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‘Privateer’ Copper Repousse by William Barth Osmundsen 1996

Almost twenty years ago now, while building my studio in New Hampshire I thought I might enter my first NH Percent for Art Contest.  It was at the end of the year in 95 and I put three pen n ink drawings together and a proposal for 3 Vanes to adorn the cupolas of a mamouth liquor store which would be located in North Hampton, NH on I-95 N.

New Hampshire is one of the states which has state liquor stores and this is a million dollar a year proposition since they discount the wine and liquor and draw customers from the surrounding states.  The Hampton location is easy access from Mass. and Maine.  Since the cupolas were some 60 feet off the tarmac the weathervanes had to be particularly big.  Flanking the ‘Privateer’ would be a sun motif ‘Sun Rising’ and a moon ‘Crescent Moon’ each disc or basic sun-moon shape would be 3 ft. in diameter.  The ship about 5 1/2 ft. high and 6 ft. long overall.  So I was putting hundreds of pounds of copper up in the air which would spin endlessly for every wind change in a seacoast environments.  If your familiar with New England’s seacoast you know the weather is ever changing and can be pretty fierce at times.

I was new to making weathervanes so this project demanded plenty of study.  The best way to turn a vane is an inverted copper sleeve over a fixed stainless bar, the top of which is cupped and allowing a ballbaring to sit atop of the post.  The post (stainless rod) goes through the roof top of   of the cupola and is set all the way down (6 or more ft.) to the floor of the cupola.  We had this done with each of the vanes.  It took a crane to later set each of the weathervanes in place.

The ‘Repousse’ process was also new to me.  We had been casting bronze by that time but that was a horse of a different color.  I went back to research Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty.  You might just think it’s a cast bronze but actually it’s only copper sheet about 3/32 of an inch thick that was hammered over wooden and plaster forms.  The interior armature was designed by Eiffel who of course was famous for the Eiffel Tower. Interestingly enough in 1986, when the Statue of Liberty was restored, by a group in Paterson, NJ, I had talked with that studio and was schedule to go down and see their process. I lived in Allendale, NJ only a short distance away, unfortunately we had several conflicting events and I never made it but boy, I had wished I had, when it came to this job.