Sometimes you find your “artistic” home right in your own home. The Alliance Art Gallery’s October Guest artist Jim Upchurch explains, “I was raised in an arts and crafts bungalow. My whole life, I’ve always been comfortable in that era of design.” Frank Lloyd Wright, Gustav Stickley, and Charles Rennie Macintosh all thrived in this anti-Victorian movement. In a time when everything seemed machine made, a yearning for hand-made items emerged.
For Jim, this way of viewing the world followed him from childhood through college (a master’s degree in industrial design) into the workplace and eventual teaching, consulting, and owning his own business. But five years ago he decided, “I want to do something tangible. So I got into copper because I wanted a trade that was not common.”
He honed his skills as a student under copper artist Ben Caldwell from Nashville. Historically, copper was the first metal to be smelted at 1,750 degrees over 5,300 years ago. Fascinated with ancient artisans art, especially Egyptian, Phoenician, and Mesopotamian, he chose to focus on copper.
“As much as anything, I enjoy doing the design,” he admits. His work has a quiet “arts and crafts” look: An ancient ginko leaf. A candle holder that glows with a soft copper sheen. A softly curved ladle.
Starting with sheet copper, he uses simple tools he made, altered, or purchased. The work sometimes includes annealing and the use of a pitch pot. “Pitch,” he explains, “is a natural material used by the ancients. Heated pitch is soft and pliable; cooled, it is as hard as a rock.” It holds unique pieces firmly in place for Jim to work; then releases the piece when the reheated pitch becomes soft. Like a metal paleontologist, Upchurch chooses to explore metal in the order it came into societal use. He laughs as he admits, “I am now starting to play a little with bronze, and I hope I live long enough to work with silver.” It will be like adding another room to his arts and craft “home.”
An opening reception will be held on Saturday, October 12 from 5 until 8:00.