ArtMatch artist Rosanna Marmont is sharing her process to create unique and stunning fired copper artworks!
Rosanna Marmont works primarily from her studio in Okotoks, Alberta but most, if not all, of her copper works are made at her studio in Arizona, also knows as the ‘copper state.’
The process begins in Tuscon, Arizona at IMS Sheet Metal Providers where copper is sold in 10 foot rolls. The copper must be a minimum gage of 14 in order to withstand the red hot temperatures without melting.
The sheet of Copper is rolled up and suspended from a steel bar so it can be lowered in and out of the fire. The type of wood burned is critical. Eucalyptus is the best wood because of how hot it burns. It is very hard to bring the kiln to temperature with mesquite, pine, fir or spruce. Pine is the next best option as it burns hot and fast, but more of it is required and there is no access to pine in Tucson. The kiln has double walls and is insulated to help bring it to temperature.
The fresh wood is burnt with lots of oxygen ventilation so that the tannins and sap can burn off. The copper does not go in the kiln until the wood is charcoal so it burns clean and hot. With the copper in the kiln the temperatures have to get red hot (the copper has to be red hot too) and held for up to an hour (although again, critical that it does not melt). The copper is then lifted out and quenched in a massive barrel of water. When this happens some of the black surface shrinks at a different temperature and releases.
A successful firing is hit or miss. This artwork commission covered in this article went through 13 feet of copper before getting something that Rosanna liked. The above is an example of a piece that fired well, but doesn’t have an adequate composition or areas of detail. To get the pieces for the commission, Rosanna fired 33 linear feet of copper in total and picked the best pieces – not an easy process!
The effects created are a combination of chemical reactions as the copper molecules become reactive and search for oxygen or other airborne elements to bond with and become stable. The environment inside the kiln, the type of wood, the amount of time taken to quench, the chemicals on the surface of the copper (sometimes Rosanna adds different oils or acid) the time allowed for firing, and the temperatures fired at, all effect the outcome in highly unpredictable ways. That is the magic of it. The artists touch comes in with simply facilitating the right environment and choosing the areas that have the strongest composition.
Frames are built that allow for a 1.75″ edge so that the finished pieces become an object (rather than a flat image). The framing must be done with accuracy to avoid wasting the image on the backside overlap. The copper is glued with contact cement (a permanent attachment) to the front of the wood frame, so you only get one shot at it! The copper is then sealed with the spray varathane that brings the colours out and seals the copper from further oxidization.
Seeing a finished piece work so well in its final context is incredibly rewarding, and especially knowing that it will be cared for and loved by the new owners. This is the largest copper experiment that Rosanna has done to date, and the first triptych! We at ArtMatch, and the client who commissioned this piece, are thrilled with the final results. This work is truly one of a kind!