Village of Sanibel resident combats arthritis with artwork

Ed Basso shows the copper wire sculptures he makes at his home in the Village of Sanibel.

Edward Basso discovered an artistic way to combat the arthritis attacking his hands.

He has been making 1-foot-tall trees using thick rocks as bases, and copper wire made from welding cable as the branches.

“If you get a light on them, the copper really shows out,” said Basso, of the Village of Sanibel. “When it gets good light, it looks like gold.”

The spark for these trees came about 30 years ago, when Basso was working as electrician in Lansing, Michigan.

While working on a battery-charging station, he took out some old copper welding wire, which reminded him of seeing someone create a piece of art using that material.

After about three or four months of working on it, the copper wire was starting to hurt Basso’s hands, so he quit.

Jump ahead to about two and a half years ago, when Basso went to the doctor to see why his hand had swelled.

The doctor told Basso he had gout in his hand, and that keeping his fingers moving would keep the gout at bay. The doctor suggested Basso return to twisting the copper.

“What was hurting me before was helping me now,” Basso said. “I got the hands moving.”

The tree’s trunk is a thick clump of wires, with some of the roots exposed on the rock and various thickness and lengths of the branches stretching from the trunk.

“Oh, I think they’re wonderful,” his wife, Carol, said. “He plays a lot of golf, and I thought he needed another hobby. It’s not too messy. It’s something that can be done in the house.”

Basso, who is a member of the Visual Arts Association and The Villages Art League, started selling them at art shows, and they’ve become a hit with patrons.

“The more glitter they see, the better they like it,” Basso said.

Instead of using a single-strand system and adding as many strands together as one needs, Basso uses 2/0 or 3/0 welding cable from a company in Chicago. He strips off the insulation and twists the copper wire in whatever direction he likes.

“The single strand is more flexible, but I’m doing what I do,” Basso said.

For the tree’s base, Basso started out using rocks found around The Villages. He eventually headed to Sanford to purchase chunks of rocks. Back at home, Basso drills a hole in the rock, then super-glues a nail to the rock to anchor the copper.

On occasion, he has painted the wire to make it look like the tree has some foliage.

It takes him about a week to complete a tree. While the glue is drying on one tree, Basso works on another.

“You’re not working on it all the time,” Basso said.

Prior to the copper trees, Basso hadn’t dabbled much in art projects, but Carol has. She paints using oils and acrylics, with some of her items on display at the Brick City Center for the Arts in Ocala. She especially enjoys painting cows.

“Cows are fun,” Carol said. “They’re full of love and expression.”

He did take an art class during one term in college, but that was the extent of it.

“I wasn’t that good,” Basso said. “If you’re going to be a good artist, you’ve got to do it every day.”

Since he started creating these copper trees, Basso has noticed an improvement in the end results. Those who buy them seem to enjoy them.

“You feel good,” Basso said. “I’ve got people that come back and have bought five or six of them. They’ve got them sitting all over the house.”

Staff writer Michael Fortuna can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5273, or