West Coast Weathervanes

The Teapot & Cups Weather Vane on top of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum was handmade in the central California studio of LizAnne and Ken Jensen, owners and artists of West Coast Weather Vanes.

LizAnne and Ken became enchanted by weathervanes on their 1988 honeymoon in New England. As they traveled the New England countryside they spotted whimsical weathervanes on farm houses and buildings. A stop at a roadside shop selling copper weathervanes proved to be serendipitous.

Driving down the road after ordering a copper weathervane, they decided why not? Why not create these fine examples of American folk – a rare sight in their home state of California – themselves. Today their studio, going strong for over two decades, has grown into a consortium of artists working together under their leadership.

Technique

West Coast Weather Vanes is one of only a handful of artists producing handcrafted copper weather vanes. Unlike mass-produced weathervanes, molds are not used. By using free form and repoussé techniques, each piece in their diverse collection of aquatic, animal, bird, human, mythological, and transportation subjects is unique.

The process begins with a paper pattern unique to each weathervane design. The pattern is traced onto a sheet of copper then the individual design pieces are cut out by hand with metal shears. Custom-shaped hammers are used to give the appropriate texture to the metal. The 3-dimensional shaping is done with rawhide hammers on leather sand pillows, anvils and custom-shaped oak blocks. The two opposite halves of each section of the design are matched and soldered together to form a hollow body. The individual sections are then joined together. .

Before the closing of the last seam, a penny from the year the weathervane is made is popped inside, a symbol of good luck. The completed piece is signed by the artist who created it from start to finish.

Connectivity and Personalization

Each finely handcrafted vane is made in a modest 750 square foot studio, a place in which the Jensens and their master craftsmen find great personal satisfaction. Whether it is a new creation of an existing design or a newly commissioned one, each is individual. Getting to know the purchaser and the purpose creates a sense of connectivity to each piece.

Regardless of size and location, the story behind each West Coast Weather Vane is unique. Many are whimsical, just for fun, and often used in garden settings. Some serve to commemorate a memorable event; others are in remembrance of a loved one passed. The latter category, the memorial weathervane, is a studio favorite. Sensitivity surrounds the design and creation of these very personal pieces. There is an intuitive recognition among the artists that their ability to capture unique personality traits through their art will provide long-lasting, joyful memories.

The making of the Teapot & Cups

The teapot vane in Teapot & Cups is perfectly balanced on a pivoting directional arrow. The teapot spout faces the elegantly swirled arrow tip, a design element stylistically linking the arrow tip shape to the swirling steam rising from the four stationary directional cups below. These mark the four cardinal compass points, N, S, E, W, from the top of the cupola of the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum upon which the piece is placed.

This simple piece of American Folk Art was created in an unusual way, one which, with the passage of time, should significantly add to its value. An anomaly for West Coast Weather Vanes, time constraints dictated that three master level craftsmen work on the piece, rather than just one. Shop Master Thomas worked on the teapot vane; talented brothers Rolando and Victor, whose family comes from the Mexican state of Jalisco, long known for its copper work, created the steaming cups directionals.

There’s something else unusual. As a simple gesture to commemorate the year each vane is made, a tradition of good luck which began in the Victorian era, West Coast Weather Vanes places a single coin inside before the final seal is made.

Sealed inside Teapot & Cups is not one coin, but three. A 1773 British copper halfpence bearing the image of George III, marks the year the Boston Tea Party occurred, a point of no return on the road to American independence. The other two, a 1873 Indian Head copper penny depicting Lady Liberty wearing a feathered headdress, and a 1973 Lincoln Head copper penny, still in circulation today, acknowledge the two centuries that have passed since this important event.

Although these coins will never be seen, and their story seldom mentioned, they have a singular purpose – to symbolize the enduring importance of the event. This is but one example of the attention to detail paid to every facet of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.