I love boxes and always have. I’ve used them as time capsules since I was little growing up in Blacklick Ohio and still have most of them. I actually started making my own boxes as a teenager using stained glass. I tend to be self-taught and the first boxes of glass that I made, I used lead came (usually used for windows), and those make me blush when I look back at them. I learned the Tiffany technique of copper foil and began sandwiching fabrics like chiffons and lames and silks between two layers of glass in a landscape kind of feeling. Each box was a one of a kind. I made and sold those Collage Boxes internationally throughout the 1980’s.
In the 1990’s, I began playing with light and lighting. One endeavor was a Moon Luminary. These had a cast glass moon face projected onto a frosted glass which created a wavering holographic feeling and was a popular candle sconce. During the same time, I also made Prairie Lamps, an Arts and Crafts style table lamp. Both of which were made and sold throughout the 1990’s.
After working with lighting, I realized I missed making boxes. I found old machines from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that had been used in metal fabrication and taught myself how to form a box from metal. Someone looked at one of my early creations and said, “it looks like a reliquary”. I’ve been learning how to make Reliquary Boxes ever since the late 1990’s. They are my favorite things to make. I hope you can feel that when you hold one in your hands.
I live along the mighty Hudson River in upstate NY and have for the last 30 some years. I have a studio with too many things and I fall in love with rocks and small broken odds and ends too easily.
About the boxes…..
I work on old machines from the last two centuries. They feel good in the hand, always cool to the touch. I wonder who has used them for the last hundred plus years. How long did they sit idle? Some I got through word of mouth, others serendipitous interactions with other metal workers. My kick shear, probably from 1870, (which cuts the patterns from copper for the boxes) I got from a man who saw me at a show and he was getting rid of it. I was the lucky one.
I start out with 3’x 8’ sheets of 24 oz (similar to 18 gauge for you metal smiths) and use Kett cutters (an electric scissors for metal) to cut them into smaller more manageable sizes about 32″x36″. Then patterns for each size box are printed and glued to the copper and cut on the kick shear. Next the corners need to be cut at perfect right angles with a machine called a notcher from the early 1900’s. It leaves a shape kind of like a fat cross. This allows the sides to be folded up creating a box. That pattern is folded on a machine called a pan and box break. The first two sides are folded and the “fingers” of the break allow the first two sides to fit between forming the last two bends completing the box. All seams are sanded on a modern sanding wheel and polished after the box side seams are soldiered. All the copper components, the box bottom and lid and insert (the part holding the pictures under the glass) are dipped into patina to darken them.
The lids get formed in the same manner as the bottoms but their windows are cut out on a scroll saw. Once the lids are formed they get any stamping with decorative metal stamps and a hit from a hammer. They get any words or domes dapped that will be drilled and polished to hold the turquoise glass cabochons like those in the Alchemy Series or the Spiral Heart or the Changelings. The inserts are formed and glass is cut to fit the inside that holds down a layer of paper, pearl and image. There is a space for the tiny rolling balls and then another layer of glass all held together by copper foil used in stained glass. The inserts are soldered to the lids and the bottoms get padded with a red velvet.
We polish each box lid with a special wax to help the copper from being marred by time or water. Each one is checked for flaws and then packed and shipped. Each one is made to order. We tend not to keep inventory so please be patient with us. There are a lot of steps but we love making them.
Please remember that each box is individually hand made and won’t look exactly like the picture on the site as far as color of patina and stamping of the metal. Patina has a mind of it’s own but we will try to match it as closely as possible. The image inside the lid will match the photo on the website. All the boxes are padded with the same lovely red wine colored velvet. It may appear as slightly different colors in the photos. There is no choice in padding color when ordering.
I have worked with my co-worker and friend, Sandy Bartlett, for more than a dozen years now. She’s known as ‘Sandy the Great’. Sandy does almost all the bending and patinaing and padding and organizing. Know these are made in a very happy and fun atmosphere with lots of laughing going on.
Each box is signed and dated and comes with a card inside telling a bit about me and the boxes and a definition of reliquary (a receptacle for an old treasure).