We visit Isaac Weston, the talent behind the lustrous copper artworks of Re.Work.It., to see his gallery, 'Hobbit Hole' workshop and his art in a lush garden setting .
Artist Isaac Weston is the talent behind the lustrous copper artworks of Re.Work.It. We visit his Matua property to see his gallery, the art in his lush garden and the ‘Hobbit Hole’ workshop.
There’s nothing like viewing a piece of wall art in situ. It allows you to visualise it in your own space, you can appreciate it from different angles, in various lights and shadows. Being able to see garden art in this way is also helpful — you can understand the physical size, the actual depth of colour
and perspective of form. Both of these experiences are on offer when you visit the gallery of Re.Work.It in Matua, home to copper artist Isaac Weston, his wife, indoor plant specialist Lara Bui,
and their cats Carlos and Honey.
The property is the ideal showcase for Isaac’s unique copper patina artworks, which are set amidst the extensive garden that Lara maintains. Bespoke landscaping has been designed to optimise
their display in the best light — and shade. Various cleverly composed elevations, decks and garden paths meander down to the Matua estuary below, which provides an idyllic and ever-changing outlook to the statuesque sculptural columns, copper forms and al fresco wall art. Oversized outdoor mirrors reflect even greater depth to the lush planting that tumbles between levels, creating a waterfall of flora and fauna. “The environment certainly promotes creativity,” Isaac muses, standing on the lower-level work platform, once a deck from which to sit and enjoy the view, now a place to
do the “heavy, dusty, bashing part of the process”, while enjoying the view.
The irony is not lost on me that Isaac has a coppery hue himself, sporting a vibrant beard that
he rubs intermittently through our chat about how he came to be a copper patina artist. It’s not uncommon for this metal to be used for everyday items — joinery, planters, electrical wiring,
pots and so forth. What’s interesting in this tale is how Isaac came to work with this medium.
He started his workdays as a chef, making culinary waves in top-end London restaurants,
creating and exploring various foods and flavours, including impressing the Notting Hill set who flocked to renowned Southwestern American eatery, Dakota. Isaac met Lara during this period;
she was working in restaurant management. They decided to venture forth and investigate life in Majorca, but the green hills of home soon called and the couple returned to New Zealand, setting
up home in Tauranga.
Isaac then spent 16 years in the travel industry, loving the interaction with a range of people and
the excitement of seeing customers off on wonderful adventures. However, five and a half years
ago, when Lara followed her passion and set up the indoor house-plant business, Cool Plants,
Isaac was inspired to make a change and do what until this point had been a hobby — creating
by reworking materials at hand.
Isaac’s first pieces were copper and railway sleeper garden columns for their own property,
which were seen and loved by family members. Purchasers soon arrived via word-of-mouth and Isaac began to spend more time making them for people, eventually experimenting with wall art.
He pondered the move to turning this passion into a business. “I have a sales background, so the ethos of establishing businesses with functioning business models that would both support and
fulfill us, was a priority. We both feel very lucky and blessed that this is what has happened, and
we’re both able to do what we love, and live well.”
The sales background is definitely a bonus — but what about that penchant for mixing and creating? When Isaac shows me the “Hobbit Hole” — the space under the couple’s home where he mixes various concoctions that create the distinctive patina on his artworks — I have to draw the comparison with science-teacher-turned-meth-cook, Walter White from Breaking Bad. Luckily Isaac knows the show well, and agrees there have been some explosive moments. “I was experimenting with various ingredients, working towards what have now become my signature colours, and boom!, a cloud of chemicals wafted from the container they were in. I literally dropped to the floor and crawled outside, beneath the chemical cloud — lucky escape. A bit more research went into what
not to mix,” Isaac laughs.
Isaac sources the copper for his wall art and garden columns from defunct low-pressure hot-water cylinders (“I have ‘ins’ with a network of local plumbers”), and sheets that arrive from a copper supplier. Railway sleepers for the columns arrive in lots of 100 from Waikato railyards. Re-purposing the copper from inside the cylinders is a messy and very physical part of the creative process, one Isaac tackles on that beautiful lower work-platform.
The next step is to cut and shape plywood to back the copper, and the materials are glued, clamped and riveted in the Hobbit Hole. Once dried, it’s back to the work platform and that estuary vista to polish the copper and perform the ‘acid attack’, where a concoction of various ingredients is applied until the desired blues and greens and other coppery hues are reached. Once the patina has been achieved, and Isaac is happy with the results, a varnish is applied to ‘hold’ the ageing process, the pieces handled in gloved hands as they quickly absorb the natural body oils that can easily imprint permanently. Each of his artworks takes around six to eight weeks to create.
Isaac credits the success of Re.Work.It. to the opportunity of being a stallholder at Tauranga’s
The Little Big Markets, the vibrant, bustling markets an ideal showcase for both his and Lara’s businesses. “Within a year I became too busy to attend regularly and keep up with creating the orders, supplying various galleries and filling the commissions.”
The annual Bay of Plenty Garden & Art Festival also provided an ideal backdrop for Isaac’s artworks, and their own Matua property has now become a location on the garden trail of the hugely popular event, testament to Lara’s green fingers and Isaac’s hard-landscaping skills. “Our property is the ideal gallery for Re.Work.It and my horticulture work, says Lara. “The opportunity to put your hands in soil, touch base with Mother Nature and really, truly love what you do is wonderful,” Lara says.
While Isaac’s artworks are being purchased for homes and gardens around New Zealand, others
are able to appreciate his creations in their own homes, without purchasing them. For watchers
of The Block NZ, you will have seen Team Purple displaying an oversize circular copper work.
“One of the team is a Pāpāmoa local and she was choosing items from Cool Plants to stage the home, and saw my work, loved it, and bought a piece to hang in The Block house.”
Isaac’s work also extends beyond wall art and garden columns. He fashions insects and aeroplanes, planter pots and various containers from copper, which can be viewed in his sheltered gallery and garden. There was also a fabulously fun series springing from the beloved Star Wars character
R2-D2, one of which is used by its new owner to shelter a stereo system adjacent to an outdoor spa.
His diverse and fun-filled approach saw the creation of some wands for children in his family
— wooden sticks with copper tips. Isaac gifted a box of them to children’s television presenter
Suzy Cato, who shared them with delighted recipients at Auckland’s Starship Hospital. Magic
indeed. There’s also an extensive range of earrings available, and yes, you guessed it, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has her very own pair, which she wore on an official visit to Papatoetoe, and on
her appearance in the documentary, Patrick Gower: On Hate.
It’s clear that work for Isaac and Lara is in fact their combined passions. They’re ideal examples
of people who have chosen to be brave enough to take a leap of faith and have landed firmly on
their feet. Take some time out and pay them a visit — online is fine but in-person is a lot of fun! Ⓟ
Story by Pip Crombie
Photography by Katie Cox