Copper in the Arts

August 2016

The Copper Tub, Reinvented for Today’s Modern Bath

By Jennifer Hetrick

Copper tubThis 'Copper Bateau' by The Bath Works features a polished interior and French patina exterior, along with mix-matched antique brass bib taps.

Photograph courtesy of The Bath Works.

The Bath Works is putting a modern twist on the classic copper tub. Handcrafted in Columbia, Tennessee, this company’s deep English roots have helped continue the elegant legacy of copper baths. Today, the company creates handcrafted tubs for notable clients and celebrities across the world.

This small family business first began in 1981 in England, but due to demand across the pond, The Bath Works opened its first US location in 1989. This newest branch of the business operated out of a few different locations and has been rooted at its Tennessee facility for nearly a decade.

Although the company originated in England, Vice President Daniel Cook took the reigns of the business after his father retired, shifting their focus to the U.S. location. Cook does final finishing work in the U.S., while the early crafting labors of the tubs are still done in his homeland. He grew up learning the initial aspects of his trade as a child and is continuing this part of his family’s heritage overseas.

“We introduced replica bathtubs in the late 1990s,” Cook explains. Before that, the business only handled restoration work.

Now that spotlight has flip-flopped so that reproductions grab the most attention according to the general workload, and restorations of antique tubs are done, but they’re much less common.

Their bathtub designs, slightly tweaked as needed for better durability and lastingness with wear, range from the 1860s to the 1890s.

“The gracefulness of them” is what Cook says stirs interest in these old-fashioned tubs.

They’re classic in a way which crosses many design elements and just evokes something in people, he adds. Cook adds that the warmth of copper makes it a popular choice for those looking to purchase something with an antiquated look. With copper bathtubs, being meticulously careful about the process is important for success of the final product.

“The copper is brazed rather than welded,” Cook says. “You need to make sure it’s brazed properly, and that takes a certain level of skill.”

He notes that pressure-checking of bathtubs before eventual use by the final owner is a crucial stage in his end work, too.

Copper tubClose up of 'Copper Bateau', created by The Bath Works.

Photograph courtesy of The Bath Works.

“California has been a good state for us,” Cook says about orders requested from the West Coast state.

Florida has been a great state for orders, too.

Cook estimates that the company has sold tubs to clients in more than 75 to 80% of all states across the U.S. in recent years.

In the past, The Bath Works has built custom tubs for Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow and Dolly Parton.

The 2006 film The Holiday, featuring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black, features a bathtub built by The Bath Works.

Unknown to the viewer, Diaz sits on a bucket in the bathtub of Kate Winslet’s character’s cottage home in England in order to be high up enough in the warm water. This is because the tub design is long and deep, so the little trick is a revealed behind the scenes special effect.

Cook continues to be drawn to copper, choosing this metal above all others for their high end bath pieces.

“Copper is stunning,” Cook says. “With patinas, you can get a rainbow of colors using different chemical treatments. We usually stick to traditional colors, but I love that copper has that ability. Almost no other metal does that.”

Resources:

The Bath Works, 2646 Leah Circle, Columbia, TN, (931) 381-5711

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