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Flamepainting On Copper

8-30 Copper

The combination of artistic creativity and a compulsive nature led Skip Mathews to create what is virtually his own art form.

A coppersmith for 52 years, Skip developed the technique of decorating copper with colors by varying the temperature of the metal using a torch. He has perfected the technique through years of practice and shared it with his wife, Racheal. They will be joining the Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour this year with their flame-painted copper creations.

Both Skip and Racheal studied fine arts at the University of Arizona. Although he was a pottery major, Skip got into copper after leaving school and did traditional copper work for several years.

While applying heat to pieces for soldering or annealing, he became fascinated by the colors that would appear on the metal at different temperatures. While coppersmiths have always observed these colors, they are very difficult to control and historically could not be preserved.

“One of God’s gifts to me is I’m compulsive,” Skip explained.

“It took me a long time to understand what was creating these colors that were showing up.”

He promised himself he would make only butterflies until he learned to control the colors and perfected his technique.

“For 15 years, I literally made 15,000 butterflies in a row,” he said. “The first 4,000 were pretty mediocre.”

Skip still makes butterflies today, and they are always a popular item, but he has expanded to do jewelry, leaves, hummingbirds, a series of animal pins, larger items, and abstract art pieces.

Read the full story in the Aug. 30, 2017 issue.

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