The Little Copper Cookie Cutter That Could
The name says it all: Aunt Holly's Copper Cookie Cutters. But behind that name are the husband and wife team of Larry and Holly Little who found themselves involved in a copper business that keeps on growing. It may seem niche, and indeed it is, but the copper cookie cutters they create by hand are showing up everywhere.
"The idea originated from my wife wanting them, it was her request," Larry says. "She had a huge collection of tin cutters." While living in Indiana, Holly visited a gentleman who made copper cookie cutters. "She went to his shop but they were so expensive," he recalls. "She asked me if there was any way I could do it?"
So, Larry gave it a try and began to perfect his approach to custom crafting the copper cutters. Of course, he already had some experience with the metal arts. As a former mechanical contractor, specifically a burner service technician for industrial boilers, the shop he worked at had a metal smith who taught him a few things.
"The progression of our business started with friends and relatives," says Larry. "Then it moved to people who knew friends and relatives, and then it moved to building our own shop. Copper is just so pliable and easy to work with, we never considered any other metal."
The growth from a local circle of customers kept growing until they moved to Maine and decided to launch their Internet site in 2006. "We thought, how are we going to do this?" he recalls. "Either we go for quantity at a low price or the absolute maximum quality. If we sell them, we do; if we don't, we don't," was their nonchalant approach. But they did sell. Currently Larry and Holly have more than 200 stock copper cutters and they can custom create many more.
"We have customers all over the states and the Virgin Islands," Larry mentioned. But fully half of their orders are for custom work. "One woman wanted a dancing bear. She had the design and I made it. I just did a logo for a bank in Florida." Then there was one guy who wanted an inch and a half lobster that Larry free form shaped.
"We have a mansion in California that at Christmastime wants huge cutters they hang in their foyer for decoration," he says. "Some people have asked me to make a hanger so they can display the cutters." And one client wanted to use the design Larry created as her company logo. And the list goes on. Then they received a call from New York based artist Allan McCollum. He commissioned 288 copper shapes from Larry as part of his "Shapes Project" that will open in January 2009 at the Fredrich Petzel Gallery in New York. The show will feature four Maine artists, Aunt Holly being the only one using copper.
Larry's 20 step process for creating the copper cutters is straightforward.
"We start with a three by ten sheet of copper, shear an inch and a quarter wide by three feet, break over the top quarter inch, then smash it down." Larry says. "Then, I take it to the slip roll so it's air tight, straighten it back out and deburr the cutting edge."
Then Larry and Holly do the manual bending with tools they have purchased off the shelf, and some they've had to modify like needle-nose and duck-billed pliers.
"We make a flush connection, then center punch for three rivets," he says, adding that they do not solder the connection. They use a vibratory polishing system to create the shine and the copper cutters stay in there for up to two hours. Copper sheets come from Gutter Supply in Lake Bluff, Illinois, the same place Larry has been purchasing his copper for years. He sources his 3/32 copper rivets from Hanson Rivet & Supply in Pacoima, California.
"We don't rush any step, we make sure to do it right," he says, adding that they don't use a lacquer or sealer for the cutters. "We like copper no matter how it looks. But no matter what happens to it, you can bring it back."
One of the ways he suggests restoring the original sheen of the copper cookie cutters is a tub and tile cleaner called Kaboom. "If you spray copper with it then let it sit, it brings the shine out like you wouldn't believe," he says.
Today, people all over the U.S. make cookies with Larry and Holly's copper cutters. Some decorate with them and now some will be displayed as art, exemplifying copper's true versatility.
Also in this Issue:
- Sculptor J. Seward Johnson, Jr.: Life, Cast in Bronze
- The Metal Peddler: Keeping Tradition Alive
- The Little Copper Cookie Cutter That Could
- Rediscovering the Prints of Paul Revere
- Baroque Sculptor Milton Hebald Returns to US for Harmon-Meek Exhibition