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.


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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.



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.

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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.


Hand-raising copper

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.

 After making several simple forms, I began playing around with off-axis footers for my intimate copper bowls. This notion is inspired by the work of my friend Barbara Dill, who does amazing off-axis wood turnings. She lent me her bowl forms for sinking when I was getting started. Finding balance away from center has a lot to teach me!

After making several simple forms, I began playing around with off-axis footers for my intimate copper bowls. This notion is inspired by the work of my friend Barbara Dill, who does amazing off-axis wood turnings. She lent me her bowl forms for sinking when I was getting started. Finding balance away from center has a lot to teach me!

 Hammering a bowl edge over a textured iron ball gives a subtle organic detailing to the interior of this free-form bowl.

Hammering a bowl edge over a textured iron ball gives a subtle organic detailing to the interior of this free-form bowl.


Giving back

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.