Archive | October, 2014

Hopewell Culture copper tooling

28 Oct

The inspiration for this lesson comes from the Eastern Woodlands native Americans – who Mrs. Ware’s class has been learning about recently. Specifically the Hopewell culture. The Hopewell culture describes a group of related communities located in the Eastern Woodlands area. The most well known Hopewell site is located where the state of Ohio is today.

07_Hopewell-interaction-sphere-OAHopewellians were skilled artisans and crafters and had a trade network that spanned hundreds of miles to exchange goods they created with those of other tribes. They worked in materials such as mica (a flaky, clear mineral), human & animal bone and metals such as copper. These materials came from many different places as a result of their vast trade network.

11_dbb988a5b31258b4ec2d4f5f70161ff2Today we can see the evidence of these early people in the earthen mounds they built almost 2000 years ago. Scientists haven’t agreed on what purpose the mounds serve but some of the mounds were burial sites. They buried artifacts and treasures with the bodies in these mounds and many interesting things have been found.

This project is based on these copper artifacts.
{discuss} What is copper and how did they form it into these shapes??  (a naturally occurring reddish-orange metal found in the earth that is quite soft and can be worked by hand using tools and heat. The Hopewell people pounded the chunks they mined from the ground into flat sheets. Then they cut out shapes and carved designs into the surface.17_Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 3.50.29 AM

{discuss} how we use copper in our lives all the time – in water pipes, motors, batteries, electronics and cooking pots. And something we all carry in our pockets sometimes used to be made of copper – Pennies were 95% copper until 1983.  Why does some copper appear shiny and orange and other copper looks brownish and green? (patina – metal reacts with oxygen over time and creates a crust that protects the metal underneath) 23_hopewell-falcon-effigy-granger

Many of these Hopewell artifacts had similar motifs (recurring theme or design) ie – weeping eye, thunderbird, spider, serpent, mirrored symmetry. These motifs were things that were common or important in their lives and their culture so that’s what they chose to adorn their art.

Students will make their own copper artifacts using thin copper sheets and a stylus (like a pencil without lead). Copper is very soft so they will be able to draw on it to create a grooved design. Because this piece is flat and they aren’t adding colors to it they are creating interesting visuals with texture. Fill in areas with line patterns or motifs. Use motifs of the Hopewell culture or design you own.

photo (31)Students can “draw” on either side (or both!) to create your piece. Decide if they like the raised look or the indented look or maybe do both. Practice first in pencil in the notebook to layout design ideas. These copper sheets are expensive there is no extra if they want to start over. In order for this to work they must have a soft surface under your copper so do it on top of your notebook – NOT directly on your desk. {demo embossing technique – good video here} Press hard! Be careful of the edges of the metal – they can be sharp. When they turn them in have them indicate which side is the back and put a piece of tape with the student’s name on it.

Optional patina –  once completed students can decide if they like the look of shiny copper or if you like the old, weathered, greenish patina. Outside of class docents can treat select pieces to have the old patina look.

.004 copper tooling foil (cut into 6” squares) available at craft stores & online
wooden stylus (I used dowels, cut short and sharpened like pencils)
notebook (kids have them)
tape & marker for names
patina solution (optional) I used this one
clear coat lacquer spray

photo (33) (1)Patina process:
– I cleaned each piece with acetone and a scouring pad scrubbing in one direction only to clean the surface of any factory coating or fingerprints and to buff the surface to make the patina “stick” better.
– Rinse with water and dry thoroughly.
– Fill a flat, shallow plate with a small amount of solution and place the copper piece face down for about 5 minutes. Agitate slightly to make sure all of the front surface is touched by the solution. * note: solution becomes less potent after time and copper exposure. Use sparingly and refresh or replace solution every 5 pieces or so.
– Drain copper of excess solution drips and lay flat face up to develop. I left them for a whole day but the color starts to come up in minutes.
– Lightly brush each dry patina’d piece with a soft brush or dry soft cloth to remove any patina that is flaking off. Use a clean scouring pad to lightly scrape the surface to expose a little of the copper highlight on raised areas of the design.
– When pieces are free of dust spray them with a thin coat of clear lacquer to seal in the patina and let dry.

Note: Because the scouring of these pieces will make them flatter & smoother than any non-patina’d pieces you might want to burnish the shiny copper ones a bit. I used the side of a stylus to rub them flat just a bit.