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Copper Creations: Digby woman makes penny art since 1987

Nancy Mackin has been creating art out of copper pennies since 1987.
Nancy Mackin has been creating art out of copper pennies since 1987. - Amanda Doucette

In 1987 Nancy Mackin picked up a roll of pennies. On the side of the roll read 50 cents, copper.

“Hmm..Copper?,” she thought.

That’s when she began creating art out of pennies.

At 11 years old Mackin learned how to make enamel art and looking at a penny, she knew it would be the perfect surface for the art.

Enameling is when an artist takes a surface, covers it in powdered glass and heats it up in a kiln.

With a round, flat service like a penny she knew she could create something amazing.

“When it heats up, you never know what you’re going to create.”

Mackin cleans the pennies, uses powdered glass to colour them, heats them in a kiln and designs them herself.
Mackin cleans the pennies, uses powdered glass to colour them, heats them in a kiln and designs them herself.

Copper doesn’t melt in the kiln, so she can only use pennies from before 1981.

Mackin paints some of her creations with solid colors or designs like lighthouses and birds. Sometimes she makes abstract pennies by swirling the colors together in the kiln.

“People just love them.”

She makes pennies into jewelry like necklaces, earrings and pins.

In 1987 she started gathering collections of pennies. She was informed by the mint that year, that pennies would eventually be taken out of circulation.

“I kept telling people ‘keep your pennies for me’ and I still say it.”

In 2013 pennies were taken out of circulation but she doesn’t plan on stopping.

She has thousands of pennies saved up now and hopes to never run out. If she does, she’s sure someone has a penny collection somewhere, that she would be willing to buy.

“I’m not worried, someone has got to have some somewhere.”

Mackin has expanded from making just pennies, to making a collection of items.

Most products are related to the beach, like a beach in a bottle made with seaweed, sand, rocks, shells and fishing rope.

“But that wasn’t enough for me because I couldn’t wear it.”

Then, Mackin started creating jewelry out of the beach materials she uses in the bottles.

Her favorite part of it is walking the beach and finding the materials.

She creates other homemade products too. Usually made from beach materials.
She creates other homemade products too. Usually made from beach materials.

Another one of her products are made out of scallop pearls. Local fisherman bring her the pearls and she creates jewelry out of them as well.

Mackin sells her products all around the province and hopes to get them into stores across the Maritimes.

All her products can be viewed at her studio gift shop at 19 Shore Rd.

“Once you start making art, you want to keep making more and you just can’t stop,” she said.

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