Copper Garden Art with a Kinetic Twist
Artist Kathleen Mand Beck had a practical need when it came to watering her garden in the village of Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, that led to copper works of art she has been making since 1997.
“We have a very terraced garden at the gallery that I struggled watering for many years,” she said, referring to the gallery, Dovetail Gallery and Studio, she owned for 21 years. “I would put all of these different manufactured sprinklers on top of anything I could find to raise the water spray above the flowers,” Beck says. “Nothing ever worked well because they would always fall off my makeshift pedestals.”
She saw a simple sprinkler ring design that inspired her.
“I love to garden and when I see something new or different, my mind goes crazy with ideas,” Beck says. “They swim around in my head until I either make time or have an opportunity to use them. The new idea was overtaking my thought process to the point that I had to figure it out.”
While drawn to the design and its function, something about it wasn’t complete in Beck’s mind.
“I love kinetic art and thought the water pattern was nice, but the whole piece looked empty and unfinished to me,” she says. “I just knew I would have fun playing with this project.”
Beck shared her sketches and vision with her son-in-law who helped her make her garden art sprinklers a reality. Aside from making each work a piece of art, they made structural and material changes to the simple ring design, leading to smoother mechanics and a stronger and more stable structure.
“We make two sizes – one for the large garden and another for the petite,” she says. “The best part for me was creating the numerous designs with pieces of wire and office putty. When I twist them in my fingers, I can see if there is motion, which is exactly what I am striving for.”
Beck says some of the sprinklers are like a gyroscope and others are an illusion of sorts.
“It looks like it is going one direction and then changes and goes the other,” she says. “I have design patents for many of them.”
Working with copper was an easy choice for Beck.
“I love copper. It has always been one of my favorite metals,” Beck says. “It is so beautiful whether shiny or patina-ed. It is also softer for me to handle since I do not have a lot of strength due to three surgeries on my right hand and elbow.”
For eight years, she left the technical process of making the sculptures to her husband, Tom Mand.
“Rolling, soldering, brazing, bending, welding and finally tedious polishing and sometimes clear powder coating,” she says of what is involved in the skillful handcrafting of them.
Ginnie Cappaert recently bought Dovetail Gallery from Beck, changing the name to Cappaert Contemporary and still offers seven different garden art sprinklers designed by Beck. They range in price from $149 to $219. The sprinklers can also be purchased online.
“It can be an object of art in the garden or have functional use as art as a sprinkler,” Cappaert says. “Everybody loves them. They are almost mesmerizing. I always run one outside so people can see what they look like.”
Also in this Issue:
- The Copper Legacy of Jacob Bromwell
- Copper: Raw and Honest
- Crafting Custom Kitchen Components: Circle City Copperworks
- Copper Garden Art with a Kinetic Twist
- Rare Hellenistic Bronze Sculpture On View at Getty