I love the taste of metal. Most people don't' spend sufficient time handling raw materials before they are polished, punished, coated, coerced, plaited, planished, and sealed to experience the individual tastes, smells, and secrets of a material other than possibly their food, but I have.
Copper is my favorite metal. It has a mineral-like taste with notes of spinach, new moan hay, and latakia that initially stains my fingers' chartreuse, which as I work ages to the color of the second pressing of olive oil. Copper is supple like silk, with a velvety surface so delicate it preserves the history of my fingers progress as they move across it.
I store my hoard of copper slittings and scrap outdoors. Like vegetation, it swells in the summer and shrinks in the winter. Like a tree, it develops a crusty green bark that progressively thickens and protects for decades. Like other non-natives, it can unfurl tendrils of spectacularly beautiful, tenacious green material that once mixed with bittersweet, English ivy, poison ivy, and multiflora rose is impossible to remove.
I love watching copper interact with nature, like a ground cover, copper shelters a mouse who repays the good deed with the gift of water, salt, and electrolytes to mark the friendly metallic surface. Copper slittings and wire, without my intervention, magically unfurl, twisting with wind and time to become ground cover, nest, and den material.
It was the year of the "great American total solar eclipse" that I disentangled my first rat's nest of copper slittings from a cradle of bittersweet and ivy, dragged it up to the bedroom, and dropped it on the bed. I was sick with the flu. Ordered to stay I bed, what to do? I was bored. Relaxing isn't in my nature. What do you do with 150 pounds of variegated, variable width, point-O-one-six thick metallic spaghetti? Crumbled, twisted, flayed like the skin of a grapevine; interdigitated so completely no single piece longer than thirty-six inches could be extracted.
I considered myself a craftsperson capable of exploring new materials, techniques, approaches. I preferred working with a few simple hand tools. I'd never made a basket, but why not. Pliers, tinsnips, band-aides, and I was ready. I completed my first basket three hours later. The rudimentary, plaited container sat proudly, its copper body pre-patinated by the elements, various mammals, and birds; on the foot of the bed. The warp and weft's misshapen fibers had been flattened with pliers not suited to the job leaving a spider web of scratches and folds that I found appealing. It was a market basket that appeared to have been plucked from the back porch of a long-forgotten farmstead. It was a beginning.