Copper in the Arts

March 2013

Copper Spawns New Artistic Pursuit

By Courtney H. Diener-Stokes

copper bowl Melted copper bowl by Dan Wisner.

Photograph courtesy of Dan Wisner.

Dan Wisner grew up surrounded by jewelers. It was a profession in which he seemed destined to pursue given his family history in the field.

"My mother was a jeweler when I was younger and my brother was a designer," Wisner says. "I did two apprenticeships, each for four years starting when I was 11."

At the age of 15 he sold his first piece and has been making and selling his jewelry designs ever since.

Now age 20, the Kutztown University junior with a major in Fine Arts and a craft concentration, has spread his wings in a new artistic pursuit of working with copper.

It all started when Wisner went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in Philadelphia and came upon Kiln Design Studio based in Brooklyn, New York.

"I met Kiln at the craft show and fell in love with their work," he says.

Kiln, known for their signature copper-enamel creations, took Wisner on as a summer intern last year where he learned how to spin copper to make bowls.

"I am extremely thankful to James Leritz and Elissa Ehlin from Kiln," Wisner says of Kiln's founders. "They have shaped me so much in terms of art and the process of making things."

While his work initially was heavily influenced by Kiln, he feels he is now starting to come into his own.

"I've been working at incorporating solid colors into my compositions. I'm trying to think more of the bowl as a painter's canvas," he says. "From there, melting the copper or adding different metals to the bowl and going into it with a hammer and forming it by hand."

Wisner is also greatly inspired by the elements, and tries to reproduce the colors and textures of natural environments.

"I have a specific concept when I do my work," he says. "I'm trying to recreate the bottom of the sea right now."

Wisner describes the process he goes about when making bowls he currently sells at juried craft shows.

enameled bowl Spun copper enameled bowl by Dan Wisner.

Photograph courtesy of Dan Wisner.

"You start from a flat sheet of copper and then you cut it into a circle and you put it into a lathe," he says. "You spin it at about 600 rpm and you spread the metal over a wooden form."

The process of spinning enables you to spread and stretch the copper.

"It is used mostly for industrial techniques today," he says.

He starts on the backside of his pieces for the enameling process, and applies a high-fired temperature to achieve his signature look.

"The process consists of applying really thin layers of enamel," he says. "One piece may involve sixteen firings at 1,500 degrees. The enamel will react with the copper to create different colors."

While Wisner has used copper in making jewelry in the past, he now has a newfound respect for it.

"It is one of the only metals that you can enamel onto," he says. "It is taking these two non-precious mediums and then creating something that is considered a precious, artistic display."

Resources:

Dan Wisner Discussing His Techniques of Working With Copper

Dan Wisner Custom Metalsmithing, Philadelphia, PA

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