Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Creative Cup of Tea PARTII

FPAC catches up with Lizanne Jensen from West Coast Weathervanes to talk shop about the craft of copper weather vanes.    She shares the process that created the teapot weathervane now perched on the new Tea Part Ships & Museum in Fort Point.

FPAC: As an artist located in Santa Cruz, California, how did you and Ken get involved with the Tea Party Museum here in New England for this Teapot weathervane project?

LAJ: We have had a web presence for about ten years now and most of our customers, both domestic and international, find us through our West Coast Weather Vanes website. Probably 90% of our orders come to us via our website. Mr. Belland, the CEO for Historic Tours of America, was searching the internet for a suitable weathervane for the new museum and came across our Teapot and Teacups weathervane. He gave us a call, we exchanged several emails and he then placed his order with us.

FPAC: How did West Coast Weather Vanes begin?

LAJ: During the autumn  of 1988, Ken and I were on our honeymoon in New England where we had gone to see the fall colors. While we were admiring the beautiful scenery, we spotted a roadside shop selling copper weather vanes. We had always admired weather vanes but had been unable to find one in California. They had a nice selection so we ordered one and arranged to have it shipped back home to us. We mentioned how much trouble we had finding an interesting weather vane and the fellow casually mentioned that there was no one in the western half of the country making handmade copper weather vanes. Ninety miles down the road, we had a brainstorm. Why not create these fine examples of American folk art ourselves? 

In the ensuing twelve months, we saved our money, did extensive research on weathervanes and experimented on the best techniques for making them. As soon as we felt confident enough to give it a go, I quit my job and our weathervane business was off and running.

FPAC: Can you take us through the artistic process of how these weathervanes are created?  How long is this process?

LAJ: The process of making a weathervane can take anywhere from a couple of days to three months, depending on the size of the weathervane and the complexity of the design. You can pretty much tell by our prices which are the most time consuming weathervanes to make!

FPAC: As I understand, you put pennies in each of the weathervanes as a Victorian weathervane maker tradition of good luck.  The pennies are dated for the year the weathervane was created and/or a special occasion. What what the significance of the penny (s) put in the Teapot weathervane?

LAJ: In addition to the inclusion of the traditional penny representing the year the weathervane was made, our customer asked to include a 1773 penny (to honor the original date of the Boston Tea Party). They also sent us an 1873 penny (in honor of the centennial of the Boston Tea Party) and a 1973 penny (in honor of the bi-centennial of the Boston Tea Party). All of these pennies were placed inside the tea pot for good luck.

FPAC: Folks here in the Fort Point area of Boston think that the teapot was a perfect touch for this Museum, but what is the most unique weathervane you have created?

LAJ: The one we made for the Boston Tea Party Museum was definitely among the most unique weathervanes we’ve ever made. The museum will have such a presence in the city of Boston and explores a very important part of our country’s history. It makes us proud to be a part of it. Other special weathervanes that come to mind are those we have made as memorials for people who have passed away. As an example, we made one Eagle Weathervane for a family that wanted to honor his service as a Screaming Eagle in World War II. Since each weathervane is made to order, I could probably tell you a special story about each one. Knowing the stories that accompany each weathervane and what they mean to the person who has ordered it from us is one of the best parts of having this business!

All photos courtesy of West Coast Weather Vanes

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