About The Artist

Cathy Vaughn • Richmond, VA

Cathy G. Vaughn is a full-time artist based in Richmond, Va. She received her BFA in graphic design from USC and spent 25+ years as a graphic designer. She is a self-taught copper smith and has exhibited her work regionally since 2012. statement: copper is my medium; natural materials and chemical compounds inform the surface transformation on sheet, formed and collaged copper creations, ranging from totems to abstract patinas to hand forged functional pieces.


Artist website

Q&A with the Artist

Tell us how your work is made.

With simple compounds like vinegar, salt, and leaves I am able to transform a flat sheet of copper into a portrait of the natural world. With tools handed down from my father and grandfather, I am able to transform a sheet of copper into a vessel, or solid wire into a hand forged hook. I work intuitively when harvesting leaves and composing on copper. Because of the many variables in my process: ambient temperature, leaf chemistry & patina chemistry, each piece is unique.

What makes you passionate about the medium you work with?

Copper and I play well together. When I am working with leaves and copper, I am beginning a conversation. At first, it is a conversation between me & a tree, or me & its leaves. What did this tree have to say? This leaf? These leaves together? How does shape relate on a branch, and then on my canvas of copper? Working with simple materials, with found objects, and with tools from my family I feel a connection with the world around me, a connection with the craftsmanship I learned growing up in rural South Carolina.

What is something unique about you or your practice?

unique about your work: During the recent pandemic, I lost my brick-and-mortar studio space. My response was to convert to a mobile studio. My vision is to work & travel to gardens & wild spaces, enabling me to create work "in-situ." Working in a small space focuses one’s attention, and having a studio that can travel with me gives me a unique opportunity as an artist to demonstrate my process and engage the public. It allows me to work in places that may not have the essential tools a copper smith requires.