Copper in the Arts

October 2015

Adding a Modern Twist to Their Family's Legacy

By Jennifer Hetrick

Copper and brass spinning topsCopper and brass together in spinning tops. 

Photograph courtesy of Anthony Allen Lawson

When copper Artist Anthony Allen Lawson left a career in professional photography and graphic design to make his handcrafted spinning tops in 2011, he set his life on a new serendipitous path. He continued his family’s legacy and pursued machining, working alongside his father, Floyd Allen Lawson, in Joshua Tree, California.

Inspired by Anthony’s grandfather, Jimmie Leonard Lawson, who owned and operated a machine shop in Carson, Los Angeles County, in the 1950s, Anthony and his father formed the legacy company J. L. Lawson & Co. to honor Anthony’s grandfather and their  family’s history in machining.

Today, Anthony and his father are known for their extremely  detailed brass spinning tops, spinning trays, dreidels, cufflinks, candle holders, and more.

“We make what we feel like making, basically,” Anthony says of never limiting product lines.

Remembering that his father made a spinning top every Christmas for his niece, he decided to make and market them, not realizing a whole sub-culture of mostly male clientele would quickly gravitate to his creations.

His newly re-released cufflinks also act as spinning tops, he notes.

Anthony starts with a solid bar of brass in preparing the tops, and his stems are often finished with a diamond pattern through knurling techniques pushed across the metal’s surface as texture for aesthetics and gripping.

“I learned that some people are fanatical for spinning tops,” Anthony says, “And they love the spin time.”

The testimonials page on his website shows several enthusiastic responses about how many minutes certain customers were able to keep their purchased tops successfully in motion.

“I’ve made thousands of tops in recent years. Some of these guys have hundreds of tops,” he says of customers. “Very small percentages are purchased by women, but that’s definitely growing.”

Anthony explains that gifts for men, men’s accessories, bottle opener, spinning top and cufflinks are some keywords that help new customers to stumble across his website.

“When I started, I would submit product info and a brief bio to men’s blogs like Cool Material, Gear Patrol, Uncrate and many more, and the traffic has just built,” he says. “Now I have a newsletter that I send out when new products hit the store, and those same blogs will end up writing articles randomly, but I usually only find out when I see the traffic coming from their site.”

Anthony has shipped orders across the U.S. and also to Singapore, China, Japan, Italy, France and Germany.

He sources his brass and copper from Farmers Copper Ltd., which has two locations in Texas.

“Brass and copper are easy to machine, so I can think more about the design and less about cutting the material,” Anthony says. “I love the way brass and copper develop a natural patina over time but won't rust or get eaten away. I would love to see what some of these pieces look like in 100 years.”


J. L. Lawson & Co., 27130 Paseo Espada, Suite 1404, San Juan Capistrano, CA

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