that are actually scatter pins. Since the acorns are inside, over time the moisture leaves and the nut rattles around, but the accord is perfectly safe inside.

"My sister does the fall coloring with acrylic paints," he explains. "But my most popular pieces are those passed on from families for future generations. People from around the country send us their own leaves. They could be from their grandparent's tree, or from a bride who gets married under a tree, or if a family member dies and a memorial tree is planted. We take the leaves and put copper on them so they have a permanent blossom from the tree that's planted. This is a very popular item for us because the people have their own keepsake.

Resources:

Nature's Creations, 6822 Tilden Lane, Rockville, Maryland, (301) 881-7813

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