Coppersmith Michael Bonne is the fourth in my Sunday series featuring American Artisans. There are so many exceptionally talented craftspeople across the country who share a love of all things handmade, and this is my chance to introduce them to you. These artisans are creating beautiful and useful products that elevate the experience of everyday cooking and eating, and they’re using skills and techniques that might otherwise be lost in our era of throwaway mass production. Their work makes me happy, and I hope it does the same for you. Each feature will be paired with a giveaway to give you the chance to experience their work for yourselves. I’ll be doing these features every other Sunday for the foreseeable future, so be sure to check back, and enjoy!
Today we’re heading down to Florida to the studio of Michael Bonne who makes charming folk art style cookie cutters from sheets of solid copper. We’ve not only made a virtual sweep across the country so far, from California, to Texas, Vermont, and now Florida, but we’ve also sampled a wide variety of skills and media. Michael has 30 plus years of working with copper, and he has a passion for doing it the old fashioned way, using vintage tools and authentic early metalworking techniques to sculpt his unique cookie cutters. Former clients include almost every major department store and home decor catalog —- Disney, Williams Sonoma, The Smithsonian, The Museum of American Folk Art, Eddie Bauer, and Smith and Hawkins to name a few. He has even been commissioned by the White House! And it was Martha Stewart herself who called Michael “America’s Favorite Coppersmith.” His early work is already highly collectible on the secondary market, and at the end of the post you’ll get the chance to win one of his very special custom made pieces. Michael is a true artist, and I’m beyond excited to be able to introduce him to you.
Cookie cutter art — it sounds unlikely until you experience the work of Michael Bonne. Michael shapes his cookie cutters out of sheets of solid copper, using authentic antique methods and tools, some of which date back to the 1830s. He got his start working with metals in high school, and with a natural passion for history, and a lucky purchase of a set of antique metal working tools, he embarked on a 30 year career creating beautiful and useful copper art. His work has a charming primitive, folk art look — the hen, above, is based on an antique chocolate mold — but there’s also a quirky, off beat side to his designs, with literally something for everybody in the over 300 pieces in his collection (you can see it by clicking here) from cute chicks to ravens and skeletons.
The cookie cutters are formed around a pattern individually, so each one will be slightly different, and the hand of the artist is evident in every bend and turn of the metal. These cutters have a weighty, substantial feel to them and they brilliantly illustrate how a beautiful, well made kitchen tool can replace countless throwaway items, function better, and can give back so much pleasure over time. So many of us have a stashes of cheap, plastic cookie cutters crammed into drawers and cupboards…I say trade it all in for a few special pieces that will be handed down through the generations, and can become your ‘signature’ cookies over the years. Build your collection little by little until you have one for every occasion.
I like the idea of marking the changing of the seasons by bringing out the appropriate cutters and making cookies! Kids and grand-kids will remember those moments forever.
The solid copper backs, and the large handles stamped with the artist’s mark help elevate these these everyday objects into collectable heirlooms. They’re definitely too pretty to shove in a drawer, and they make out-of-the-ordinary wedding or baby shower gifts. You could set up a new bride and groom up for a lifetime of baking with a set of seasonal pieces. Or attach one to a batch of cookies for an extra special thank you.
Some of my personal favorites from Michael’s collection are the folk art style trees, I love their quirky shapes and they make fantastic Christmas cookies. Michael suggests decorating the dapper Scottie dog, above, with a plaid bow for the holidays!
These cookie cutters are sizable, and make nice big cookies. They’re perfect for sugar cookie or gingerbread dough, but you can also think outside the box and use them to cut sliced cheese or bread.
I think a nutty pecan shortbread is perfect for my woodland squirrel…
and although my cookies have a rustic look, you can of course go the whole Martha Stewart route and use sugar cookie dough and royal icing for really spectacular results.
Nutty Pecan Shortbread Cookies
- set oven to 350F
- Cream the butter and the sugar together.
- Blend in the almond extract, and the flour until the dough comes together.
- Fold in the crushed pecans.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board and bring together with your hands. Form into a flat disk and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out your cookies.
- Bake for about 15 minutes until slightly golden. Cool on the pan for a few minutes before removing to a rack.
Michael does custom pieces too, and we thought it would be fun to give away a custom made cookie cutter made from your child’s hand print. Stamped with a name and date, I can imagine this cookie cutter inspiring a new generation of bakers.
Michael is generously giving away a custom made hand-print cookie cutter to one lucky reader. This will be custom made to the exact print of your child’s, or grandchild’s, hand and stamped with the name and date.
If you are already on the mailing list, you’re good to go.
(Giveaway ends Friday March 20th.)
The winner of the giveaway is Susan Sears – congratulations Susan!
NOTE: my mailing list will not be shared with anyone, and is only used to send out notifications of new posts, and our weekly newsletter. From time to time I will be including subscriber only recipes and perks. You can unsubscribe at any time. I have not been compensated in any way by the artisans in this series.