As romantically rugged as it sounds, Sertodo Copper, an international cooperative of master artisans who hand-hammered copper home goods, quite literally started out of the back of a truck.
In September of 1997, Jonathan Beall crossed the border into Mexico, and in the process laid the foundation for his copper kitchen products company after stumbling upon the wares of a roadside copper peddler in Chihuahua, Mexico. Inspiration was instant, and in a move seasoned with irony, Beall closed one chapter of his life in Austin, Texas, and returned to Mexico on the following Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to bring life to his copper-fueled aspirations. "It really spoke to me," Beall said of the handcrafted copper, so he took "the hook and bait" and "swallowed it big time," selling off material possessions and bidding adios to his desk job.
The name of the company came from a play on words, or “a poetic idea,” as Beall called it. Translated from Spanish, "ser todo" means "be all" in English – a sort of portmanteau for the last name, Beall. "A poetic idea" Beall says of the play on words, before adding that the name is also indicative of being "Full of life. Full of being."
The brand has evolved significantly from selling copper pieces out of the back of Beall’s truck since that fateful morning in Chihuahua. Today Sertodo runs its production in Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan, Mexico, creating handmade pieces for the masses. Beall has also brought Sertodo back to Austin, where the company now handles distribution, sales and other logistics. Still, in keeping with the distinctive authenticity of the brand, production in Santa Clara del Cobre is run by the family of Maximo Velazquez, a man Beall credits as "the most talented living copper artist."
Not one to hoard the benefits of a successful, decades-old business, Beall is intent on paying it forward for those in Michoacan who make copped-hued magic happen every day. "I've been presented with a lot of opportunities and taken opportunities," he said. "The things that I want for myself I want for other people that are in this community, making all this stuff happen for us."
Although Sertodo has solidified itself in the world of copper pieces, Beall is aware of copper's fabled history in Michoacan and the work that came centuries before him. "The Mexican tradition of copper work goes back in this region a thousand years," he acknowledged, though he admits that the appearance of copper work in the Michoacan region is somewhat mysterious to him. He continues to foster a personal curiosity of copper’s allure and believes we all have a "genetic predisposition" to the glitzy material. "I don't know if the word is ‘sensual’ or ‘social’ or ‘tactile,’” he said, but he surmised that “it's just a really nice material.”
With its 20th anniversary mere months away and a line of products that currently consists of platters, shakers, Moscow Mule mugs, and nearly a dozen other copper offerings for the home, Sertodo Copper is ready to incorporate a few new pieces into its offerings. Given that there's "nothing more Southern than a gentleman sipping on his flask," a screw-top flask will serve as another new addition, which Beall said he hopes to fund through a Kickstarter campaign set to launch soon. The second addition, a copper cookware piece, is set to add functionality and comfortability to a once-dated kitchen item. "I'd like to do a really nice, functional, comfortable, modern handle. As opposed to the kind of handle you see on pretty much all copper cookware," Beall said.
Regardless of any necessary modern conformities, Sertodo Copper has made longevity seem effortless, even as they continue to individually hand-hammer every product they sell. "The pieces that I made 20 years ago, my clients from 20 years ago are still using them today," he said. And although he admits that "it's been a really nice progression through the ages" with his brand, Beall has remained active in keeping balance as he works with copper at a time when modernity sometimes tries to overpower tradition.
"What we're trying to do is straddle the balance between this modern world and our tradition that we come from," he said.