Intertwined copper candelabra design with textured ends. Photography by Margaret Buchanan

Copper, in its many forms, is essential to my artistic expression. I love the material, its responsiveness to the environment, the way it transforms over time, and how it plays well with other materials. I enjoy working with ordinary industrial copper and reinterpreting it through design.

Surface transformation using hand-aged verdigris and hammered detailing has long been a part of my process. In 2014, I started exploring different methods of verdigris on copper that used organic materials. Working with leaves has given me a new palette of texture and colors to explore. Researching the chemistry of leaves, and how plants react to stress, has informed many of my compositions. For more information on this process, visit my companion site, copper abstractions.

Copper Verdigris Napkin Rings, 2016. © Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved

Copper Abstractions

My newest process involves developing images and textures on copper. I use organic materials to compose my designs, and allow the copper to react with the materials to etch images directly on the copper. Time, sunlight, rain, heat, and the chemicals present in each of the elements give me a range of colors and textures. Once the leaves are removed and the copper is cleaned, a natural verdigris is revealed on the surface. When the colors finish rendering, the patina is fixed and the image is sealed with lacquer. I use this technique on my copper napkin rings for a one of a kind design.


Detail, custom fireplace screen. ©2009 Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved


Beyond the design of my trellises, tables, gates and wall hangings, is the simple process of soldering. Joining copper pipe or tubing with fittings is accomplished by adding flux where the two pieces couple, heating the joint to approximately 800ºF, and melting silver solder to join the pieces together. I use all new materials in my work, and finish each piece with either a hand-rubbed oil finish, or hand-age the copper using combinations of acid and other compounds to achieve natural verdigris finishes. Most of my soldering work is custom designs for garden and home installations. If you are interested in a piece for your home, please contact me.


Detail, cold-forged spiral. ©2014 Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved

Cold Forging

Many of my pieces have hand-wrought curves and hammered details. I bend copper tubing by hand without heat, and have developed a feel for the necessary pressure to bend shapes and control crimping. Flattening bent pipe or sheet is done with hammer and anvil. I like staying connected with my past through the tools I use every day.


Gladden family tools

I use hammers that belonged to my dad to form and detail many of my copper pieces. My anvil was handed down from my grandfather. It has a hard-worn surface that gives unique detailing.