Copper in the Arts

June 2011

Joycelyn Boudreaux: A Keeper of Copper

By Anney E. J. Ryan

Emerald Fog, textured canvas with a copper leaf. Emerald Fog, textured canvas with a copper leaf.

Photograph courtesy of Joycelyn Boudreaux

Artist Joycelyn Boudreaux got the idea to work with copper from an old basketball hoop.

"It was one of those big ones with wheels," she told me, over the phone one afternoon. "It wouldn't fit in the trash. I had this old metal grinder that I used to sharpen my shovels. I took one look at the post and thought, 'I bet I can make that look like a tiki face!'"

At the time, Boudreaux was miserable. Her marriage had broken up, leaving her alone with four kids. A native of southwestern Louisiana, she was stuck in the middle of Florida, far from home. To make ends meet, she started studying for a license to sell insurance.

But that one tiki face multiplied into many. The original won a recycled art competition. By spring, Boudreaux was working for Dino Rachiele, finishing his copper sinks.

Success came to Boudreaux when she needed it most - to take care of her family. For several years, she worked with Rachiele, honing her craft. Finally, in May of 2010, she returned home, settling in the artsy town of Houma.

There, Copperhead Studios was born.

That first summer back in Louisiana, Boudreaux buried herself in a biography of Frank Lloyd Wright. His theories of organic design changed how she saw copper.

"He looked into a hillside and worked with what was there. He integrated the design of the house into what existed in the land," said Boudreaux. "I thought to myself: 'What can I make out of what naturally occurs?'"

Copper artist Joycelyn Boudreaux Copper artist Joycelyn Boudreaux

Photograph courtesy of Joycelyn Boudreaux

Boudreaux began leaving copper sheets outside. One piece she left out for five months, watching it, attacked by rain, heat, and humidity. She used basic chemicals on the copper, rather than expensive pre-made mixes.

Studying graffiti also inspired her to let go.

"Being meticulous was a detriment," she says. "I began to work faster. I began to believe in imperfection, and the beauty that lies within in it. You can't paint what patinas create on copper. I opened the door to working organically and let it overcome me. It gave me colors, shapes, windows beyond what classic mediums could offer."

Boudreaux's philosophy is that the final image is not as important as the process. Before she begins to work, she takes a mental picture of what she wants. But ultimately, she works with what the copper gives her and lets it develop on its own.

"Mother nature and I are the best of adversaries," she claims.

Using natural elements and simple chemicals, Boudreaux has her style. Not only does it feel spiritually right, it gives her something to present to the public that has not been seen before.

Today, when customers want to buy a patina, they come to Copperhead Studios. Boudreaux takes them through her workspace. She tells the story of each piece - like a mother, talking about her children.

Since that first serendipitous basketball hoop tiki, Copperhead Studio has experienced worldwide success. Cajun Fishing Adventures invited Boudreaux to cover their entire lodge with her work. Her fleur de lis patina was bought and manufactured into trivets and cutting boards, and are currently being sold around the globe.

Most recently, Boudreaux pitched a concept to the Essence Music Festival and won a spot in their marketplace. The series depicts lusty piano men and sultry jazz singers, undulating with the mysterious vibe of classic jazz and R&B.

Her subject matter and techniques are always growing and changing. But ultimately, Boudreaux defines herself as a patineur. "I am a keeper of copper," she says. "Copper is a limited resource, but a timeless element. It needs to be passed down."

Resources:

Joycelyn Boundreaux, Copperhead Studios, Houma, LA

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