Copper in the Arts

August 2013

Waterfall Forge: Beautiful Copper Water Features for Homes, Offices or Gardens

By Nancy Ballou

Outdoor sculpture Large outdoor sculpture by Waterfall Forge.

Photograph courtesy of Buddy Holmes

It all started 20 years ago when Buddy Holmes bought some copper at a sheet metal shop to make a gift. Inspired by the relaxing sound of flowing water, he created a small tabletop fountain, which became the start of his long and illustrious journey with copper. Soon, he was attending craft shows and demonstrating his work at venues like the Mississippi Forge Council's Annual Conference and Alabama Forge Council's Annual Tannehill Conference, one of the largest gatherings of metalsmiths and blacksmiths in the U.S. He now produces both large and small sculptures from his home studio and concentrates on custom made outdoor waterfalls.

"I own a small shop in Louisiana about 50 miles north of New Orleans," Holmes says. "It's on three acres of land almost completely surrounded by a small bayou so noise doesn't bother my neighbors when I hand hammer my copper on leather bags and use tools like electric shears. It is fairly low tech. When the economy was better, I'd purchase pallets containing 35 sheets of copper weighing 1200-1300 pounds from Copper and Brass in Georgia but currently buy mostly from Aluminum and Stainless in New Orleans as needed. Scrap buyers used to pay cash but now when you bring in copper scraps (and I bring in a lot), they copy your driver's license and send a check about a week later."

Holmes prefers the durability and signature style copper brings to his work. 

"I like copper because it is the best metal for my work and is pretty, even more so after the passage of time. It is also long lasting. I use a heavier copper than most. While 16-oz. is common, my copper is 20, 24, 32 and even 48 ounce. I have bought some that is soft annealed but usually heat anneal it myself before working to make it easier to hammer. Mostly, though, I anneal it to obtain softer edges and a smoother look."

Buddy Holmes Buddy Holmes teaching a copper workshop in Panama City.

Photograph courtesy of Buddy Holmes

Holmes can make his copper water sculptures any size. He customizes them to fit the client's dimensions, can design from pictures he receives or originate unique new styles. "I love nature and like to draw on local birds, animals, trees and flowers such as my 7 1/2-foot tall tree piece that features an egret, frog and crawfish." Herons are also prevalent in his fountains. But he is open to any ideas. "We work hard to make our customers happy."

Though he has given up craft shows, the shop is always open to visitors who want to watch him work and he'll gladly explain his process. Informal workshops are for anyone interested in learning about the metal as long as they call ahead so he can prepare.

"My socializing away from home consists of exhibiting at local Sam's Clubs once a month for four days in Baton Rouge or New Orleans area where they showcase events featuring various artists. I enjoy bringing my big pieces and talking about my work with copper."

Holmes designed two four-foot wide copper fountains, one on each side of the door at a Baton Rouge office building. He was hired to make an interesting fountain with a large copper tree and egret for a local children's museum, created a waterfall for the Susan G. Komen Auction and often makes pieces to donate for fundraisers at charity events.

Resources:

Waterfall Forge, Prairieville, LA, (225) 612-4505

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