Larry Jepsen Turns Wire and Wood Into Art
In the Arts and Crafts section of Octoberfest you will find a vendor who developed a distinctive representation of trees. Larry Jepsen, of Greenleaf, is having a great time with his new enterprise. A goldsmith by trade, he started shaping a tree out of copper wire as a side project prior to Mother’s Day last year. After that success he expanded into yellow brass, and recently into tinned copper. For the base, Jepsen relies on a vendor who harvests Manzanita wood (dead pieces only) in California. A desert – growing evergreen, the Manzanita wood gets a sandblast treatment, followed by a bleaching before it is shipped out.
When it comes to a subject matter, trees offer a wide variety of options. “I do look at trees in a whole different manner now,” he explains. “People give me ideas for trees. When I was up I Eagle River someone asked me to make a pine tree. I’ve created a bare – naked apple tree that is quite gnarly – looking. I’ve done some oaks, some well – balanced and some that are not so balanced. I do a lot of blowing willows – probably my most popular tree are the ones that are showing the motion of the wind. I also do a drooping willow. My wife came up with an idea for a clump of birch trees.”
Jepsen says that his trees can take 25 minutes to build, or much longer. “It depends on how many wires go into the piece and how long they are. I’ve done trees that have taken me 12 to 15 hours because of the number of wires and the lengths of them.” As for the material, he notes that some oxidation of the copper is to be expected in a typical indoor environment, but don’t expect it to turn bright green anytime soon. “Any metal will oxidize; copper will oxidize faster than brass,” Jepsen explains. “A lot of people will ask me, ‘Do I do anything to prevent that?’ I really want it to age. There’s a patina on it that is meant to happen. People think it will turn green. In a controlled environment it’s going to take years and years before you’ll see green. The one that will not tarnish is the tinned copper. The copper and the brass will.”
While building the trees is enjoyable, Jepsen claims there’s even more fun in visiting with potential customers. “I’ve displayed my work from time to time in Downtown Appleton at the Farmer’s Markets and it’s been absolutely wonderful getting to talk with people. It’s been very enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to Octoberfest because of so many people being there. It’s going to be a good opportunity for me to get in there and talk and do some sales. I think talking to people is the biggest enjoyment I get. Of course, the money is important, but it almost seems secondary to my goal of enjoying this craft. I get so many compliments on my work. Whether they buy or not, that’s just the kicker.” Never having been to Octoberfest, Jepsen says he is excited about participating in the event’s arts and crafts area. “I feel very privileged in the short time that I’ve been doing this that I was accepted, because I know there’s a waiting list of people to get in. My product has opened up the door for me in places that have waiting lists. It is unique; you don’t see it anywhere else.”
Stop by and say hello to Larry Jepsen and his wife at Octoberfest this year, and just try to take your eyes off his stunning creations in metal and wood.