Creative With Copper: Business Evolves From Barrel Of Copper

PAYSON ARTS

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April Bower was spending her days at a jewelry bench, setting diamonds in custom-created settings, and Stu Bower was working as a mechanical engineer, when they decided to turn their defunct hot tub into a fountain.

The redwood tub looked fine with lily pads, but to April's artistic and Stu's mechanical eyes, the pond needed bubbling water to be complete.

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April and Stu Bower create naturally beautiful copper fountain sculptures.

"I can make the flowers," April thought. "Stu can weld, maybe he would want to help."

Together they cut and shaped thin sheets of copper into water lilies and used water cooler tubing and other parts.

They took pictures of their fountain to the pond store and were encouraged to make more for the store to sell.

They made a few whiskey barrel ponds, but the store declined them, so the Bowers took their product to farmers' markets in Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Now, 10 years later, they are able to sell their fountains at shows all over the Southwest.

"Stu keeps track on a spreadsheet of what to take to each show and what to make extras of," April said.

He even knows she has made more than 400 copper hummingbirds in the course of the business.

Each sculpture -- whether it is a fountain, a vase of blooming orchids, or a standing trio of irises in iridescent reds, oranges and purple -- is unique.

The Bowers design at least one new sculpture a year.

Orchids are the most recent flowers April has sculpted.

Determining a way to make the orchids in a cost-effective way that is pleasing in the design of a fountain is the second task.

"It's exciting when see your things and a validation as an artist, when people spend their hard-earned money on something you made," April said. "We all work hard for our money, so to part with it for a piece of art is a compliment."

The basic pattern for each sculpture remains the same, but the patinas are always different, as are the angles of the leaves and colors of the dragonflies and hummingbirds.

Sculpting copper morphed naturally into experimenting with patinas.

April creates abstract and realistic copper paintings on thin sheets, supported by wooden backs.

"Copper is an interesting metal, offering a huge range in colorations," she said.

"I do a lot of different projects," she said while Stu was out of the room. "I drive him crazy." Living and working together is a challenge. Stu was the boy next door when April fell in love with him. They've been married 35 years. April cannot imagine working with anyone else.

RESUME

Names: April and Stu Bower

Medium: The Bowers create copper fountain sculptures. In addition to making copper bend to her creative whim, April is also a goldsmith, and a watercolor artist.

Motto: Just try it and see.

Advice to beginning artists: "Take classes, because it is impossible to grow in a vacuum," April said. She tries to take at least one workshop a year. A patina workshop piqued her interest in painting with copper.

Award most proud: Best of Show and $300 at the Wickenburg Art Club for a watercolor painting.

Hometowns: April -- Phoenix. Stu -- Boston, Mass.

Why Payson? Family had a cabin here in the 1950s.

Upcoming project: April is into patina painting right now.

April's Faves:

Food: feta cheese

Music: Dire Straits and Little Feat

Book: "A Prayer for Owen Meaney" by John Irving

Points of contact: (928) 476-5953 or Online at www.copperfountains.com, at Down the Street Art Gallery, 703 W. Main St., Payson (928) 468-6129, Pinnacle Gallery, Scottsdale (jewelry only.)

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