Copper in the Arts

April 2009

Miel-Margarita Paredes Imaginatively Reinterprets Our World

By Janie Franz

Octopus

Octopus Teapot, copper, sterling silver

Photo by Stephen Funk Photography

Like a children's author or a science fiction/fantasy writer, copper artist Miel-Margarita Paredes thinks beyond the limits of ordinary reality and puts a fanciful spin on it. Her work showcases the what-ifs she has pondered.

Mainly influenced by nature and animal forms, Paredes crafts teapots made to resemble sea creatures, animal trophies that rethink the concept of hunting displays, helmets for modern humans, mechanical toys, and even animal accessories. These ideas are not derived by isolating herself in an ivory-entwined tower somewhere. This kind of creation could only be done through the intersection of modern society with the natural world.

For example, Paredes created rabbit ear braces. "The idea is that a rabbit decides to wear them if it wants particularly straight ears that day," Paredes says. She got the idea from a friend who has a poodle and who always says the poodle likes to wear a sweater. "But, of course, you don't really know that," Paredes says. "It's really more about us and what we feel happier wearing. We anthropomorphize animals and project our own feelings on them."

Paredes' series of animal accessories also included dachshund stilts. "I feel sorry for dachshunds because they look like their trying to keep up. They are running really fast on their short, stubby legs," Paredes says. "When I walk along the street and I see a woman with particularly gorgeous hair or wearing some fabulous coat, I covet what she has or how she looks. I'm imagining this dachshund seeing a horse run by and thinking, 'That's a fantastic set of legs! If only if I could have been born with those legs.' So, I made these horse legs for that dachshund."

Work Table

Teapot welding in progress.

Photo by Miel Margarita Paredes

Though these pieces come from the realm of the fantastic, Paredes also is able to craft exquisite beauty. Her octopus teapot, which was one of several teapots made for a show at the Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, MA, is a study in fluid motion. Though it isn't tinned on the inside, the pot does hold water. "I had an instructor, Fred Fenster, at the University of Wisconsin, who was very strict about making sure that if you were going to make anything that pours, it can't drip," Paredes says. "The teapot doesn't drip." The graceful octopus tentacles make that piece exceptional.

"That's one thing I love about metal working, and copper in particular; it's so malleable," she says. "Metal is softer than you realize, but it does have that resistance to it so you really have to--not fight with it--but sort of convince it to do what you want it to do. Once you can figure that out and make it do that, you can get these amazing fluid forms that I don't think really have the same effect in other media."

Paredes works mainly in sheet copper, with some rod and wire, because she can enamel on copper. "Enameling works best on pure alloys," she says. "I also really love copper for the different colors that you can get with patinas." She manipulates sheet metal through raising, chasing, and repousse to create the effects she wants.

Because Paredes manages the studio at the Oregon College of Art and Crafts and teaches evening studio school classes, she orders sheet copper through the school from Alaskan Copper and Brass. Occasionally, she picks up recycled copper from local scrap metal sources.

Paredes' next show is in 2010 and will be an extension of her Gnaw series, doorknob- sized enameled pieces that showed rodent snouts bursting through white enameled rosettes. This new series will feature chased copper, enameled in red, with silhouettes of dogs in a whimsical departure from decorative festoons and garlands for walls.

On the horizon, Paredes plans to expand her line of delicate sterling silver jewelry made in dragonfly wing motifs that is in some stores in her area, and she is considering making more copper mechanical toys. Eventually, she wants to collaborate with a children's author and illustrate a book with her metal sculpture.

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