A client wants me to do a Waterfall Weaving for him, but before he orders he wants a sample of the green copper patina with various light copper browns. He actually sent me a piece of couch fabric to match! Unfortunately, it’s winter in SW Michigan and the shop is on the cool side. Normally I can get a great green on copper patina using Sculpt Nouveau’s Tiffany Green. When it’s 90 degrees, I actually get the beautiful grayish green, the traditional verdigris (‘green of the Greeks’), my favorite. 60-80 degrees and I’m getting fairly neutral greens. Any temperature below 60 and I’m getting bluish greens. This gentleman does not want any bluish-greens. So I’ve been running tests to nail down a reliable (?) patina I can reproduce in the cooler months.
This stair-step aluminum wall sculpture was recently shipped to Creative Metal Products in San Jose, CA. The owner was a great pleasure to work with. Here’s what he wrote: “We received the sculpture safely and it looks perfect! Attached is a picture file of the sculpture in our office. It’s been a fun experience in that the piece is just right in all respects, and you’ve been good to work with.
I am shipping this metal wall sculpture to San Clemente tomorrow. It has a remarkable patina, beautiful blues and greens and browns.
This is one of my layered puzzle designs that I have been doing since 2000. This metal wall sculpture was originally designed to be mounted on a circle, but that design was very heavy – about 75 lbs. This design works very well without the circle. This metal wall sculpture has 12 pieces, each 2″ wide, made from two sets of 22″ squares with the next smaller square cut from inside the larger square.
We shipped a very large weaving on Monday to a client. This order was actually placed December 14th! But the story goes back further to about a year ago when someone from the company called my wife. She wondered if we could come and do a presentation?My wife said that usually people can make decisions from the images on the website, but we could ship samples back & forth if they would pay for shipping. Well, that didn’t seem to fly. But about a month later, the person calls again and asks if we could come for a presentation. Hmmm. Well, that city is 3.5 hours from us, so eventually we said we could, but we’d have to charge $75/hour for the trip, with an 8-hour minimum. That didn’t seem to fly either. Then the woman calls again and says do we have any work nearby that they (she & her committee) could see?
Keep in mind this is a committee of 4 women, three quite young and easy-going and one older woman who has very strong opinions and is the decision-maker. However, she is also the busiest of the three. So she must have delegated the ordering to one of the younger women. This woman picked a very small straight-strip 12×12 weaving with a chemical patina, blue patina in the cracks and tan spots, from the website as the sample to copy, with the instructions to make it 36″ x 120″. (That’s a 30x scale-up). Not a wavy weaving and not a flame-colored patina. I photographed this little weaving under several spot lights which also confused them. Copper is so reflective that, even with a patina, the light goes through the patina and reflects the light bulb. You can see one of those reflections on the black board to the left. They especially liked the color of the light bulb reflected in the copper – about 3 square inches just above the center (out of the 144 square inch weaving).
Then, with my assistant, we glued a 36 x 120 sheet of 15 mil roofing copper (with a wood frame glued and screwed to its back) to the back and wrapped the ends of the woven strips around the back and glued them in place. I let the glue set for a few days. Then I asked my wife to call the contact person and find out how particular they were about the patina. We had to wait a week while she was out on vacation. When she came back she said, “Oh, not particular, just have him do something beautiful.” By then it was the first of May.
That’s exactly what an artist wants to hear, so with some guidance from my wife, I did just that, lacquered it up, hung it in the gallery, did some photos and emailed them off. We’ve learned the hard way that you have to get approval before shipping. And you have to get paid before shipping or you may never get paid!
Finally, about 2 weeks later, the contact person gets back to us. Could we do more photos? It’s hard to tell from what we sent them. So I get out the video camera that I hadn’t learned how to use yet and finally figured out how to do a video and how to use the editing software. Finally, after another 2 weeks she gets back to us. It looks like tiles, she said. It doesn’t look like the sample photo. It’s too glossy.
So I offer to strip it down and redo the patina. Just stripping the lacquer took 4 hours spread over several days. She said, “strip off the patina and redo it.” Hmm, what do they want. I guess they don’t want the artist’s opinion. More blue and green and tan spots I think. Darker too. So I do that. Now I don’t want to lacquer it again, but the darkening effect of lacquer can be simulated by wetting down the patina. So I do photos and another video, then put it on the web for them to look at when they can.
But it’s summer and at least one of the group is on vacation for the next three weeks. So we wait. Finally, after the 4th of July weekend, we get the message that they will give us one more chance to ‘salvage’ the project or they want a complete refund. (We always get a 50% deposit before we start a project. It helps to keep everyone committed and focused.) I tell my wife, “don’t respond to that, someone just came back from the long weekend in a very bad mood.” So more phone messages and a few emails back and forth. Finally they decide to drive down, all 4, to see it in person, mid-July.
We meet the ladies, all very nice, show them the huge weaving outside, wet it down, some are saying they like it a lot. (It was beautiful & dramatic by the way). But the decision maker says it’s too dark, the tan spots look like ‘bird droppings’, why can’t I get a nice bright coppery color. Then she tours the gallery and sees a wavy weaving with a flame colored patina and a gloss lacquer – she likes the gloss lacquer when she sees it in person – and says that’s what she had wanted all along. Why can’t I do it like that? Well, that’s a flame-colored patina. You have to do that before you glue it down. You can’t convert a glued-in-place chemical patina to a flame-colored patina. When we show her the photo attached to the order, she points out the little area in which the light reflected through the copper. She realized what had happened.
So we decide that I’d should just strip off a lot of the green and blues and dark browns, work on getting light copper colors, spray it with a gloss lacquer. I tried Permalac but couldn’t get it glossy enough, so went over it with Incralac. I had mixed xylene with the Permalac – the clear coat took about 3 days to dry. All told that took a couple of weeks, about an hour or so per day. Finally the lacquer is dry, the box is made and it’s in the big box (125# for the box, 55# for the weaving, 180# total), but the check takes 3 weeks to arrive. And that’s the 8-month saga of the large weaving. Not the worst ordeal of the past year. Just another one in the life of the professional metal artist.