above: A Butterfly’s Journey | Wild Art, A Journey Off Canvas at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, May 26 through October 1, 2017. below: Aerial drone photography by Keith Kellam.

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

Organic Verdigris

My newest process involves developing images and textures on copper. I use various leaves and plants to compose my designs, and allow the copper to react with plants 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 develops on the surface. When the colors and textures finish rendering, the colors are fixed and the image is sealed with spar urethane.


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.


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 use many tools inherited from my father and grandfather.