Copper in the Arts

June 2014

Copper: A Friendly and Forgiving Metal

By Courtney H. Diener-Stokes

NecklaceKristal Romano necklace.

After artist and metalsmith Kristal Romano was laid off from her job as a bench jeweler at Ten Thousand Things in New York City, she had to make some lifestyle changes that ended up impacting her body of work. Money, debt and finance were overriding themes.

“My work with the housing bubbles – it’s because my house was stuck in the bubble,” Romano says of the wearable sculptures she made while the economy was crashing. “The work with the credit cards – that is my unemployment card, gas card, gold and platinum cards.”

As time progressed, Romano’s work still centers on value, but shifted from a different perspective.

“Instead of values set on money and finances, it’s more about personally, ‘what do you value?,' and that is different for everybody. I’m not trying to take a stand one way or the other, but I’m trying to strike a conversation on the topic of value,” she says. “The objects I’m choosing might have more of a sentimental attachment rather than related to what is going on in the economy.”

Copper is Romano’s go-to metal during the early stages of her creative process, for it’s versatility and affordability.

“If I’m experimenting with a piece, I don’t mind as much when I’m using copper,” she says. “Especially when using the fold forming technique where you are constantly folding, hammering, heating and clenching the work.”

BraceletKristal Romano copper folded bracelet.

Nostalgia also comes into play with copper for Romano.

“It’s the first piece of metal you are ever handed in school, “ she says, recalling her days at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania when she majored in sculpture as an undergrad. “The smell of sanding it and filing it – I’m fond of that because it’s an old memory.”

Romano, who has an M.F.A. from Montclair State University in New Jersey, is fond of liver of sulfur patina.

Her line of jewelry, sold at Etsy  and Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, NJ where she is currently an artist fellow and studio manager, involves torched fired enamel on copper.

“I’m always using copper and I’m choosing to do the torch fired because I can control the results and overfire it to get the different effect,” Romano says. “You use copper because it is less expensive, friendly and forgiving.”

Resources:

Artist/metalsmith, Kristal Romano, demonstrates enameling her copper jewelry creations.

Kristal Romano, Clifton, NJ

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