COTTAGERS WHO WANT to spruce up the outside of their special getaway may consider adding functional metal art that harnesses the power of Mother Nature. Weathervanes, sundials and rain chains all offer a two-for-one payoff by pleasing the eyes and functioning as a wind gauge, timepiece and downspout, respectively.
Weathervanes are a fun object to add to your wish list when antique or second-hand shopping, and many new options are available as well.
Lawrence “Zack” Zechmeister crafts hand-hammered copper weathervanes out of his shops in St. Clair Shores and Lexington. Some pieces are production — there’s a flying pig, a mermaid, and a Michigan sailboat — but he’ll do his best to accommodate special designs as long as he’s not infringing on a copyright.
“I’m always sketching things on napkins,” says the woodworker and 30-year coppersmith. “I just get these ideas from wherever we go.”
Wildflowers, a gardening and décor shop in Glen Arbor, also sells copper weathervanes.
“We had a wine bottle with glasses last year that was very popular,” says owner Donna Burgan. “And we often special order for people.”
Other popular designs include sailboats and fish in polished or acid-washed copper, Burgan notes.
“Most of our hand-crafted designs (including a sailboat and loon, among other fun cottage options) originated from our creative art department.”
— Jim Holz
She also stocks rain chains that function as downspouts but have a touch of whimsy, with umbrella, fish, teacup, flower and pouring wine bottle motifs. Family-owned and operated Classic Gutter Systems LLC in Kalamazoo is another Michigan-based source of unique rain chains as well as an extensive array of artistically designed cast fascia brackets, downspout brackets and decorative components including an imaginative fish downspout boot available in solid brass or ready-to-paint chromated aluminum.
While rain chains are newer to American soil, sundials are a classic cottage ornament. Based in northern Muskegon County, Whitehall Products — the world’s largest manufacturer of weathervanes, all hand-crafted from rust-free, recycled aluminum and finished with weather-resistant paints — also produces a creative variety of sundials and sundial/birdbath combinations, available through select retailers.
“For centuries, sundials have been used to track the passage of time as the sun casts a shadow off of the sundial gnomon. As the sun makes its daily trek across the sky, the shadow gradually moves across the time markings registered on the sundial face,” notes Jim Holz, the company’s vice-president of marketing. “Most of our handcrafted designs (including a sailboat and loon, among other fun cottage options) originated from our creative art department.”
In Kalamazoo, Classic Gutter Systems crafts unique rain chains, cast fascia brackets and creative downspout boots.
In Ann Arbor, artisan Michael R. Kapetan crafts equatorial and seasonal “solar sculptures” made from stone and metal, unique sundials inspired by ties he finds between science, art and spirituality.
Take Your Pick
Products pictured in this story are just the start of options offered by regional sources featured. Visit their websites to learn more about these and other artful, functional outdoor items.