Deep in the Heart of PatridgeFor Jimmy Don Patridge of Tyler, Texas, discovering a love of working with copper was a bittersweet moment.
“I had two brothers and we grew up without a father,” he recalls. “I was forced to leave high school and get a job to help support the family.” He never had the chance to attend art school and instead started working for Lone Star Sheet Metal Works in Texas doing metal fabrication. Although he worked with every metal there was, he was not allowed to even touch the copper sheet for the first six years of his employment because his boss felt that any mistakes using sheet copper would be too costly. “I did architectural copper work, mainly copper flashing, and bay window covers for residential homes,” he says.
But all of that changed after his mother passed away.
“I decided to make a copper long stem rose to put on her grave since she loved roses,” he says. “When I did that my artistic side exploded. Most everything I’ve made has been off scrap from jobsites that I turned into something beautiful. Today, he has produced more than 7,000 handmade copper roses, sculptures and copper accents for the home.
His copper pieces range from an 1870 locomotive which is nearly two feet long (and which started out as a copper roofing vent) to scale copper aircraft, Apache helicopters and other military replicas. His work also includes copper rain chains, table tops and copper jewelry. He seems nearly obsessed with working with metal. Operating out of a small shop he built in his backyard he can accommodate 10 x 4 foot copper sheet metal which is, by default, 16 gauge since that is the residential grade he collects from job sites.“Everything about copper is beautiful: it intrigues me and I get lost in it,” he states. He might use a brass fitting on one of his pieces, but the work is 100 percent copper, and he doesn’t clear coat it. His solder joints are thoroughly polished to return them to the bright copper penny look which he prefers. “Patina takes away the beauty of real copper in my opinion,” he adds. And Jimmy Don has created his work from his mind, never using photographs or models. He is that most elusive of artist, the self-taught variety who creates out of a deep need and love of the process. “Copper and brass is my love of life,” he admits.
At the East Texas Fair his work has won the metal art competition for the past four years. He’s just now beginning to explore the marketing angle of being a copper artist, and will be a welcome addition to the copper arts community. Though he’s never exhibited his work at local crafts fairs or galleries, it’s a merely a matter of time before his copper work hits the mainstream.
Also in this Issue:
- A Sense of Eternity: The Bronze Work of Peter Harper
- Copper Sonja: Beautiful and Unusual Mixed Metal Jewelry
- Darby Patterson: Love in Bronze
- Deep in the Heart of Patridge
- New Copper and Glass Wing at UA Museum Focuses on Optical Sciences