Copper in the Arts

July 2010

Picture it Perfect: Kinetic Copper Sprinklers

By Janie Franz

Copper Sprinkler Aquatic Atoms. Kinetic Copper Sculpture.

Photograph courtesy of Kinetic Copper Sprinklers

When Jim and Nancy Ziccarelli quit their jobs and moved north into the small central Wisconsin community of Arkdale, they thought they would spend their idle hours actively working flea markets. But the universe tossed a copper sprinkler head into their hands and their lives turned into another direction.

"My Dad sent me one of those copper sprinkler heads," Jim Ziccarelli said. "And when I saw it, I thought, "Gee, this looks like something I could do.' We started doing some designs, and twelve years later here we are."

A skilled machinist for 21 years, Ziccarelli understood the properties of metals and how to work with them. He started Picture it Perfect, and began to craft pleasing geometric shapes with copper tubing and experimenting with different water patterns. The shapes Ziccarelli creates are graceful circles, S shapes, and spirals with names such as Celestial Moons, Serendipity, Aquatic Atoms, and Tilt-a-Whirl. Each piece of copper tubing is shaped by hand and welded onto a rigid copper base. Inside each basketball-sized sprinkler head is an iridescent stainless steel ball.

However, when they start to spin and optical illusion happens so that the circles inside appear to move like a gyroscope and the spirals seem to move like a corkscrew. All the while, the iridescent ball appears to float in the center.

But that isn't all that happens, when attached to a water supply such as a garden hose, the sprinklers throw out an intricate water pattern that waters an area 10 feet to 30 feet in diameter. In order to create that pattern, Ziccarelli drills each hole by hand, determining the proper angle by experience, not by the use of a computer or other mechanical assistance.

Building a copper sprinkler. Jim Ziccarelli working in his shop.

Photograph courtesy of Kinetic Copper Sprinklers

"It's pretty much drilled by eye and trial and error," Ziccarelli said. "I did have a bigger hole in it when I first started making them." In order for those first sprinklers he made to work, they had to have a lot of water pressure pumping through them. "You would be wasting water so I made the holes smaller. It made a prettier design and it's a lot gentler on the plants or whatever you're watering. We checked it and in two hours, you get an inch of water in the rain gauge. That's pretty economical…And we've had customers comment that they like the way it rains on their lawns and gardens and doesn't beat plants down."

In addition to the copper sprinklers that stand 48 inches off the ground on a base with three threaded bolts which grab the soil, Ziccarelli also crafts Twilight Twirler hanging garden ornaments and copper hummingbird feeders.

Ziccarelli isn't just a designer who creates beauty but isn't interested in the practical aspects of his work. He makes his own brass fittings to ensure durability and longevity of the sprinklers and he even ofers a one year warranty on them.


Picture It Perfect, 1347 Browndeer Ave., Arkdale, WI, (608) 564-7663

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