Very few people can make a hammered copper lamp like Luke Marshall. From his father, he learned to make silver jewelry when he was 13, but he’d been working in less expensive copper when he met a grand master Spanish silversmith, Ricardo Lopez de Grado. “He wouldn’t teach me, but he would stop by and show me his work and tell me to copy it,” Marshall recalls. That’s how he began to work with hollowed forms.
When he was 16 or 17, someone told him his work reminded him of Roycroft copper, so he looked up the Roycrofters and “kind of fell in love.” After he copied a Dirk van Erp lamp from a picture in a newspaper, “everyone wanted one, and I just kept going.”
Each piece is annealed (with heat), then formed to shape with successive rounds of hammering. Marshall planishes the copper with closely placed hammer strokes to give it a uniform appearance. It appears that each stroke is exactly like the one before, but he strives for a slightly erratic style. “It’s a bit like a signature,” he says. “If you look at a person’s work, you can often tell who did it by the hammer marks.”
These days, Marshall makes authentic reproductions of several Dirk van Erp lamps, but also fashions lamps of his own design, using the same tools, materials, and techniques of Arts & Crafts metalwork masters. Marshall also makes beautifully detailed, lidded copper boxes with applied relief pieces.
In addition to making each lamp and shade by hand, Marshall makes his own tools and applies his own patinas. Patina development and application is involved, hazardous, and can vary depending on the temperature and humidity, so he won’t share many details. Some pieces are submerged in a chemical patina mixture. For others, the patina is brushed on, and still others are patinated using a combination of the two methods. Usually heat is involved, too. “There is no exact finish. I can control it a little bit, but it’s touchy.”
It takes Marshall well over 40 hours to produce a small lamp. Larger pieces require more than two weeks of work. Considering Marshall is a one-person shop, it’s not surprising that there’s a year-long wait. He would like to show at the annual Arts & Crafts Conference in Asheville, but “everything I make sells so quickly—I never have any inventory.”
Rome, New York