Copper in the Arts

April 2013

Cape Fear Copper Shop: Pure American Copper, Water Fired to Create Beautiful Artwork

By Nancy Ballou

Copper sculpture Egret in Flight. Copper sculpture. This beautiful bird is depicted shortly after taking off. Suspended from a hook and thin stainless cable with a swivel (not shown in photo) so he can bank and turn in the breeze.

Photograph courtesy of Cape Fear Coppershop

Kendall and her husband D Crews were admiring stakes at a garden center when their lives took a serendipitious turn.

"Noticing how intrigued I was, D made me a copper butterfly garden stake for my birthday and I fell in love with it," recalls Kendal. "A friend who owned a gift shop inspired us to produce more for sale. Using our attached garage as a workshop, we took our creations on the road, marketed wholesale to galleries and the business was born."

Today, eleven years later, the Crews have a new detached studio with a fireproof floor constructed by D strictly for their copper work. Each individually crafted piece is created from hand made tools by the husband and wife duo. D's background in metalwork, engineering, design and graphics enables more complex artwork, while Kendall handles the majority of the gallery operations and finances. Both partners hammer, assemble and torch cut the copper.

"We use only the finest, purest (99.98%), heavy 16-ounce architectural grade American-made Revere Copper and all our work is stamped with the water fired copper trademark. And, yes, the famous revolutionary patriot founded the original company," she says. "We buy from a local roofing supply warehouse in 100-pound rolls used for flashing. We tried inferior imported copper once. It was so full of impurities that we did not like the look. We struck a deal to always purchase the purest copper. When the highest quality copper is cut, it gives an incredible rainbow look.

Their hammering and chasing techniques produce depth and contour on even the simplest pieces of copper, giving each piece almost a 3-D look.

Copper sculpture Lion Head. Copper sculpture.

Photograph courtesy of Cape Fear Coppershop

"This requires more effort than just cut outs," reveal Kendall. "All joinery is brazed with copper rods and we use no solder or lead. This allows added strength for bending and adjusting hanging wires on the back of our wall pieces. And, it is a noble metal."

After much experimentation, they both have created their own unique methods to give their work it's signature look.

"D recently made his own electrolysis machine where water is converted into hydrogen/oxygen gas to fuel a torch," says Kendall. "We make it on site and water molecular reaction between the gas and copper produces the beautiful color as well as leaving a smooth, beaded edge of molten metal. We've tried bottled gases and propane, etc. but they don't come close and the metal looks dull. Once a green verdigris forms it protects the metal from further deterioration. We can accelerate this process by brushing on an acid solution and exposing it to a fine water mist, then blowing off clear areas with compressed air to prevent water spots. Some clear pieces/areas get coated with spar urethane because it is the most durable and UV resistant finish."

The Crewses produce a huge range of artwork often involving creatures of the sea. Some of the bird pieces, like the egret in flight, are suspended on a hook from a thin swivel cable so he can bank and turn in the breeze. Lifetime copper birdhouses will never rot or leak and last forever outside where they need a shady area but they can also decorate the inside of a house. Butterflies mounted on coiled copper stakes for lawn and garden gently sway in the breeze. Modifications and custom work can also be done.

Resources:

Cape Fear Copper Shop, Ramseur, NC, (866) 274-5712

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