Brown: Copper flowers look like they’re right from the garden
Once an antiques collector, Pat Smith says her late husband, Larry, had always noticed she was attracted to things made of metal, so it came as no surprise when she taught herself how to make colorful fused and stained glass. But as the price of supplies increased, her ability to produce decreased around five years ago because she could no longer afford the asking prices.
“I did fused and stained glass, and I started sculpting in wax (lost-wax casting). I found out I was pretty good at it, but I had to give up the stained glass because it was too expensive,” says the Grosse Ile resident. Yet, her desire to use metal as her medium for creating art stuck with her, and it wasn’t long before she began applying the soldering skills she developed as a maker of fused and stained glass to create flowers that look amazingly real, made from sheets of copper she buys online and locally.
She creates flowers because, “I’m a gardener, and I just wanted to do something natural. I also make insects out of copper,” says Smith, who started planting at age 6.
Growing up, Smith says she spent “probably every weekend” of her teen years at the Detroit Institute of Arts, admiring the awe-inspiring sculptures displayed throughout, however, she wouldn’t come to realize her love for creating her own three-dimensional art until later in life, after working as a physical therapy technician, “which is so far from (creating) flowers.”
Now at age 70, Smith draws inspiration for making metal flowers from the shapes and colors of those created by Mother Nature. “Right now, I’m doing a lot of daisy-type flowers because, I’m being drawn to them. I made an iris and that’s my next flower,” she says. “I go through my plant catalogs and see a flower that interests me, and I just figure out how to make it.”
Smith cuts the sheets of copper into various shapes and sizes, and then forms the pieces into true-to-life leaves, petals and stems. She then assembles them in the shape of a flower and solders the pieces together. Once complete, most flowers measure approximately 9 inches tall by 5 inches wide, and others are about 12 inches long by 2-\ inches tall. The flowers are then hand-painted with several coats of enamel oil paint, and because each coat takes about five days to dry, she starts one and then another to maintain a steady production flow.
After all coats have dried, she arranges the flowers in a purchased container. Lately, she’s been experimenting with soldering them standing upright onto a piece of heavy gauge copper “so that it looks like they’re growing out of the ground.” The longer (taller) ones are left as individual works of art for laying across a tabletop as a centerpiece.
Smith, who’s never done a craft show, says, in the past her flowers were sold through a local art gallery, but because they kept getting damaged, she now sells them by word-of-mouth to friends. “When my husband was alive, he was going to put them on eBay, but then he died,” she says. “I’d love to sell them, but until I learn how to put them on eBay, I’m selling them to friends.”`Prices range from about $40 for a large single flower to $70 for an arrangement.
Smith hopes to do some of her flowers as wall hangings in the form of a mirror framed with florals. (And, imagine them as a keepsake bridal bouquet!)
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Patricia Smith at email@example.com.