Copper in the Arts

September 2008

Lanterns of Cape Cod: Continuing an Age Old Copper Tradition

By Melanie Votaw

Cape Cod Lantern Lanterns of Cape Cod workshop

Photograph courtesy of Robby Savonen

Robby Savonen grew up in a family dedicated to interior design with a store on Nantucket that sells home hand crafts and décor, later went on to become a designer herself. So, when the opportunity to purchase Cape Cod Lanterns presented itself a year ago, it felt like a perfect fit.

"I was up for a change, and the timing was right," she says. "I knew I could sell because I could talk to people about their homes and their styles."

Savonen co-owns the company with Tim Corcoran, but she runs all of the day-to-day operations, including management, production, and sales. The company maintains an on-site basement production facility where all of its lanterns are made by subcontractors who also design new products. "I actually help make things, too, when need be," Savonen says. Her 15-year old son is even getting in on the act, learning to make parts. As luck would have it, he was able to take an art metal class at his local high school.

While Lanterns of Cape Cod has been in business for 30 years, the most recent owner maintained the company for 15 years. His son began designing and making lanterns when he was a teenager and now creates weather vanes for the company, which include everything from ships and roosters to fish.

Savonen enjoys creating showrooms with the lanterns and other home accents made by local artists, including restored church windows converted into mirrors. She sets up a stage for the outdoors with an arbor to showcase the company's outdoor lanterns, and she creates seasonal displays to show how the indoor lanterns can enhance interior décor "so that customers can get a real feel for how they'll look," she says.

Savonen is always looking for new products to include in the store and add to her displays. They have added copper watering cans, wind chimes, and a bird feeder that looks much like the company's copper onion lamp. Still, she maintains the old-style designs, most of which were created by the original owner. Everything remains natural with no patina finishes and no spray to treat the metals. Improvements are made periodically, however, for optimal functionality. It's Cape Cod's centuries-old craft of lantern-making via 21st century technology.

colonial lanternColonial copper lantern by Lanterns of Cape Cod

Photograph courtesy of Robby Savonen

All of the lanterns are made from flat copper and brass stock sheets. They're cut, then bent and rolled with machines. Another machine creates beaded edges on the metal, while another punches holes. The pieces are then soldered together, and glass globes are added. Like many companies, Lanterns of Cape Cod gets its metal from various suppliers depending upon price, but Savonen often buys from Copper and Brass Sales in Wallingford, Connecticut or Admiral Metals in Woburn, Massachusetts.

The company uses three types of glass in its lanterns, all of which are specially blown by Davis-Lynch Glass Company in Star City, West Virginia. The reamy glass has a wavy, swirled surface that deflects light, while the optic glass is striped. The seeded glass contains pinhead-sized bubbles, which has the effect of softening the light and looks much like antique colonial glass. The seeded glass is a bit more expensive than the other options, but any of the three types of glass can be chosen for most of the company's designs to create a customized lantern.

Tourists often buy the lanterns while they're in town or purchase from the Web site after they return home. The company receives orders from all over the U.S. and Canada. Recently, they received an order from a woman in the United Kingdom who wanted several lanterns for her new home in the Caribbean.

Located in Orleans, Massachusetts, which is on the arm of Cape Cod between Provincetown and Hyannis, Lanterns of Cape Cod is well-known locally. Customers can even visit the production facility and watch how the lanterns are made.

"I think what distinguishes us is that somebody comes in with a design, and they want to change something," says Savonen. "Because we have our production facilities right here and our craftsmen, we can adapt to some design that they have in mind. The other thing is that we'll go out to their home, I'll bring the lanterns with us, and I'll help them design a whole project."


Cape Cod Lanterns, 309 Orleans Road, North Chatham, MA 02650, (877) 794-5337

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