Creating copper images from scratch by Jon Benfield

Published on Tuesday 24th October

I started out making copper jewellery and using acid-etching to create texture. I'd take photos of silhouetted tree branches and etch the images onto copper sheets. It was during this process I noticed how striking the images are on the copper sheets, how vibrant the metal itself is compared to paper and ink. When making jewellery I’d cut the sheets up into strips and turn those into earrings or bangles. Soon I started trying out different images using the whole sheet of copper and it wasn't long before a whole new range of framed etchings was born.

 To make my pieces, I start by taking photos. Whether I take the photo outside or at home in a light box, I want images that have plenty of contrast as I need to make a stencil that is basically black and white. I guess this part, where I edit the photo on a computer, is where I get to have some fun with the image. Once I have the stencil on the computer I print it onto acetate and transfer the toner onto the copper sheet using a very hot iron and some elbow grease - it helps to give the copper sheet a bit of a rub with some fine wire wool to give the toner something to hold on to.

Depending on the image and the finished result I’m working towards I might go over the toner with a grease pen or varnish or just a felt-tip pen, sometimes I use a cocktail stick to scratch away some of the image, it all depends on what I’m aiming for. Once I’m happy with what will and won't be protected from the acid I put it into the acid bath for an hour or so. Now I just need to clean the copper sheet apply some wax to protect it and finally frame it. You can see how the image is revealed in these clips: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4GVa3LaHSVI8zH0XZ-jLBJFN47FjDh2K ) 

You can buy Jon's images at Just So Christmas, 17 Sydenham Rd, SE26 5EX, December 2nd and 3rd.