Held to the Flame

Skip Mathews flame painting a copper bracelet, Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View, AR.

Being held to the flame during times of trial or testing is no picnic. But what about having an oxyacetylene torch heated to around five thousand degrees Fahrenheit to pull hidden beauty from a piece of copper?

During a visit to the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas last spring, I was fascinated to watch as Skip Mathews, (no I didn’t spell his name incorrectly) copper colorist extraordinaire explained his flame painting technique.

Flame painting captures colors, shapes, and tone using only the very hot flame from the torch. It’s not how hot the flame is that creates the colors, it’s how hot the metal is.

As the copper heats, cool downs, heats up again, it goes through multiple color changes depending on the number of times it is held to the flame, how long the heat is applied, and whatever happens to be in the air that day.

The Bible tells us God purifies those who belong to him through trials and testing in our life, much like a refiner passes precious metal through the flame to remove the impurities that hide its beauty.

Similar to flame painting, being held to the flame draws out our true colors.

The Master Artist knows how long to hold us to the flame. He knows when to remove the flame and let us cool down. He also knows when to reapply heat. And God knows how many times to go over the same area to bring about the result he wants.

There are no surprises with God. He knows what pattern he’ll end up with; what unique, one of a kind creation we will become.

Depending on the intensity of the flame, and the number of times we’re held to it, some of us will hold more turquoise in our final product. Some more orange. Some more green or brown. Others will be in the red to pink range. Each life is distinct, fashioned and flame painted by the Master Colorist’s hand.

Have any of you seen a copper colorist in action? If you get the opportunity, why not stop by Skip and Racheal Mathews’ shop at the Craft Village in the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas?

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I will bring the third that remain through the fire and make them pure, as gold and silver are refined and purified by fire. They will call upon my name and I will hear them; I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” Zechariah 13:9 (TLB)

I wish you well.


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Skip and Racheal Mathews are flame painting copper colorists who live in Mountain View, Arkansas working at the Ozark Folk Center. Using an oxyacetylene torch, they use a skilled control of the flame to create shapes and colors with intentional design and composition. The end result is art. Check our their website and YouTube video.