Copper in the Arts

October 2010

Suzanne Donazetti: Free Falling for Copper

By Michael Cervin

Suzanne Donazetti at work

Suzanne Donazetti at work on a commission.

Photograph courtesy of Freefall Designs

Copper artist Suzanne Donazetti of Free Fall Designs in Maryland took a voluntary layoff in order to pursue her dream. That dream has rewarded her with commissioned copper pieces at Western Maryland Regional Medical Center in Cumberland, MD; Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT; and the Alaska Supreme Court in Anchorage, just to name a few.

Her creative upbringing included her dad who worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, a creative mother, and a sister who went to art school. "I always dabbled in art," she says, "painting, doing fiber art and making jewelry using copper, but I was never trained." When she lived in New Mexico she "made the leap" as a fulltime artist. "I just fell in love with copper," she says, "it's so soft looking, wonderful and malleable to work with." Today she uses her living room as art central, in spite of most of her pieces being about 100 feet long. Her work can be seen in gallerys in New Mexico, Florida, Michigan, and South Carolina, among others.

She started using chemical patinas to color copper sheets, but unless you anodize your copper or use another technical process the colors become too muted. "That's very limiting," she admits and she couldn't get the broader palette she desired. "I had colored air brush inks and liquid acrylics in my studio and I started fooling around with them." She found out quickly that applying them directly on copper dulls the ink, therefore she started using gold, silver and copper leaf over copper sheet which allowed the colors to pop. "The reason I use copper sheet is that it provides a structural base to my work so I can sculpt it. It holds up much better than a traditional canvas."

Before the Storm Before the Storm, woven copper.

Photograph courtesy of Freefall Designs

She uses tooling copper, 36 gauge in sheet form in 25 foot rolls which she obtains from St. Louis Crafts Inc. in St. Louis, MO. To create her work she first leafs the copper sheet, paints it then waxes it and weaves the two pieces together. Then she burnishes it to make the sheet wave-like, creating a 3-D effect.

"People buy my work in part because it's sculptural, its not static art on a wall,' she admits. "I want to find the point where light interacts with the landscape," she says. Some owners of her copper pieces hang them specifically so they capture the light of the sun which interacts with the copper disbursing little flecks of light around the room like a Kaleidoscope. She's currently working on three hospital commissions and a few corporate commissions, which accounts for about 40 percent of her work. Not one to waste her copper, she still occasionally makes jewelry. "I take the end cuts from the copper and roll them over a dowel, then string them with beads."

She does very few shows; however one upcoming show will be at the Dorchester Center for the Arts in Cambridge MD in October. And her big solo show is held each July at the Waxlander Gallery in Santa Fe and 2011 is already booked. Her freefall into copper is looking up.


Suzanne Donazetti, Columbia, MD, (443) 325-0703

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