Copper in the Arts

August 2014

Copper Elements: Continuing The Family Legacy of Beautiful Flame Painting

By Nancy Ballou

Ocean Swirls, Torched Copper PanelOcean Swirls, Torched Copper Panel

Started by Dan and Frances Hedblom of Rochester, MN in the summer of 2010, the signature look of Copper Elements torch-flamed art has become a family legacy. 

"My father took pottery classes as electives in college. His work earned him several awards and he began selling at art fairs. To add to the offerings in their booths, my stepmother made mirrors with copper frames. Becoming more and more copper oriented, she devised her own technique of flame painting the metal. Then, with twenty years of carpentry and woodworking experience, I found myself unemployed and dad asked me to build frames for their artwork."

The rest is history. Hedblom's father put a grinder in his hands, and he soon discovered the joy of working with this new tool. Like his stepmom years ago, his wife Frances showed a proclivity for developing beautiful colors by working only with torches.

"There are no chemicals, paints, acids or stains used," says Dan Hedblom. "Armed with the basics passed on to us by our parents, my wife and I started our own studio on the lower floor of our home.

"I love copper because it is soft, easy to shape and produces fantastic hues."

Both Hedbloms are designers of their creations.

Tree of Life, Torched Copper PanelTree of Life, Torched Copper Panel

"We buy our copper in 3'x10' sheets that are shipped to us from Thyssen in Chicago. We lay the sheets flat on a metal table. I cut them to the desired size. Numerous metalworking tools are used for embossing and shaping. Frances does the torching. The longer she paints with the flame, the hotter it gets."

Contrary to what you'd think, the blues and teals are the hotter colors and the reds and purples are cooler. Much of the couple's work is inspired by water and nature themes.

They work together to create their signature look.

"Frances fires the work, I buff and grind to enhance the colors when the metal is displayed in the light," he says. "I wear gloves when I grind since hands have oils in them. Touching the copper would leave black fingerprint marks, so it gets wiped down with alcohol. Dehumidifiers and air conditioners throughout the studio help keep humidity low. Our artwork evolves from trial and error experimentation. Once complete, we seal it by baking in an oven and applying a special finish to prevent patina. In addition, this offers UV protection for placement in the sun. It requires teamwork to put it all together.”

Dan also builds solid wood frames. "Our designs are unique because of the hand shaped curves, multi-curves and swirls, though I sometimes utilize rollers to bend the metal. We have to be careful to make sure the thin, 12-oz. copper doesn't kink. Pieces can be cut to any size. A limited edition, OCEAN REFLECTION, measures 20'x56'."

Copper Elements won "Best of Show” at the Grand Marais Arts Festival in 2012 and “Award for Excellence” at the Orchard Lake Fine Arts Show in West Bloomfield, MI, in 2013. This year (2014), they earned the “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the Barrington Art Festival in Barrington, IL, and took third place at the DubuqueFest Fine Arts Festival in Dubuque, IA. In addition, Dan has appeared on several morning news programs, providing short interviews along with art samples. They created a project for a car dealership, but usually produce one-of-a-kind originals, which may be customized slightly for a client.

Resources:

Copper Elements, Rochester, MN, (507) 202-8486

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