Copper in the Arts

February 2015

Patina Studio: Enhancing the Natural Beauty of Copper through Science

By Nancy Ballou

TableTable sculpture by Patina Studio.

"Art has always been my calling ... but, being a practical person, I waited until I could answer the call," says Teresa Mowery, a custom metalworker specializing in patinas for more than 20 years. "I received a BFA from the Maine College of Art, along with solid design training, and supplemented my income for years working for jewelers, teaching art and managing the Fuller Museum School in Brockton, MA. However, my most interesting work resulted from a collaboration with my partner, a commercial coppersmith. Eventually, I arrived at the point where my art business needed full time attention in 2005. It has been a great ride ever since. I opened my own showroom/studio at Historic Four Corners in Tiverton, RI, last summer. I even feature guest artists."

Mowery started working with patinas in copper when she designed jewelry, then moved to home decor, ornaments and wall pieces. She explains, "I love using color and copper produces the widest spectrum of effects. It is also much less expensive than silver or gold. I love the warmth and glow of copper as a material. This becomes evident in the wall pieces as the light hits them throughout the day."

She obtains her copper from a local sheet metal shop in her town.

"They have been there since the turn of the century and I contract them to bend my 'canvases,” she says. “In turn, I sometimes do finish work for their projects, such as custom kitchen hoods. The sheet is bent on a brake to create a 'blank canvas.’ I then use patina recipes I have concocted over years to color the metal where I want it. I construct resist areas so I can treat each piece multiple times. It is similar to a silk screening process and, although I use the same design repeatedly, no two pieces are ever identical. I'm inspired by nature, in particular, repetitive patterns called fractals. I collect images and restructure them into my own compositions."

The geometry of nature and the play of elements on the weathering objects combine science with art. Her ideas originate from antique botanical prints, photographs, the beauty of seawater, sunsets, starfish, snails, sand dollars, and whatever else intrigues her.

Her copper wall pieces vary in size, are lightweight and easy to hang. Reinforced with wood framing for added stability, they can be custom fit to any area or color scheme. She coats the copper three times with protective sealant to retain color, luster and sheen, as well as offer UV protection.

Mowery uses her torch for scenes depicting brilliant abstract sunsets in a sky of orange copper with cloud-like wisps. For tranquil horizon lines or water, salts and acids create color. Pretreating the surface properly before applying chemicals in just the right proportions achieves a multilayered effect like speckled browns and blues contrasted with vibrant greens and subtle coppery plums.

Sculpture by Patina StudioSculpture by Patina Studio.

"Since copper's signature green patina takes many years, I hurry it along,” she says.

One of Mowery's favorite pieces, inspired by morning sun and thoughts of new beginnings is called Brand New Day. It has a speckled patina from a fossil-like brown to spots of dark blue to turquoise and contains many inward bends that echo the rays of copper. They not only add to the design element, but increase stability of the artwork while allowing light to play on the surface.

Spiritual symbols in many cultures for thousands of years, spirals are often used for her raised copper and brass ornaments.

"A handcrafted copper representation of The Compass Rose, a famous nautical device on sailors' charts and maps since the 1300s, actually brought tears to a customer's eyes,” she recalls.

Mowery can design copper tiles, backsplashes, range hoods and commissioned work. She collaborates with furniture makers to add etched copper table tops or headboard art.

"I attend numerous shows and recently exhibited at the American Made Show, Washington DC, last January,” she says. “I networked with other artists and acquired 11 new accounts from shops/galleries across the US. My larger pieces have been purchased by corporate clients for their businesses. I also like working with non-profits. I just completed a large installation for the Cancer Center Hospital of Connecticut. The design is based on trees that I sketched from where I live in Tiverton. They are glowing copper, the background is a speckled dark patina. I am currently creating a cityscape of Manhattan for a benefit in NYC . My next big exhibit will be a one person show this fall at the Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island."


Patina Studio, Historic 4Corners, 8 Neck Rd., Tiverton, RI, (401) 862-1060

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