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Copper Mirror Artists

Author: Shawndrea Corbin
Issue: August, 2013, Page 24
Photo by Garrett Cook

Artists Jean and Tom Heffernan weave together pieces of copper to create their signature framed-mirror designs.

Husband and wife team Jean and Tom Heffernan find that a desire for a fresh start brings unforeseen rewards

Let me weave the tale of a couple from Ohio in search of greater fulfillment, whose journey takes them to the dormant volcanoes and ice-laden waters of the remote Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

In 2006, Jean and Tom Heffernan sold 99 percent of their belongings and packed the rest into their car. “Eventually, we even sold the car!” laughs Jean at the memory. The two were ready to “cleanse their palettes” between life’s courses. So, they left their jobs—he as a psychologist and she as a photographer—and off they went to house-sit amid the snow-caked mountains of Alaska.

“It was a respite from the everyday, and we took time to decide what we really wanted to do,” explains Tom. Later, while the couple were house-sitting in Sierra Vista, Arizona, they began to experiment with copper and metalwork. Their designs soon expanded to include mirrors, something Tom says came about as a result of their previous occupations. “I suppose, in some ways, my psychology degree and Jean’s years as a photographer transposed into our work. We use mirrors to put people smack dab in the middle of it.” As the couple ventured further into the world of full-time artistry and honed their skills, the concept for Art Mirrors was born.

Photos - From left: This mirror, part of the “Amy” series, is named “Pizzazz” for its brilliant colors. Amy was the first person to commission a mirror from the couple. • Called an “Amy Slim,” this rectangular mirror measures 46"H x 10"W.

Shortly after they had crafted their first official woven-copper mirrors, the couple cast a tentative net out among various galleries. Ultimately they received a tug on their line from a gallery in Jerome, Arizona. “A lady who was in the gallery when we brought [the mirrors] in bought one immediately. So, the gallery took them all,” recalls Tom. The ever-migratory couple eventually decided to establish their home base in nearby Cornville, Arizona, where they now work out of their home studio.

The Heffernans name their custom designs as they go. A “Baby Joe,” for instance, is a smaller version of the mirror named after Jean’s brother, who was among the first to purchase one of their pieces. “Sometimes our names are silly, like naming one ‘Wow!’” chuckles Jean. “It seems bizarre to name them. But the gallery kept asking us what they were called.”

A newer design, the “Daybreak” mirror, has a copper surround etched by Tom Heffernan who used an angle grinder to create the ribbon-like effect.
The pair agrees that teamwork is key—with Tom’s logistical mind balancing Jean’s creative vigor. “I like bright colors,” says Jean, who applies chemical stains, paints and dyes to select copper strips. “I use colors that harmonize, so that the eye has a focal point. Our weaves have a lot of busyness.”

As for what’s next, the duo is looking to incorporate glass tiles into their work as well as different metals. They also have an interest in branching out into commercial venues, including mirror designs for hotels and office buildings.

Well into their fifth year of mirror making, the Heffernans prove that sometimes it pays to leave the familiar and chase the unknown in order to reach the ultimate happy ending.
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