Look for local craftsmanship in 'Alice in Wonderland' movie

By Lynn R. Parks

What's a tea party without a teapot? Even perhaps the strangest tea party of them all, hosted by the mad hatter in Lewis Carroll's classic "Adventures in Wonderland," needed some kind of vessel to hold the featured drink. Set designers for the most recent film adaptation of Alice's adventures realized that. So they did what other movie set designers in need of period pieces made from metal have done. They called on coppersmith Peter Goebel. Goebel, of Bridgeville, made about 10 pieces for the Disney movie "Alice in Wonderland," which came out last weekend. Among the pieces are teapots, perhaps for the tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp. "I also made coffee pots and some pans," said Goebel, 62. "And a couple copper lanterns." He understands that the movie includes a scene in which a whole area is lit by copper lanterns. If his lantern is used in the scene, it is possible that it is duplicated for the scene by computers using a sophisticated kind of cut and paste, he said. Last week, Goebel said that he was anxious to see the movie to spot his creations. "I'll be looking like crazy," he said. "If they show up, it'll be a hoot." Goebel has made set pieces for a dozen other movies, including "The Patriot" starring Mel Gibson and "The Far Side of the World" with Russell Crowe. Among the 200 pieces that he made for that 2003 film was a large copper bowl that sat on the table in Capt. Jack Aubrey's dining quarters. His first movie commission was for a lantern that Kermit carried in "Muppet Treasure Island," released in 1996.

Goebel said that his children have gone through each movie frame by frame, looking for the bowls, mugs and steins that came from their father's workshop. Goebel has been making copper pieces for 20 years. He uses smithing techniques that were used in the 17th and 18th centuries, ferreting them out by examining old pieces and through trial and error. Old-time coppersmiths, a group that died out as the Industrial Revolution made their skills obsolete, did not leave behind instructions, he said. In addition to pieces for movies, Goebel makes 17th- and early 18th-century museum reproductions, in copper as well as in tin and brass. His pots and pans are used in the kitchen at Pennsbury Manor, the reconstructed 17th-century home of William Penn on the Delaware River in Morrisville, Pa. He has also made pieces for exhibit at historic Jamestown and Yorktown, Va., Old Fort Niagara near Niagara Falls, Sutter's Fort in California and Fort St. Jean Baptiste in Louisiana. Many of his pieces are used by re-enactors for the French and Indian War and American Revolution. And when the mood strikes, he turns out works of folk art, including hammered copper pigs, horses, fish, angels and suns, chains of copper apples and hearts and graceful wreaths of leaves.

For your information Peter Goebel's copper studio, Goose Bay Workshops, is at his home near Bridgeville. For information, call 337-8285 or visit the website, goosebay-workshops.com

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