Copper By George

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unique sculptures WOW and delight beach-goers

STORY AND PHOTOS BY: CARLA EDSTROM

It’s summer! And once again, our little slice of North Carolina brings us the heat. And there is no better place to be than the beach on these sweltering summer days. It’s a time for families to gather and spend their vacations boating, fishing, and swimming on our beautiful shores. One of my favorite pastimes is to go beachcombing during low tide. I’m a treasure hunter so I love to search for shells, rocks and other interesting things. I can spend hours looking for items that the ocean has brought in. I have yet to find a million dollars or something that’s worth $20. I’ll admit that always thrilled to find an intact sand dollar. However, real money would always be welcome.
One North Carolina treasure you will be lucky to find during low tide is Oak Island resident and self-taught artist George Kinley. Also known as George The Copper Artist, Kinley can be seen
riding his bicycle cart on the beach selling his unique hand made copper art. You won’t find his pieces inside of local stores for sale, because Kinley takes his art directly to the masses at the beach. Since he has been riding his bike cart on the beaches, Kinley has garnered quite a big following including famous people visiting the area. He explains, “If someone wants me to stop, they just holler at me. I used to set up by the Local Call, but if you ride on the beach, it’s a lot more fun. You get to meet everybody on the beach.” After a career in construction and roofing in the Charlotte area, copper art was a natural choice for Kinley. When he worked in construction, he would pick up scraps of metal at the job sites and make art out of it in his spare time. One of the first copper pieces he made was that of Ophelia the drowning nymph that he proudly displays on the wall in his studio. “I made that one day at a job site using a roofing hatchet, different wires and nails,” he explained. “I don’t use traditional metal working tools. I invented these tools by accidentally messing stuff up when I worked construction,” he said. Those happy accidents would be used to make texture on his copper work. Not only does Kinley use tools that he has made, but he also utilizes found objects as tools such as a heavy revolutionary war artillery ball from in Mecklenburg County that he uses to pound out shapes into the copper. According to Kinley, he also uses old doorknobs, bicycle and car parts and other random things as tools. He showed me how he uses a chain saw wrench to make the hexagon shapes on his turtles. It takes a great imagination to see an object and know how it’s going to make an impression on copper. Although most of his work consists of sea life creatures such as various kinds of fish, turtles and stingrays, he also makes flashy mermaids and even Poseidon himself holding a trident. He first draws the design and then cuts
it out by hand. Although most of his work is from a single piece of copper, he does solder pieces together on some of his more technical work like his newest masterpiece, the loggerhead turtle he debuted in the 4th of July parade. For that, he made a heavy copper frame and soldered pieces together to create this large 3 dimensional creature. He generally uses the same flat pieces of sheet copper made for roofing but does incorporate different gauges of copper and tubing for things wouldn’t look right as a flat piece. Kinley explains that he also uses found objects in his work. “Going up and down the Catawba river, I would take things I found in the woods,” such as deer antlers and other interesting objects. Doing this keeps his art unique and produces one of a kind up cycled art pieces. “I’m always doing something strange that other people ain’t doing,” he laughed. It is Kinley’s admiration for nature that inspires his work. He has a genuine love for the wildlife on the island and talked to me in depth about protecting the animals that make it their home. While we were looking at his latest masterpiece, the large loggerhead sea turtle, I listened to him talk about how he and his wife once watched a sea turtle laying her eggs during a midnight walk along the beach when no one else was around. And how important it is to just leave them be and respect their presence here. He shared his heart about how they quietly watched the turtle under the full moon that night. I think he captured her beauty perfectly in his new  work as if she were laying her eggs under the full moon. You can see his unique sea life pieces on display all over Brunswick County and Wilmington, in residences, Dr.’s offices, restaurants and the like. In fact, the large copper fish that graces the top of Provisions Company Restaurant was made by Kinley. “So many people have been photographed with that fish, it’s truly famous,” Kinley said proudly. It is a local icon, as is Kinley. So the next time you see him riding his bike cart on the beach, give him a shout. He is a true Southport treasure! If you can’t find him riding on the beach, you can reach Kinley through is Facebook page, Copper by George https://www.facebook.com/ItsCopperByGeorge/, Or by emailgzkinley@ ec.rr.com .
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