FEATURE ARTIST: Chris Zielski
Just before Christmas we reached out to another Copper Artist, that we have long admired; Chris Zielski. Otherwise known as @copperleafstudios on Instagram, Chris is an incredible custom copper artist, located in Northern Ohio.
After having read through Chris' interview, I truly feel inspired. Not only an incredible artist by hand, Chris also has a beautiful way with words. This is a MUST read.
Who are you and what is your background? As we know you are based in Ohio, do you ship worldwide? If not, where do you ship to? Can we get your incredible work in Australia?
My name is Chris Zielski. I am the artist and owner of Copper Leaf Studios, where I design and create artwork in copper and zinc. Much of my work is commissioned, including small custom pieces, large-scale corporate installations, and awards & gifts for non-profits.
I live on a farm in the Midwest U.S. with my husband Alan. We moved here about eight years ago and built my studio together. It has large windows that overlook our 11 acres, and if you look out on any given day, you'll see a flock of chickens or ducks wandering by.
Although I live in a pretty rural area, I do ship world wide, and now have work in 22 or 23 countries. It's been a wild journey, and I've loved every minute of it.
How did you get into copper art and sculptures?
What was the first piece you ever made? How long ago was that? and, how long have you been doing this for?
I started out as a textile artist some 25+ years ago. My mom is a quilter, so I learned those skills at a young age. But I gradually hit the limits of what I felt I could do with the medium.
Career-wise I went into art education, teaching high school and college and working as an artist on the side. In my 2nd year of teaching, I was slated to teach printmaking. Traditional printmaking involves acid, which can't be brought into the classroom due to safety reasons. So I set out to research nontoxic techniques, which led me to the processes I use in my work to this day.
I began selling my metal artwork in the early 2000's, and founded Copper Leaf Studios in 2007. In 2008 the recession caused massive layoffs in my field, and I took my metal work full time.
What are some notable features of your work?
(Purchased/worn by public figures or celebrities?)
I don't sell a lot to celebrities, but I have made things for a variety of organizations including hospitals, governments, law firms, corporations, and non-profits.
What is your favourite item to make? Or, what is your favourite piece you've ever made and where is it now?
My favourite piece is typically my most recent commission! I love projects that challenge me both creatively and technically. And for corporate work especially, I love large installations My largest pieces are around 12 ft. wide (approx. 4 metres), and the longest installation, made of multiple components, was a 65 ft. long corridor in a hospital (approx. 22 metres). Five Trees is part of this piece.
Do you have any 'influences' or idols in the art world, people that you draw inspiration from? If yes, who?
Itchiku Kubota is one of my favourites. He's a Japanese artist who uses elaborate kimono to create room-sized landscapes. I had an opportunity to see his work in person and it left me breathless. Aside from the amazing experience, it helped me realize how much bigger I can dream in my own work.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I'm working on a collection of books and classes to help creative professionals navigate the business aspects of their work. They will be part of a site called Make Something Meaningful
I published my second book this past spring, and am about to teach my second workshop.
In five years, I envision MSM as a vibrant community of artists and creatives, both online and in person. I hope to have a full curriculum of live & in-person classes available, as well as a library of recorded classes, print books, and eBooks by then.
In addition, my husband and I are working on building out some small lodging on our farm for artist & writer's retreats. The pandemic helped us realize just how important community is, and gave us time to dream and put some wheels in motion. We currently have two structures built and are working on finishing and furnishing the insides. These will allow us to host guest artists and provide lodging for multi-day classes.
Is there anything you would like to say about you, your business, your art, the art world, or even a favourite quote?
Dream big. And then, get to work. The world was built by people who did just that. Every artist who has their work in a museum is a human being. Every successful business was started by a person. Every invention began as an idea. The world can feel very big and overwhelming at times – but it was dreamt and built by people.
We think this has been our favourite interview to read so far. We hope that this has inspired you, as it has us. We encourage all of our readers to check out our fellow artists across the world. You won't be disappointed! If you are loving our feature artist series, please let us know. There's more to come -
- Beth & Cam
What a wonderful interview with Chris, who is one of the most creative people I know.
Thank you for the lovely interview! It is an honor to be featured on such a beautiful site. Wishing you both all the best in the year ahead.
Wonderful interview! I actually own her books and now that she’s convinced me I can, I’m branching out into bigger projects
Her organizational skills are phenomenal; she not only inspires you but shows you the way!