Copper in the Arts

December 2010

Courtney Fischer Jewelry: Expressions of Color and Texture

By Nancy Ballou

Painted copper filigree on a copper chain. Painted copper filigree on a copper chain.

Photograph courtesy of Courtney Fischer

Throughout her career of working with copper, jewelry artist Courtney Fischer has never been afraid to experiment -and, it has paid off. As owner of Courtney Fischer Designs, she creates several styles of jewelry, all using different patinas and techniques that uniquely demonstrate copper's versatility.

She received a BA in Art History at Indiana University in Bloomington, she continues to take classes at Bloomfield Birmingham Art Center and has been making jewelry for the last eight years. Over time, she has perfected her patina process, and loves the creative control and freedom working with copper provides.

"Copper is my favorite material to work with," says Fischer. "It can be manipulated in so many ways and transforms organically. Nature is a strong inspiration in my work and copper has a natural element so it is a perfect match. Hammers, torches and patinas are my go-to tools. I incorporate sawdust and brush on patinas to achieve a multitude of texture and colors. The beauty of copper is you never get the same thing twice."

To create her hand-forged copper circles in her Lily Pad Earrings, she hammers the texture from the inside out to give the appearance of a lily pad or leaf. Then, she oxidizes the copper to antique the metal and make the color and texture stand out, using jump rings and copper ear wires as connectors.

To create her elegant copper triangle earrings, she folds and hammers 26-gauge copper at different angles to form texture and lines on the surface.

"My torch creates a heat patina of browns, blues, oranges and reds," she says. "It creates a beautiful color that is sealed with a layer of lacquer.

Fischer has also developed a special metal painting technique. When she purchases large copper filigrees that contain intricate detail, she oxidizes and applies acrylic paint. She can use any color to customize to specifications. She then brushes the pieces so that the copper surface shines through in a few places, giving a vintage appearance. Slightly bending the bracelets to create a round cuff, she adds a matching antiqued copper chain clasp.

Vivid earrings, made of heat-treated copper. Vivid earrings, made of heat-treated copper.

Photograph courtesy of Courtney Fischer

Designs like the Savannah Necklace mix vintage and modern by combining brass chains, copper chains, pearl beads and hand cut copper circles cascading from a gunmetal chain. Fischer makes some of the chains herself and buys some from jewelry suppliers.

Three copper chains, all 1/4" thick, dangle from an antiqued copper chain on her Locket Necklace. She applies solution to age and color the metal on the surface of a working brass locket in layers until she gets the desired patina which she then seals.

After hand cutting, filing and drilling copper, Fischer might hand stamp the word MIDWEST, MICHIGAN or any state/region a customer requests on the metal surface. When she layers the patina, she can add black to make the letters stand out before lacquering.

Fischer encourages budding artists to take part in the thriving indie craft market to help get the word out about their work. She herself recently exhibited at the renown Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago and the Do It Yourself Street Fair in Ferndale. She also demonstrates the basics of working with metal at Blue House Ann Arbor, a community arts and crafts space.

"Participating in shows is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the community and meet people who have an appreciation for arts and crafts," says Fischer.

Resources:

Courtney Fischer Jewelry, Royal Oak, MI, (248) 808-7434

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