FEATURE ARTISTS: Natalia & Nick Skuba
Hi everyone, how is it May!? I know we probably all say this EVERY YEAR but time is well and truly flying. I am not old by any means, but it certainly seems to be true when they say 'time goes faster the older you get'.
May brings us to another bi-monthly feature artist blog. This month we are in Northern California with the incredible Natalia and Nick; the faces behind The Copper Oasis. Natalia and Nick are a father daughter duo specialising in copper fabrication and flame painting.
Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Natalia, and I am a copper artist specializing in flame painting. I’m
from a small town in Northern California called Paradise. If that sounds familiar, it’s because our town is the one that almost entirely burned down in the Camp Fire of 2018. Like many others, we lost everything including our two kitties, Lilliput and Gulliver.
My husband and I now live in Chico, a city about 20 minutes West of Paradise. I have had many jobs over the years, but quickly learned that I’m happiest when I’m pursing something creative. I am fortunate to have a husband that supports that, and in 2016 I left the corporate world and started my first business, making custom women’s clothing. I love music and to sing and on occasion have performed live. My husband and I enjoy hiking, camping, cooking (more so eating the things we’ve cooked), game nights with friends, and binge-watching TV shows.
How did you get into Copper Jewellery and Flame Art?
My dad, Nick, has been a metal artist for over a decade. He works mostly with aluminium but had ventured into copper shortly before the fire. When my parents returned to their property to inspect the damage, my dad pulled large sheets of copper from the debris. They had warped and melted with their surroundings to create these beautiful pieces, most of which hang in my parents’ home today. After that, my dad became obsessed with all things copper and experimenting with this medium.
I got into flame painting because of him. My sewing business was struggling due to the pandemic, and I was contemplating its future. Around the same time, my dad purchased a large quantity of copper butterfly blanks intending to use them for a big project. When they arrived, he discovered he has misread their measurements and they were much, much smaller than expected. He had the idea of turning them into earrings and asked if I was interested in joining him in the pursuit. That first day, we hung out in the garage for nearly 10 hours straight. We didn’t take bathroom breaks, we forgot to eat—we were completely absorbed in the flame painting process, and experimenting with using different sanders and flame temperatures. It was just so fascinating! I was hooked.
What was the first piece you ever made? And how long ago was that? How long have you been doing this for?
I started flame painting in December 2020. The first thing I ever flame painted was a pair of seahorse earrings. I was so timid with the torch that I didn’t even heat the pieces thoroughly and got almost no colour variation. Fortunately, I quickly got over that and I started the shop’s Instagram account on March 1st, 2021. We released our first collection on the 13th of that same month.
What is your favourite piece you've ever made and where is it now?
My favourite piece I’ve ever made was a surprise for a friend. She runs a small business, and her logo is a flamingo. I made a free-standing flame painted flamingo sculpture with her business name engraved on it. It was the largest piece I had made to date, and it was so much fun to do. It came out beyond my greatest hopes. It now resides in her workshop in Georgia, USA.
What are some notable features of your work? For example: purchased or worn by public figures or celebrities?
We haven’t had anything THAT exciting happen yet, but I do think it’s really cool that, in our first year, we’ve shipped to almost all 50 states as well as the UK, Canada, Germany, Finland, Gaum, and Australia.
Out of the many talented artists in the world, it’s so amazing to me that people from all over choose to wear our jewellery or display our art in their homes. That’s unbelievably awesome!
What is your favourite item to make?
My favourite item to make is our cut-out mountain hoops. It is the first design I ever drew, and creating the multi-layer landscape of a mountain range with the flame is a lot of fun.
What is your least favourite item to make?
My least favourite item to make is our cuff bracelets. They are a thicker copper, which can make it difficult to get a lot of colour and pattern variation. Shaping them into a cuff and having it be even and rounded correctly takes a lot of time.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time, personally, professionally? What is the Copper Oasis Dream?
I would love to have my own workshop setup. Right now, I still work out of my parents’ garage, and it would be great to have my own space. My absolute dream would be to grow to a point where my husband could quit his job and help me produce copper goods full-time. He currently runs the CNC machine that cuts all our copper shapes.
Do you have any influences or idols in the art world, people that you draw inspiration from? If yes, who?
I think my dad is probably my biggest inspiration right now. Every time I go over there he’s working on a new idea. He recently finished his first copper water feature and it’s really beautiful. It inspires me to push outside of my comfort zone and try new things.
As we know you are based in California, but do you ship worldwide? If not, where do you ship to? Can we get your incredible work in Australia?
We ship our jewellery and smaller art pieces worldwide! The large pieces that my dad produces are currently for local purchase only.
Is there anything you would like to say about you, your business, your pieces, the art world or even a favourite quote?
I have always had a desire to be artistic but felt like I lacked the ability to express it. My drawing/painting skills are limited and making clothing never satisfied that need. But then I discovered flame painting, and everything changed. This is the most fun I have ever had creatively, and my brain is constantly buzzing with new ideas. Despite personal losses these last few years and the world going insane, I feel a renewed sense of happiness. If that artistic fire lives inside of you, don’t ignore it, and please don’t give up on it. There are so many creative outlets out there. Chances are you have yet to discover the one that’s right for you!
If you want to see more from Natalia and Nick at The Copper Oasis you can find them on Instagram by clicking here.