We are pleased to share with you artist and owner, Racheal Mathews with her husband, Skip, the Father of Flame, of Copper Colorists. They have been good friends for several years and graciously opened up their home to us last week when we visited The Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, AR.
If you have never seen flame painted copper, you are in for a treat. It’s a beautiful form of art, full of color and science! We learned so much from them, and we are happy to let you take a peek into their lives and craft.
Tell us how you got started with copper flame painting.
I watched Skip for years, but I was already a fine artist. Truth is, it was hard to make a good significant income with fine arts, and I realized God was not encouraging me in it any more, nor opening doors as He has in the past. I finally trusted Him enough to let go of my vision and goal to be a fine artist. When I turned around to see what was next, I looked at my husband’s art form and business in a new light as something perhaps I could come along side and help him with. He said, “Of course, I’ve been waiting for you to ask!”
He was waiting for it to be my idea because it is hard to do and you would need to have some kind of drive to do it yourself. Mine was that I still wanted to work with my hands. This was one of the best choices I ever made. God had bigger and better ideas than I could ever have imagined. I just needed to trust Him enough to let go of fine arts and trust Him that He still wanted good things for me. Huge step for me!
Explain what happens to the copper with the flame.
The flame causes the copper to heat first, which forms an oxidation on the surface of the copper. This oxidation gives off different colors depending on how hot the metal is. The length of time you heat the copper determines which colors you get.
She showed us how it always starts with orange, then changes to red violet, then blue, then yellow, then pink, then green, and finally gray. She showed us how they always go to gray and let it cool a little before starting to work on the patterns. You get more brilliant colors.
The blue haze that forms at the end of the fire in the cone is our drawing tool; it is a reduction flame–meaning it takes oxygen molecules away instead of adding oxygen molecules (as in the oxidation). So we use this blue haze to take the color (the oxidation) off in little shapes that we create. Then we can reheat the copper and those little shapes and patterns begin to turn colors again. We stop heating at the color we want. We always start with the hot colors first then go to the progressively cooler colors after that. This way we get many colors next to each other. We can find 14 distinct colors with the heat on the copper. When the flame painting is done and the copper has cooled, we apply two clear coats to make the colors permanent and shiny. It’s a very exciting art form to work with and to watch us do. We love demonstrating it in front of people at the folk center.
What kinds of things can you make/flame paint?
Anything in our heads that will not break the rules of flame painting copper. Some of the rules are that the cutting, shaping, and soldering of the piece must be completed before you can color the piece.
Also, there is an order to the colors, and you can’t change the order. They are called reduction colors and have their own color wheel. Coloring on convex is easier than on concave because the shape of the flame, which is your drawing tool, changes as the shape of the piece changes. And on and on. I used to draw things for Skip to flame paint before I learned how to do it myself, and he would say, “You can’t do that in flame painting. It won’t work.” Of course, that’s how we got our wonderful pumpkin pin–Skip was challenged to try anyway, and we came up with a winner.
Do you have a favorite thing to create?
Yes, I love to flame paint plates the most. They end up looking like kaleidoscopes of color! Skip says there’s probably no one else in the world that can do these. He is probably right, and I love doing them!
Also, I love hammering out my own shapes from a flat piece of copper. I make a bowl that is quite unique, beautiful, and challenging to flame paint. They turn out rather special.
I have great joy in creating all the wall crosses, three different sizes.
I create a dove for the wall, which is a representation of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove upon Jesus after He was baptized. I had this in my heart and mind for many years and was finally able to achieve it. Turns out very nice, and I have sold many of them.
You do this with your husband, but who is better at it?
We each have areas of expertise. He does things I can’t do, and I do things he can’t do. He has a flare for the abstract, and I have a knack for symmetry. He loves 3D, and I am more excited to create in 2D. We are a great compliment to each other. Also, Skip has been a wonderful role model. From the beginning, he chose to prefer me and compliment me. I followed his example and did the same, preferring and complimenting him. You guys. . .this works beautifully, and God has blessed it. No problems with jealousy and such. Thankful!!
Check out their video below explaining more of what they do, and come back tomorrow for Part 2 of Racheal’s interview.
And don’t forget about our Christmas Giveaway!
Ends Midnight Wednesday September 25, 2013 **CLOSED**
We want to give one of you lucky readers a [FREE] Christmas Advent Calendar Pattern! All you have to do is comment on the original post with a valid email address and tell us your favorite family Christmas tradition. Your name will be entered into the drawing for a chance to win.
Winner will be emailed and must respond within 48 hours or the prize will be passed on to the next person.