Copper in the Arts

April 2014

Musings with Morningstar Metalworks

By Jennifer Hetrick

Morningstar Copper ArtMorningstar Copper Art

Nancy Martin-Mathewson and Art Mathewson are the minds and hands behind Morningstar Metalworks, a copper and brass studio based in Otsego County, New York in the western foothills of the Catskill Mountains. The two met in the early 1970s while working in a restaurant after graduating from college and soon married.

Over the years, the duo have collaborated on many different types of handcrafted metal art, from jewelry and belt buckles to high polished candlesticks and wine glasses, but one thing has remained constant—their love of copper.

“The basis of the business was my love of copper,” she says about the very beginning of her and Mathewson’s pursuit that started four decades ago back in 1974. In studying art education from Southern Connecticut State University, Martin-Mathewson took three jewelry classes and two metalsmithing ones. “Initially with jewelry, the copper was sort of the practice metal—what you made your first piece on, and if you were struggling with a piece, you made it first in copper,” she explains of her college days. “Then you transferred the design and made it in silver, but I could never get past working in copper. I just loved copper.”

Martin-Mathewson notes that she always likes to balance copper and brass in their pieces. “During my second year in jewelry at college, I started melting brass onto copper and doing all kinds of stuff, much to the chagrin of my professor since we were supposed to be doing everything in silver,” she says. “But silver is so plain, and copper is so rich.”

Once Martin-Mathewson and Mathewson were on their own in working with metal, she began to realize how useful her husband’s understanding of tools and technical details were.

Morningstar Copper JewelryMorningstar Copper Jewelry

“He had a lot of inherent knowledge about tools and making things,” she says. Mathewson builds many of their tools by hand still today, including punches, sanders, special pliers and cutting bits. The jewelry under their November Sky line takes inspirations from the often beautifully sweeping sunsets they see outside of their studio in late autumn; today, their earrings and necklaces in a variety of beckoningly alluring shapes show the heat of the sun, the melting labors of copper and captivating patinas applied to each.

“If we keep it at 200 per batch, we don’t feel too much like machines,” she adds with a laugh about the jewelry pieces she and her husband are becoming known for thanks to the venues that sell it throughout the U.S., in addition to their online store. The jewelry of Morningstar Metalworks spans across shops and galleries throughout the country in more than 30 states. The couple recently participated in the American Made Show, formerly the Buyers Market of American Craft, which they have been a vendor at for many years.

“I always call it ‘playing my match game,’” she says about attempting to find two cuttings of earrings that look the most alike to sell as a pair. Last autumn, a woman emailed Morningstar Metalworks that the love of her life gave her a pair of November Sky earrings for her 80th birthday and that she absolutely loved them. “That was really sweet because being mostly wholesale only, we don’t interact with the retail customers and get to hear stories like that,” Nancy says.


Morningstar Metalworks, Mount Vision, NY

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