Copper in the Arts

November 2013

The Appeal of Apothic Art

By Jennifer Hetrick

Mary Masterilli's wall art piece called Changes.Mary Masterilli's wall art piece called Changes incorporates wood, copper, clock parts, conduit, machined metal and mirror.

As a girl, copper artist and Apothic Art founder Mary Masterilli watched in fascination as her father hammered, sawed and sanded away with cabinetry and shelving in her childhood row home in Philadelphia.

“He let me help him in small ways,” she says, noting that this lure for creating something tangible always stayed with her.

Masterilli spent many years in web design and management but could tell she wanted a more physical form of work and slowly transitioned out of that field. She began building her artistry, stocking her supply before getting to know the in-the-moment stress of client demand.

“I didn’t want to rush it or spoil it and put pressure on myself,” she says about taking a more backwards yet incredibly efficient business approach to her art. “I wanted to enjoy being an artist. It allowed me to be more exploratory, and my favorite pieces were created in that time.”

Small table known as Cherry NotesThis small table known as Cherry Notes involves figured cherry, black walnut, copper pipe, copper rivets and wrought iron.

Today, she crafts unique persuasions of wall art, tables, clocks, book ends as reminders of faucets and door handles, oil lamp hangers, steampunk-inspired birdhouses, mirrors and wine racks, in addition to fine art sculpture. In a sculpture called Osmosis, Masterilli joins copper pipes blossoming through a thin square of wood wrapped in copper sheeting. The copper pipes extend from the surface on each of the two sides, at varying lengths, seemingly pushing through the piece yet still suspended.

Besides working in web design, Masterilli also has a background as a registered nurse and notes that Osmosis actually came to her with reminders of a cell membrane through a visual representation of the science normally only known on a microscopic level.

“It’s evolving very rapidly,” she says about her work in how she describes it to those who haven’t yet seen her pieces. “‘Industrial’ is what’s coming through loud and clear.”

Cinematoscope by Mary Masterilli.Steampunk-persuaded, Cinematoscope by Mary Masterilli brings together wood, copper, paper, clock and camera parts, a vintage toy tin telescope, a vacuum tube and brass.

She grew up close to the Manayunk Canal near factories that were once bustling in the 20th century; this part of her past is recently bringing her back to memories of industrial places from her childhood, with inspirations of these times filtering into her art.

Masterilli sources her copper and brass from auctions, flea markets, local hardware stores, but also online through QuickShipMetals and Whimsie.

“Just like wood, [copper is] a living, breathing thing,” she reflects on what she admires about the metal. “That’s what I love about wood. Copper has so many different characteristics, and I can shine it up like a brand new penny, throw different chemicals at it, or just let time work its magic.”

To her, the responses of copper to natural and more expedited treatments and effects are a great lure to the senses.

“It will keep aging and taking on a patina with age. I don’t try to fight that,” Masterilli says. “I love that about it.”


Apothic Art, Hagerstown, MD

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