Copper in the Arts

December 2015

Copper Lifetime Art Forms, Completely Handcrafted in Louisiana

By Nancy Ballou

Handcrafting a Bevolo copper lantern. Each Bevolo lantern is handcrafted using only American-mined copper. 

Photo courtesy of Drew Bevolo. 

When Andrew Bevolo, Sr., a skilled metalworker for historic manufacturing companies like Ford, Sikorsky and Higgins, decided to open his own business in 1945. he hired his crew from Higgins and began repairing things. At the time, many street lights were irreparable due to brittle soldered joints and gas flames melting the solder. With his artistic craftsmanship, he and renowned architect A. Hays Town developed a technique using copper rivets to create an icon known today as the original French Quarter Lamp. Made locally in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, the fixtures have unique serial numbers to authenticate their origin and creation dates.

Drew Bevolo is the current, third-generation owner of Bevolo Gas and Electric Lights. Handcrafting historically accurate and beautifully artistic pieces of lighting, he developed a passion for the art form. Seventy years after that first lantern, Bevolo lighting continues to cast a romantic glow in the French Quarter of New Orleans and beyond.

“After a successful stockbroker career in Baton Rouge, I came down to New Orleans to help my uncle Jimmy, the second-generation owner, with the family business,” says Bevolo. “The company was in a state of transition as most of the old world artisans were becoming hard to find in an increasingly high-tech world.”

To invigorate the business, he worked hard and learned hands-on. “My uncle brought me on at $100 a week,” he recalls, “insisting I start at the bottom. I did everything from welding to delivery. He was hard on me and that was my greatest gift.”

Bevolo slowly took over and expanded. “Because my uncle taught me coppersmithing, I can talk to my employees about any and all aspects of the process. I look at every light I see and study it. As the company grew, I grew with it,” he recalls.

Copper Bevolo French Quarter lanterns. Copper Bevolo French Quarter lanterns have a 300 year lifetime expectancy. 

Photo courtesy of Drew Bevolo. 

John Greco, Creative Director of Bevolo Gas and Electric Lights, states that copper was first used for its aesthetic qualities and for its ability to withstand the elements.

“Our distributors supply only American mined copper,” he reveals. “Parts are cut from sheet copper using templates. We have a foot shear, a notching machine and hand snips that are all manually operated tools typically used in a metal shop. Rivets are all copper and done by hand to ensure longevity. We age our copper to have a natural oxidation that would take about 15 years to achieve otherwise. We are simply speeding up that process a bit to provide an aged and even finish.”

It takes two days to produce a single fixture from cutting the copper smaller and smaller into patterns by hand, breaking into angles that become folds, bending, rolling, putting rivets into drill holes then hammering.

Gas lights, lanterns (both indoor and outdoor) come in a huge variety of sizes, styles, brackets, chains, posts and can be customized to any decor. They are available as electric, propane or natural gas. There are copper pendant lights, conicals, bullet mid-century moderns on pulley cords or with hanging stems. Bracket styles include mustache (some circular), Cafe du Monde, cradle, corner, half and whole Rodin, among others.

The high-quality copper has a 300 year lifetime expectancy. Bevolo produces the most energy-efficient lifetime burners in the world, a patent pending gas tip that prevents excessive gas flow or unsafe flame height, plus aviation-technological hand rivets for strength. They are the largest manufacturer of hand crafted open-flame copper lanterns in the world, sell to all 50 states and 28 foreign countries. Their lanterns grace landmarks like Cabildo, Jackson Square, Brennan’s and Maspero’s. They donate to fundraisers and special events. They even make a copper ornament that looks like a French Quarter light fixture.

Resources:

Bevolo Gas and Electric Lights, 521 Conti St., New Orleans, LA, (504) 522-9485

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