Metalsmith Abdón Punzo Ángel and his family craft award-winning decorative copper and silver objects from recycled materials. El Arte del Cobre, their celebrated multi-generational business, is one of over fifty workshops in Santa Clara del Cobre, a town in the state of Michoacán that’s famous for its long history of traditional copper work.
Mexican filmmaker Mariano Rentería Garnica visited their open-air workshop to document how these artisanal pieces are created. It’s one in a series on Mexican Handcraft Masters in Michoacán. From Wikipedia:
Hammers, tongs and other tools are found on workshop walls and tables and the copper is heated in a large wood-fired forge. As the region no longer mines copper, the raw material is scrap copper from old autos and cable, which he buys from telephone and electrical companies. Sledgehammers are used to pound blocks of copper to start and very fine hammers and awls are used for delicate details. Pieces are reheated as necessary as the pieces are pounded into shape. Decorative shapes such as animals are tapped outside the vessel from the inside and then backed with a substance called chapopote to keep the shape as the minute details are tapped in from the outside.
Almost all of the objects are hammered into shape from a single piece or block of copper, including details like handles and decorative figures which are shaped along with the main body. This eliminates the need for soldering. The embossing, also called repoussé and chasing, is a form of decorating the basic shape of a vessel or other piece. It consists of hammering the piece from the inside to push the shape outwards. After this shape is made, details are added by chiseling and engraving. Then the copper pieces are put into a large pot of boiling water in order to give them their distinctive color. To give pieces an added shine, they are treated with sulfuric acid, soap, water and steel wool.
Watch more videos with copper and more metalsmithing videos on this site, including traditional sword making from scratch, this World Championship Blacksmiths’ Competition Tong Making Class, and a dad teaching his daughter how to cast a ring from scrap pewter..