Copper in the Arts

November 2009

J Crocker Designs: Shedding an Eco Friendly Light on Copper

By Rebecca Troutman

Wood Copper SculptureWood and copper lamp sculpture

Photograph courtesy Jay Crocker

He's reluctant to be called an artisan, or an environmentalist-though that's the natural conclusion you might come to upon meeting Jay Crocker. The lamps from J Crocker Designs' "Firewood Collection" are crafted from fallen or "dead wood," most of which has been either reclaimed or salvaged by Crocker himself. His lamp shades are made of untreated, naturally aged copper, often carrying stipples of its characteristic turquoise patina. The wood bases are beautifully shaped by hand according to the natural guidance of the grain, and embellished by matching gems or turquoise stones.

Crocker is inspired by vivid color, Santa Fe stones and rustic raw materials.

"I could never find any lamps that suited my taste," recalls Crocker. "I like mesquite furniture, rich leather, that kind of thing." A lifetime do-it-yourselfer, Crocker found the answer right under his own pick-axe, and decided to create his own lamp design.

"Last winter I was splitting wood," he explains his inspiration for the "Firewood Collection," and he stumbled upon his "aha" moment in a particularly striking piece of maple. In fact, most of his lamps are discovered in the firewood pile. But whenever inspiration strikes, Crocker pulls one special piece to become a one-of-a-kind work of art.

Originally from the panhandle of Texas, Crocker spent 15 years in and out of a bullriding ring. He traveled extensively, riding in more than one hundred rodeos a year. Eventually he tired of the constant traveling. He has since retired his spot atop a bull and traded it, ironically, for a line of work that requires he be under the hoof of a large animal on a daily basis. He now spends most of his days in the forge working with metal as a professional horseshoer.

He jokes about his newfound inspiration for art, "Maybe when I was rodeo'n I got bumped on the head too many times."

While Jay Crocker's day job seems far from the glamour of a designer who makes custom lighting for the "green" consumer, at heart he's a hardworking craftsman who has spotted an opportunity to fulfill his creative side while being simultaneously good to the earth.

Copper Patina Copper patina close up

Photograph courtesy Jay Crocker

It takes him at least three months to complete one of his projects. Most of that time is spent in respect for the wood. Initially, he says, "I carve out [a lamp base] and let it sit for several months. Unless it really has time to settle, raw wood will crack." After the proper amount of time has elapsed, he can continue with stains and inlays. Oftentimes, a natural opening for a copper inlay will present itself in a knot of the wood. Then he's able to make a negative mold of the space, and melt copper down to apply a unique inlay to complement the copper lampshade.

His customers resonate with the ecologically-friendly design and materials. He often receives inquires for more "organic" shapes. "You mean like a tomato or a carrot or something like that?" he quips, with a charming smile on his lips.

Crocker believes in being an environmentally responsible business owner and artist. That's why he uses wood that was meant for firewood and treats the copper with non-toxic waxes that contain no petroleum distillates or dangerous solvents.

"I believe everyone should be trying to go [green]," says Crocker. "I believe in that wholeheartedly."


Jay Crocker Designs, Collinsville, TX

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