Molding Metal with Moxie

For the last 19 years, Ricky Weeks has worked as a building mechanical inspector for the city of Jacksonville. Prior to that, he spent more than a decade in the air-conditioning trade. Today, Weeks maintains his full-time gig with the city, but he spends nights and weekends moonlighting as a copper sculptor — a damn good copper sculptor.

Born and raised in Jacksonville, Weeks estimates that he’s made 40 to 50 small- to large-scale pieces, as well as various necklaces and bracelets. Self-taught in every sense of the word, he has no formal art education and learned everything he knows about copper and silver solder while in the air-conditioning business.

“Everything I create is 100 percent copper — 16-ounce copper sheets and copper tubing,” Weeks explains. “That is sort of my rule. I bend, twist, hammer and then silver solder pieces of flat copper and tubing to create the form I’m looking for.”

A peg-leg pirate, sea horses, gigantic dragon, wise owl, intricately detailed Harley-Davidson, tree house, marlin — Weeks finds inspiration in everything, but mainly in books and music.

“I always have way too many things I would like to make, but don’t have the time,” he says. Once he chooses the subject of his next copper sculpture, Weeks makes sure he has “enough material to do the job.” He buys copper sheets from roofing supply houses, and tubing, solder and oxygen/acetylene from air-conditioning supply companies.

“I chose copper as my medium because … it can be displayed outside or inside,” Weeks says. “It has beautiful colors when heated and cooled. It gives a little. It is not rigid like iron or steel, it doesn’t rot like wood [and it’s not] fragile like glass. It’s the perfect medium for me. The only drawback is that it has gotten expensive. When I started, copper was cheap. It was thrown away on construction sites.”

Most artists sell their finished product in order to buy more supplies for future work. This is not the case for Weeks. He’s never sold a piece of his art, and he’s never shown in a gallery. It’s not that people don’t want to buy it, it’s that they’ve never been given the chance. Aside from his family and friends, virtually nobody has known about Weeks’ 25-year-long copper sculpture passion.

“The first thing people say when they see my work is ‘You should sell your work,’ ” Weeks explains. “I have been thinking about it lately, but I still haven’t gotten to that point. I enjoy making the pieces so much and it takes so long to make, I just can’t let go of them. Maybe in the future.”

Until recently, Weeks always worked out of a shed in his backyard. With a push from a friend, he’s now rented a small warehouse, giving him plenty of room to house his copper pieces and create more. “It takes a lot of patience and time to create copper sculptures,” Weeks says. “It is a slow process, but worth the time.”

A self-described “homebody” who enjoys reading books and listening to good music and “living the simple life” with his wife and two daughters, Weeks admits he likes the idea of being a full-time artist.

“I would like to continue what I’m doing and possibly start showing and selling sculptures at art festivals,” Weeks says. “I love to walk through art festivals and see what other artists are doing. I could see myself in the future in one of those booths, showing my work. That would be fun.”

When asked why he hasn’t quit working for the city, moved from Jacksonville to a bigger city like New York or Los Angeles, and tried to making a living from his art, Weeks simply says, “I am a homeboy. I have always lived here, my family is here, my job is here and my house is paid for. I’ve never really considered it.”

Kara Pound