Check out page 88 in the March-April issue of R•HOME magazine.

It’s Elemental

Cathy Vaughn Turns Copper Plumbing and Roofing Supplies into Fine Craft

By Jessica Ronky Haddad

Where you can find her work: Vaughn travels the craft show circuit, doing 10 to 14 shows per year, including the American Craft Council shows in Baltimore, Atlanta, and Saint Paul, Minnesota. She also sells at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond’s Craft + Design show. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” she says of the travel and labor-intensive sales method. Vaughn also sells her work in galleries around the country, locally through 43rd Street Gallery and Crossroads Art Gallery and online at and

How she started: Twenty-five years ago Vaughn was working as a graphic designer as the industry was becoming increasingly computer-based. She missed working with her hands and decided to explore copper after reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. One of its exercises urges creatives to work with a material they haven’t used before, and Vaughn, who originally moved to Richmond to work for Reynolds Metals, decided to give copper a try. “I thought it would be fun to make art from something you can get in a hardware store and completely reinterpret it in an elegant way,” she says. She was immediately hooked and has been a full-time coppersmith and maker for the past seven years.

Why she likes copper: “Copper is a very friendly metal,” Vaughn says. “It’s very malleable and very easy to oxidize. It was easy for me to start with. I didn’t have to know how to weld.” Copper is also easily accessible: she buys most of her materials from plumbing and roofing suppliers.

What she makes: Vaughn makes functional household accessories such as candelabras, menorahs and hammered bowls, and occasionally completes large-scale commissions for garden fences, trellises and screens. She also produces two-dimensional abstract art on copper using natural items such as leaves. She applies acid to the panels, and over time, a chemical reaction results in colorful patinas. She’s exhibited these works at the Science Museum of Virginia and the Peninsula Fine Arts Center.

R•HOME March-April 2019