Copper in the Arts

September 2010

Julie Joy Saypoff: Communicating The Energy of Emotion Through Copper

By Nancy Ballou

Julie Joy at work Julie at work in her studio.

Photograph Courtesy of Julie Joy Saypoff

Julie Joy Saypoff has always enjoyed making things. She earned a degree in Fine Arts from Caldwell College in New Jersey and studied metalworks at The Arts Students League in New York City. It was her friend, a plumber, who actually taught her to weld copper.

"Copper has a warmth and malleability that other metals don't,” says Saypoff. “I enjoy its organic nature and like to create sculptures that look as if they just climbed out of the earth. Because copper is easy to manipulate, I am able to design the large sculptures by myself, allowing me to work at any time of the day or night.”

In her workshop converted solely for artistic pursuits, Saypoff first forms a maquette of her concept. This small example determines the materials necessary for the scaled up version. She orders 50-foot rolls of copper sheeting for the "skin." Next, she builds an armature from copper refrigerator tubing. Using soft temper copper for shaping and hard temper copper for strength, she forms the "bones," or inner structure of the sculpture. Copper welding rods and an acetylene torch complete the construction. Different gauge metals require various welding temperatures so the process can be tricky. Employing a winch, she suspends the work to avoid being on a ladder for hours.

"Once I have a rough version of the piece, I revise and refine until it embodies the feeling I want to portray," she reveals.

Though some of Saypoff's works appear solid in structure, they are actually hollow inside. Her six-piece collection "Man/Woman, The Series" has an almost prehistoric quality. Treated with copper nitrate and coated with beeswax for preservation, these sculptures were finished with a verdigris patina. In 2009, they were shipped and permanently installed outside Las Salinas Arte Contemporaneo in Medina del Campo, Spain. Because of the natural salt on the earth, they have now taken on a golden hue. Saypoff points out, "Since copper doesn't rust and oxidizes depending on its environment, it is low maintenance and perfect for outdoor art."

Metamorphosis Metamorphosis copper sculpture by Julie Joy Saypoff

Photograph Courtesy of Julie Joy Saypoff

Dedicated July 23, 2010 in front of the Millburn Public Library in New Jersey, Saypoff's ten foot tall Inspiration depicts a stack of four monumental copper books, the top one arched open. The words “read”, “imagine”, “dream”, “learn” and “create” flow around them with "reach" at the height in copper lettering created to resemble the high curved windows of the building.

"This is one of the few non-abstract sculptures I've made,” says Saypoff. “It actually does resemble old, well-read, leatherbound books."

Her open pieces visually express feeling and what lies beneath the surface. The skeleton is on the outside, portraying emotion on the inside by use of internal copper fluttering pieces. 

"I like to use positive and negative space, gesture and movement so that the viewer can interpret the meaning through his or her own eyes," Saypoff says.

Saypoff's works will be on display at the New Century Artists Exhibition in New York from September 28 - October 16, 2010, at the Arts Incubator Gallery Exhibition in West Orange, New Jersey from September 4 to October 30, 2010 and at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center in Brooklyn from October 12 to November 27, 2010. Permanent installations at Barnstable Academy in Oakland, New Jersey and The Sculpture Foundation in Hamilton, New Jersey are scheduled for September.


Julie Joy Saypoff, 29 Winthrop Rd., Short Hills, NJ, (973) 769-5797

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