Tom Traylor didn't plan to become an artist. He simply needed something to do after retiring from the house-building industry four years ago.
Although he's no longer creating houses, the Henrico resident is creating art in the form of copper cattail lily-pad fountains sold at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The fountains cost $85 to $300 and range in size from 12 to 38 inches. The sophisticated look of the fountains is as natural in a garden or near a patio as it is inside a house or on a porch.
"His fountains are one of the easiest-to-use, most well-thought-out artistic fountains we've ever had," says Debbe Peck, Lewis Ginter Garden Shop outdoor buyer. "They're so simple in their design, yet they don't look simple."
Traylor's introduction to metal artistry was accidental. He started by cutting ivy leaves from scrap copper sheeting. Next came metal bugs, then birdhouses with copper roofs.
After discovering reasonably priced water pumps several years ago, Traylor tried designing fountains. He cuts leaves from copper sheets and crafts cattails from thick copper wire and medium copper pipe. Soft copper tubing makes up the frame, and smaller copper tubes carry water to the top leaf. He applies patina finish to some leaves and keeps others natural. He works on his creations sporadically, and it takes about 12 to 14 hours to construct each fountain.
Traylor calls himself a hobbyist. "I don't think of it as art. I just know I want it to look nice," he says. "It's nice to express yourself a little bit. I'm not looking to sell a lot of stuff; I just need to keep busy. I probably make enough to pay for the copper."