Talking all about copper this week! Copper is the traditional gift for the 7th, 9th and 22nd wedding anniversaries and my guest has certainly lots of copper based gift ideas (and brass) from homewares to clocks, art to jewellery. Copper is the first metal to be worked with by man alongside gold and meteoritic iron. Working their magic with copper are my blog guests, Cam and Beth Hayes, makers & owners of Empire Copper based in Perth ,Western Australia. Hi and welcome!
Hi everyone, we are Cam and Beth Hayes, the husband and wife duo behind Empire Copper. We have been married for seven months and live in Perth, Western Australia. We both still work full-time jobs as well as running our small business. I (Beth) come from a huge, Irish family, I am one of seven. Cam’s family isn’t as large but they’re definitely as crazy. Cliche as it may be, we are truly each other’s best friends and for our second Valentine’s Day together, got matching doughnut tattoos!
What inspired the setting up of your company, Empire Copper?
Cam was working for an architectural roofing company that specialised in copper, brass, zinc and slate from 2017 – 2021. As he is a sheet metal worker by trade, he spent many days manufacturing copper gutters, rainheads and downpipes. Cam’s interest in copper grew each time he would visit a site and see a piece that he had made or recently installed, had begun to change in colour and texture, in a process known as patination. Soon after, in early 2019 Cam began experimenting at home. Reading every book or resource he could find on copper and copper patination. Not wanting to bombard his friends on social media with his experiments, Cam decided to set up a second Instagram account to be more like a blog. We needed a name and had always said anything we ever owned would be Empire ‘X’ and so, Empire Copper was born. After many experiments, Cam decided to make a couple of household copper pieces. These were a serving tray and a set of coasters. The coasters were the first item we ever sold!
I have a fondness for the “Copper Wall Clock Halftime Blue Patina ” – it is gorgeous! What copper & brass items are your most popular sellers?
Our Copper Wall Clock ‘Half-time’ Blue Patina is BY FAR our most popular product of all time. We sell at least 5 of these a week on average. Brass is pretty new to us however, our brass trinket/candle tray has been quite popular!
Have you got a favourite item from your collection?
My favourite item would have to be our Brushed Copper Clock, I am a less is more kind of girl and I think it is so simple and stunning. Cam’s is the Blowtorch (or flame) patina clock as it is the first all copper clock he ever made and he has a great fondness for that.
I never realised that copper can be available in blue/green colour due to patination. What exactly is patination?
Love this question! We spend a lot of time educating our customer’s on patination so that they can know the true value and individualised nature of their piece. A patina, patination or oxidation is a thin layer that forms on the surface of copper, brass and other metals. This happens naturally, when copper is exposed to the elements. For example, the Statue of Liberty which, many years ago was copper, bronze and brown in colour. Now, she is green. This is known as a patina or due to it’s green colour, verdigris. For us to achieve colours like blue, green and gold we undertake a process known as a controlled or forced patination. We can use many mediums to alter the appearance of copper. This may include natural products or chemicals, salt, rain, wood, soil or fire. There are many contributing factors to creating a good patina with time and temperature playing a huge role in the final outcome of the colour.
As you are based in Australia, are your products available to purchase internationally?
We handcraft everything in our workshop in Perth, Western Australia but we do ship worldwide. We ship for free to Australia, New Zealand and the United States on orders over $100AUD
You have recently introduced a brass collection to add to the copper collection. Is brass more fiddly to work with than copper?
Brass is not fiddly but it is a harder and stronger metal than copper. This in itself poses a new set of challenges. Brass can be harder to cut, mark and stamp. Also, with our polished brass pieces, we spend A LOT of time perfecting them.
Have you always wanted a career in design/metalware or did your career plans lie elsewhere?
We kind of just fell into this, Cam especially. We are both very ambitious so I think I knew one day we would be doing our own thing. I am working in my field of study at the moment whilst also doing most of our administration, social media, marketing and networking. I leave all the manufacturing to Cam. However, even though it wasn’t entirely planned, there’s never been a moment that we’ve not been grateful. We’ve loved every second of it.
You have done a few custom orders in the past – what has been the most unusual or favourite bespoke item you have undertaken?
A few pieces that come to mind are: a copper bird bath, a huge 2 metre long copper tray, to act as a bar top on a wine bar and a wall art piece of Kokopelli.
Your copperware encompasses a lot of products – homeware, art pieces & jewellery – where do you draw inspiration from when deciding to make items for sale? Do you go by customer requests, current trends, old favourites, items you personally would use or a mixture of them all?
A mixture of all of this. Some new products have started out as a special request from a customer and then we’ve drawn inspiration from that. Other times, its other creators, or family and friends who make suggestions. We always have a huge list of things we want to do and try. We kind of run our business on the motto that ‘we will try EVERYTHING once’ and if it doesn’t work out, at least we can say we tried and we’ve never regretted anything with that mindset.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Beth: If I’m not at work, I’m in my pyjamas which I change into almost immediately after I get home.
Cam: I can be found wearing expensive sneakers and shirts full of holes!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Cam is a Bunnings fanatic which is basically a huge tool and hardware warehouse. We really like them because although they are a market leader, they’re not trying to take advantage of people and still offer a premium service. I have a love for skincare and make up. I love MECCA in Australia as their in store customer service is unparalleled. They also have a great online presence and experience. Also, I love the ICONIC too for fashion. They are a huge company but still doing customer service so well!
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Can I say a bag? Because if yes, I’ve been eyeing off Chloe Woody Large Leather-Trimmed Cotton-Canvas Tote! Hopefully I will be able to treat myself to one later this year. Cam said he’d like more space so he can get more shoes… he’s a sneakers kind of guy.
Boots or Shoes?
Shoes for us both! I love a pair of converse ballet flats. They’re cute, they go with everything and they’re super comfortable. Cam wears work boots 40 hours a week so loathes being in boots outside of work hours.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more aboout Empire Copper
Thanks again so much for this, we’d like to give all Boots, Shoes and Fashion readers a little something for coming along on this journey.
Enter the code: bootsshoesandfashion for $10 AUS off. (valid until 31/12/2022)
Or, if you prefer Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Empirecopper/
PHOTOGRAPHS: All photographs are by Caitlin Ruth. Her Instagram is: @caitlinruthcreative and her website is: https://www.caitlinruth.com.au/