Copper in the Arts

June 2011

Redsmith Studio: The Magic of Working with Copper

By Nancy Ballou

Copper artist David Walker Copper artist David Walker

Photograph courtesy of David Walker

As early as the 17th century, copper craftsmen were known as redsmiths due to the color of the metal they worked. Today, David Walker is continuing this legacy with Redsmith Studio, a custom copper shop specializing in sculpture and functional metalworks.

"I get copper from scrap I find on construction sites," he says from his backyard studio in South Carolina. "I like to recycle as much as possible. One of the great things about metal is it's easy to recycle. However, as my projects get bigger I need more copper. For my

copper desk, I bought a 10' x 3' sheet of roofing copper from a roofing supply house. I use a brazing rod that is utilized in the plumbing industry so I am always looking around A/C units for 'waste' rods to do much of my work. There is no soldering involved when I produce a desk or bar and I use different chemicals and temperatures to achieve various patinas on the metal. The patinas are amazing because anything that comes in contact with the copper will affect it."

Techniques used are geared to specific projects. Walker explains, "I incorporate any process I feel will achieve the goal for the piece. For my trout, I worked the copper from the front (chasing) and then the back (repousse) with chisels and about 15 different punches that I designed. The sculpture was made out of a single sheet of copper and hand hammered out of tools that I made on my blacksmith forge along with a wooden hammer. I also use the chasing and repousse methods on my copper wall plates."

Copper leaves, roses, irises and sassafras love reflect Walker's fascination with nature and can be used as realistic decorations, place settings or even napkin rings. Sometimes, he mounts his artwork, like copper orchids, in driftwood.

Copper bar kitchen by David Walker Copper bar kitchen by David Walker

Photograph courtesy of David Walker

"I hammer and bend copper all the time and have done some wire work," he says. "My Celtic knots are punched with many tiny chisels. For pendants like my maple leaf, I solder the stem of the leaf to itself and put clear enamel on it which brings out the copper color and creates the look of fall leaves with a sheet of ice on them. I also use clear enamel on my butterflies."

Walker enjoys bringing other people's ideas to fruition and welcomes any and all commissions. Current works include form folding of copper fans. Patinas are dipped in muriatic acid, placed in a wood fire and quenched or heated with a torch while still closed yielding a dark red color inside the fold.

His beautiful copper reception desk completed in February of this year can be seen at a Seneca dentist's office. His large trout sculpture is displayed in front of City Hall in downtown Anderson, South Carolina. Commissioned by J. Peters, Walker created a 9' x 4', four-inch-thick stainless steel sign that can be viewed at 15 Market Point Drive in Greenville, SC. A custom copper panel for a bar is under production using different chemicals activated by heat to bring out his own unique patinas.

Resources:

Redsmith Studio, Anderson, South Carolina, (864) 202-0190

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