Lasting Impressions | Science Museum of Virginia

This video was produced as part of the solo exhibit, Lasting Impressions, featuring 29 copper abstractions by Cathy G. Vaughn, at the Science Museum of Virginia. A select number of pieces remain on view in the Periodic Table Café through summer, 2016.


My process is rooted in the natural chemistry of our everyday world. By using live leaves gathered from my surrounding, each assemblage renders unique and naturally occuring colors, impacted by the acids and nutrients present in the leaves, chemical components used to prime the copper, and the ambient temperature during the process.  

I begin by composing leaves on sheet copper.  Attention is paid to vein-side and leaf-side exposure to create textural depth. The composition is wrapped in plastic to control the drying process. To keep the leaves in direct contact with the copper ‘canvas,’ the sheet is weighted with sand or salt as the leaves dry. I check the sheet periodically; once the leaves begin to pull away from the face of the copper and disintegrate, I unwrap the sheet, remove the leaves, and carefully rinse away any remaining organic matter. Some color is present at this point and the verdigris process continues after the leaves are removed. Care has to be taken to not lose the image…if the verdigris is allowed to progress unchecked, it will often overtake the image. I use baking soda to neutralize the acids, like a stop bath in a photographic exposure. Once I am satisfied with the color, I set the image with a coat of sealant. The sheet is then mounted to a wooden frame, and [often] sealed with an epoxy resin. Each piece takes approximately three to eight weeks to complete.

I am always experimenting and continue to refine my work. I’m trying other metal sealants for finishing in addition to resin, I’m distressing the copper post-patina with a variety of shop tools to enhance texture and image; and selectively augmenting color through the use of secondary patinas and solvent dyes.