Copper sheets can be used to create a variety of looks, from rustic decor to reproductions of artifact imagery from centuries past. Thin copper sheeting, similar to aluminum foil, provides a workable surface for embossed art projects, while thicker sheets are durable enough to be used structurally, such as for homemade luminaria or lamp covers.
Embossed Art Expressions
Turn small art canvases, or even sheets of corrugated cardboard, into works of embossed art with thin copper sheeting. Choose a 5-mil sheet, or select a metal gauge between 36 and 38 -- copper in this range will have thickness similar to that of aluminum foil. Using scissors, cut the sheet large enough to wrap around to the back of an art canvas or scrap piece of cardboard. To create your designs, set the copper shiny side down atop a sheet of shipping foam or craft foam. Press the design into the metal with the capped end of a pen, as if you were drawing on paper. Metal-embossing tools or a stylus may be used as well, for similar effect -- even a craft stick presses the metal down enough to create a design. Plan your design out in advance for best results, or even trace an image you've already drawn on paper. When you've finished, flip the metal over and wrap it around the canvas or cardboard so your design sticks out. To make it look a bit older, carefully wipe thinned black latex paint over it with a rag.
Incorporate cutouts of copper sheeting into an artistic collage on an art canvas or scrap piece of wood or foam board. Cut images and words out of magazines, comic books or movie-poster catalogs, mixing themes to create a quirky design, such as a giant cat pouncing on a skyscraper. Or craft a more mainstream creation, perhaps featuring musical notes, hearts and cartoon people cut out of greeting cards. Cut a few copper shapes out of the metal sheets, using scissors for thin copper or tin snips for thick copper. Stamp words or letters onto them using a metal punch set for thick metal, or by embossing the designs yourself with thin metal. Hot glue the metal to the collage, layering metal, paper and even fabric for visual interest.
Luminaria and Lampshades
Create copper luminaria and lampshades using an awl, tin snips and copper sheets. Freeze a clean can full of water -- a food can or coffee can will work -- making sure the copper sheet is large enough to wrap completely around it. Bend the copper sheet around the can, squeezing the copper to help it hold its shape. Punch holes in the copper with a nail or awl where the sheet's edges overlap, then twist a bit of wire through the holes to close the shape. Plot out a design such as a smiling jack-o'-lantern or a peace sign using a hammer and awl. For a more complex design, draw shapes to cut out of the metal, starting the holes with an awl and then continuing with tin snips. Remove the copper sleeve from the can, then place the copper over a glass candle holder with a lit candle inside to form a luminaria. For a lampshade, bend the copper over a lampshade frame without fabric, securing the copper by punching holes around the perimeter and securing it to the frame with wire. Use a low-heat LED bulb in the lamp to prevent the metal shade from getting hot.
Turn scrap wood from damaged or discarded furniture into new art-furniture with copper seats, tops or backs. A series of sturdy wood chair arms or clean driftwood logs attached to the bottom of a plank becomes the base for an artistic bench. Hammer a copper sheet over the seat, using a rounded hammer head to give the seat a texture reminiscent of fish scales. Wrap copper over a wooden seat back, tacking it in place, and then stain the rest of the wood a bold or dark color for striking contrast. Add bands of copper around chair or table legs for a play on wood and metal. Allow the copper furniture to patina naturally over time.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.