Copper in the Arts

August 2019

Custom Copper Designs with a Twist

By Courtney Diener-Stokes

 

JackiesCopperCreations.jpgA Custom copper engraving by Jackie Stier. 
Photograph courtesy of Jackie Stier. 

When artist Jackie Stier creates her custom copper signs adorned with messages intended for mounting on a wall, she prefers snarky takes on the familiar.

“Instead of ‘Live, Laugh, Love’, one might say ‘I hate you the least’, or ‘I love you more than bacon’," she says.

At first glance, the signs have a vintage, antique look, which initially deceives those who view them, given Stier’s modern-day messages on them that are a witty riff on the expected.

“They are jarred and then start cracking up,” Stier says. “That is the whole point of it – to get them to laugh.”

Stier says growing up in a family that tended to be sarcastic inspired her work. The other component included observation. 

As I started doing Comic Cons and seeing everything that’s out there, I saw that everything was so serious, like a logo from a movie,” she says. “I thought, ‘There has to be a different way for a sign’.”

Stier’s preference for working exclusively with copper began in a high school art class.

“It was in the early 90’s when my art teacher introduced this to me,” she says. “One day in class he slipped me this piece of copper with these random tools and it has been my hobby for the longest time. Now, it’s my job.”

Prior to dedicating herself full time to her business, Jackie’s Copper Creations, Stier was a graphic designer for twenty years. Her role did not involve much creativity, which led her to branch out with her hobby of working with copper on the weekends.

“I started to do more and more shows to exhibit my art like Comic Cons and craft shows,” Stier says.

Exhibiting her work for sale at various Comic Cons serves as a good fit due to her pieces that center on pop culture references.  

“I do a Batman logo with an image of Batman,” she says. “It’s put on copper, so all of a sudden it’s this grown up way of putting it in your living room that’s not a poster.”

Stier typically researches the movie or celebrity that is the focus of each event to enable her to center some of her creations on the topic at hand. In some cases, those who purchase the pieces like to get them autographed by the featured celebrity.

“At Fan Expo Boston, John Travolta will be coming out,” she says.

When it comes to creating each one of her custom copper pieces that are hand cut and assembled, Stier doesn’t use any molds, presses or machinery.

“I hand draw every single one of my pieces the old-school way,” Stier says. “It’s just me and my hand tools.”

Stier describes the repoussé method she uses when making her work.

“It is sort of like embossing on cardstock in a way, except I’m using a sheet of metal,” she says. “This way I can hand draw and put almost anything on the copper.”

After Stier draws her image on copper at her studio located in her home in Somerset County, New Jersey, the next step is achieving a vintage look.

“I antique it using chemicals,” Stier says. “Some get a white wash and some get hand painted.” After it dries, Stier cleans it with steel wool. “I seal it with spray so it doesn’t turn green or look like it’s tarnished,” she says. “It keeps it this beautiful, antique copper color.”

The finished product is either framed, such as a movie logo, or mounted on wood, such as her pieces centered on messages. A family member prepares the wood before she paints it black and distresses it.   

“My dad is a retired general contractor and he makes the wooden bevel and cuts the signs for me,” she says. While many who purchase Stier’s work are looking for something decorative for their home, she also offers some functional pieces, such as coat racks.

“I do a 14" x 6" Harry Potter ‘Invisibility Cloak Rack’,” she says.

Many of Stier’s pieces are centered on custom orders for special occasions.  “People send me their logo or a wedding date or anniversary,” she says. Turnaround time for pieces ordered through her Etsy store is three to five weeks. Her participation in frequent shows, along with online orders has her replenishing the rolls of 36 gauge copper she works with every three months.

“I buy it in a giant roll that is 1.5' by 6',” she says. “It weighs about 25 to 30 pounds and I can cut it to any size I need.”

After she antiques her work, she finds that 80% of her pieces come out as she had intended and the other 20% go into the scrap pile. She passes on her scraps to friends who are high school art teachers.  

“I pay it forward--maybe their students will discover copper the way I did,” she says.

Resources:

Jackie Stier, Jackie's Copper Creations, Somerset, NJ

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