Copper in the Arts

November 2011

Hearing the Call of Nature

By Ashley Morris

Copper frog garden stake. Copper frog garden stake.

Photograph courtesy of Ed Sharp
For artists like Ed Sharp, copper's color palette has endless potential. His copper work in flora and fauna, fish and frogs, showcases the magical ways patina works with nature's beauty - his muse turns out hues of green to browns and purples.

"Lately, tree frogs have taken over my life," Sharp says of his popular patina copper creations. "People go nuts over them."

Frogs, geckos, dragonflies, snails and species of fish metal-morph into whimsical mobiles, outdoor fountains, garden art and accessories, even coffee tables and countertops, thanks to the nimble hands of Sharp.

It's a process, he says, that involves heating, hammering and hand-cutting the copper. Then comes his flourish of patina formulas, finishes and a clear-coat - combinations with ingredients like sulfur and ammonia. The result is both a garden showpiece and one that blends into its natural surroundings like one of Sharp's geckos.

"I feel like folks are really drawn to my pieces because in this day and age, there's too much plastic and temporary products out there," says Sharp. "This is really resilient heirloom quality - something precious that can be passed down."

Precious, but not fragile-precious. Durability is a quality of copper Sharp is quite attracted to. "There's nothing you can't do with it," he says.

Made even durable by the rocks and driftwood he says he's been plucking out of the waters of the Chesapeake while kayaking in Alexandria, Va., where he's currently caring for his elderly parents. For the bases of his water fountains and coffee tables, Sharp will drill a hole into these nature finds, thread No. 2 copper wire through them, which makes for a solid fusion.

Ed Sharp at work. Ed Sharp at work.

Photograph courtesy of Ed Sharp

Sharp's parents are actually responsible for passing down those inherited artistic abilities. His mother was a former sculptor and painter, and his father, a musician. Sharp was born and raised in Alexandria, Va., but moved on to also live throughout Florida and Europe, where he not only dabbled in art, but worked as a foreman on a survey crew, on lobster and shrimp boats, and in sales.

It was a moment in 1996, he says, at the age 44 while living in Stock Island, Fla. (just north of Key West), and sitting in his La-Z-Boy that guided him toward a career in art. "I had bought a fountain and looked at it closer and thought, 'I can do that!'"

Sharp went on to enroll in a welding course at Stock Island Community College. "There were so many people at that time working with copper, and it was a win-win, because they had access to the equipment and materials," he says. "Once I learned how to do the work and techniques, I started in copper."

Today Sharp sells his work out of his DRC Studio locations in Sarasota, Fla., and Alexandria, Va. Over the winter, he plans on hibernating to build up on his inventory so he can also sell his copper work in festivals and shows next year, like one at the Dulles Expo & Conference Center in Chantilly, Va., in March.


Ed Sharp, DRC Studio, Key West, FL, (941) 685-6646

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