Exploring the Use of Copper in Sculptures
Copper is a popular metal often used for sculptures, in part because of its beautiful color and the way it develops an attractive patina as it weathers. It is used for many different types of sculpture, ranging from realistic renditions of natural subject matter, to abstract pieces of sculptural art. Copper can be used in sheets, as wire, or in other shapes, and is an easy metal to bend and hammer. As such, many copper pieces have a beautiful attention to detail, including hammered and detailed surfaces.
Examples of Copper Sculpture
Copper sculptures are often quite beautiful, due to the beauty of the color of the metal. In addition to the natural finish of the metal, other finishes can also be applied, either by plating or by buffing the piece to remove any traces of the metal's natural patina. Copper is often used to produce outdoor sculptures, due to its attractive weathering process. Many different forms of copper can be used, either through the smelting and hammering process, or by using pre-formed copper sheets that can be cut into shapes, or by using copper wire. The metal has a warm appearance that can often give a very rustic appearance to a piece, but which can also have a more formal appearance as well. Copper sheeting is often cut into shapes that are used for form intricate wall sculptures, and many types of contemporary or abstract sculpture pieces utilize copper as well.
History of Copper Sculptures
Copper artwork and hammered copper sculpture dates back to the mid 1500s in Mexico, fashioned after the copper work done by the Indians of Central Mexico to make weapons and domestic implements. Smelting techniques were used to work with the copper metal, eventually forming it into a material that could be shaped by hammering, by using a single sheet of copper. Today's methods of creating copper sculpture varies from these original techniques, due to more advanced tools, and instead of being fashioned out of a single sheet of copper, multiple sheets are generally used to create sculptural structures, using tig welding to connect the various pieces. This allows for the creation of much larger structures than what the original methods would have allowed.
Challenges of Using Copper in Sculptures
Copper can be difficult to cast, and in some cases, copper can be too soft by itself for certain types of pieces. Although paintable with certain materials, it doesn't lend itself to acrylic colors. Although multiple pieces of copper can be joined by welding, this method is sometimes out of reach for the beginning sculptor.
Strengths of Copper as a Sculpture Material
Copper is one of the few colored metals, which often makes it a very interesting metal for use in art, either alone or combined with other metals as an accent color. It is also rather soft and malleable, and undergoes an interesting change in color when exposed to the elements, taking on a darker colored patina due to oxidation and reactions to other gases. Sculptures formed from copper are often created by hammering the metal into shape, or by bending and shaping it, as it is easily worked into shapes due to its softness. Copper can also be painted with oils or even enamels under certain circumstances, to add additional interest and color to the pieces.