From 16 Jan to 14 Feb, 2019, I will be traveling in Argentina with dear friend and shop assistant Molly. It’s Molly’s gap year after 25 years with the Richmond Symphony, and I decided that a great way to start year seven in the copper business is to reflect on what I want my focus to be and to think about where I see myself and my craft in the next seven years and imagine how I can get there. A good friend of mine says “If you can’t write it down [or draw it out], you can’t do it.” I’m planning to travel with an open mind, sketchbook and journal while experiencing the incredible flora, fauna, people, and terrain of Argentina.
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.
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.
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.
Working with (new to me) sinking, raising, and texturing hammers, I’ve starting hand-raising copper bowls. I took a class last summer at the The Banton-Smith Center for Blacksmith and Metal Arts in Richmond, and have been exploring this new skill between shows and other commitments. I’ll be offering some new work in this medium in fall 2018.
An important part of my work is giving back to the community. Every year, I participate in a number of shows that allow me to demonstrate my craft. I design make and take projects for youth that allows them to experience metal working, get to know how a hammer feels and what happens when you strike an anvil. These activities are funded through returning 11% of sales revenue back into the community through education.
I also select two to three 501c3 organizations to which I donate a piece of work, in whole or part, to make this little corner of the world a little better. Some folks I've helped include the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, Caritas, The Chrysalis Institute, Side by Side, Health Brigade, and the James River Association. Each of these organizations work tirelessly to help our neighbors and our planet.