Copper in the Arts

July 2013

Tracery 157: Reinterpreting Everyday Objects

By Jennifer Hetrick

Rolling River design Inset into a wooden frame, Rolling River is a design inspired by the eddies of the James River in Virginia; its wood has a hand-rubbed tung oil finish over an ebony stain, while the copper carries a blue and green verdigris finish.

Photograph courtesy of Cathy Vaughn

After more than two decades in graphic design, Cathy Vaughn finally delved into a more physical form of expression with her growing talents in copper. She opened her one-woman craft studio known as Tracery 157 in 2012.

She implemented the word “tracery” in her company name because of her love of this architectural term, describing it as “where line integrates patterns and interacts with the light of shadow.” The number “157” has weaved into her efforts across several instances, with one as the number of pros she originally wrote about why she should dive into starting the business, giving attention to her artistry in metalwork.

Vaughn first began testing out possibilities with copper in 2002; trellises and other ornamental garden accessories were some of her first pieces. In time, those seeing evidence of her skills began asking for commissioned gates and even an outside-oriented door to nowhere.

A place where a number of artists are gravitating to in recent years, her studio space in Richmond, Virginia is part of a former tobacco warehouse in the Manchester neighborhood.

Her drive’s origin stemmed largely from time spent watching her father in his wood marquetry shop in her childhood days.

“My dad was an inspiration,” she says, noting that he had a penchant for repurposing things. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago.

In learning the ways of metalwork, Vaughn often went to her father; he talked her through process and answered her many questions, and she spent a lot of time reading into basic soldering techniques, too.

“I love working in my studio, making things for people,” Vaughn says. “I use a lot of my dad’s tools and feel him there with me whenever I’m working.”

Copper verdigris fireplace This copper verdigris arts and crafts-inspired fireplace screen incorporates sides as movable hinged panels and is designed for either indoor or outdoor use.

Photograph courtesy of Cathy Vaughn

Fence mounts and insets, room dividers, tables, desks, trivets, patron oil lamps, coasters, meditation stands, bird feeders in hanging and tree-stand form, key chains, candle stands and holders, s-hooks, kitchen valances and fireplace screens are many of the pieces Vaughn now shapes.

Her copper tubing and piping sculptures done in a verdigris patina convey a curiously aesthetic use of space, lines, light and shadows for the eyes and how the mind perceives her work.

She also works with regional landscapers to develop customized garden accents for their clients.

Vaughn sources her copper fittings from Pex Supply in Farmingdale, New York and purchases her piping at sheets at a local hardware store. She recently participated in Richmond’s annual juried Arts in the Park days and is warming up for a few other juried shows in the next few months as well.

Some of the home accents in her collection are sold at Mongrel, a shop in Richmond’s Carytown section, and she is planning to partner with garden centers around the region to sell her trellises.

“I like to take everyday objects from a hardware store and re-imagine something like copper fittings so that when you look up close, you’re reinterpreting an everyday object,” she says.“The metal itself is so beautiful, malleable and strong. It looks good polished or in verdigris.”

Resources:

Tracery 157, Richmond, VA, (804) 338-6871

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