An Unknown Connection to the Arts & Crafts World
This article has been re-published to inform viewers about eCobre’s new website. The original publish date was July 15th, 2013.
10/08/18 Update: www.ecobre.com has a new look! Visit the website and peruse the newest copper pieces in the catalog!
You never know what you can learn until you ask and as I set out to write a brief article on one of our Arts and Crafts friends, Susan Hebert of Cobre Copper (Susan Hebert Imports), I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I was in for a fun surprise (and so was she!)
I’ve known Susan for a little over a year now as one of our advertisers and was always intrigued by the items she had available at her website www.ecobre.com. Functional, beautifully crafted pieces (give me copper over silver any day…). I was hooked. Unfortunately for me — or fortunately for my bank account — I wasn’t in the market to buy but wanted to get to know the woman behind the scenes. For those of you that have worked with Susan you already know she’s one of the friendliest dealers around and her business is staying strong because of it. Prior to opening Cobre she worked in sales and marketing for cable television (quite a change of scenery!) but in 1994 she decided to switch things up and business has been thriving ever since.
A little history lesson for you, Cobre, or “copper” in Spanish, has been made by the Purepecha Indians of Central Mexico since pre-Columbian times. When the Europeans arrived in the 16th century, they found the Purepecha making domestic implements and weapons from copper found in local, above-ground mines. Father Vasco de Quiroga introduced a few refinements; however, little has changed in how the copper is worked and finished. Because the copper mines have long been closed, today the smiths gather and melt discarded copper for use in their workshops.
And a handful of these coppersmiths have been creating work, which has been fairly traded, for Hebert’s company since 1994. Cobre currently works with 7 different workshops that employ 1 to 7 artisans. Most of the people in the workshops are related — fathers, sons, uncles, cousins — and each workshop has its own style. One shop makes only small pieces, maximum 3″ high, while another prefers to work in organic forms; pears, apples, gourds, squashes. Ramon’s work is extremely fine with thin walls, while Antonio’s work is thick-walled and monumental, and each piece is proudly signed by its creator.
And now for my favorite part, if you take a look at Cobre’s website (go ahead, we’ll be here when you get back) you’ll find that nearly all the pieces for sale are reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic. Smooth lines, finely hammered details, natural curves and organic forms, they all mirror those of the original masters of Roycroft, Heintz, Stickley, van Erp and beyond. And these Cobre crafters were half a world away. “When I began to research the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century I was surprised to discover how many of the forms my artists were making were forms that were loved…in the early 1900’s”, stated Hebert. “My artists knew nothing of the Arts and Crafts movement in America nor the revival in the 1970’s but here they were, making these wonderful organic forms just to please themselves.” Head, heart and hand took a trans-continental flight.
I always love when something comes full-circle in an unexpected way. It just goes to show, the Arts and Crafts movement has always been, and will remain, alive because of its universal appeal. To quote our friend William Morris, “If you accept art it must be part of your daily lives…It shall be shared by gentle and simple, learned and unlearned, and be as a language all can understand.”
For more information on Susan Hebert Imports and Cobre Copper please visit her website at www.ecobre.com give her a call at (503)248-1111 or visit their studio in Portland, Oregon.