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Stephens City metal spinner grows business through festivals

Metal spinner John Akkus holds a large copper mirror that he handcrafted in the workshop of his Stephens City home. Akkus will sell his work at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival this weekend at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Metal spinner John Akkus of Stephens City shows a display of his copper crafts in his home workshop. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

John Akkus uses a diamond cutting tool to make the copper piece sparkle with color. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Metal spinner John Akkus shows before and after pieces that demonstrate the diamond cutting process that gives this copper piece its brilliant colors. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

John Akkus spins a copper piece on a converted wooden lathe to make a Christmas ornament. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

A copper plate reflects brilliant colors that metal spinner John Akkus created. Akkus changes his designs each year, making each piece unique. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Metal spinner John Akkus holds a pair of copper Christmas bell ornaments that he crafted in his Stephens City home. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Metal spinner John Akkus shows a handcrafted copper menorah that is priced at $1,900 for this weekend's Sugarloaf Craft Festival at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Josette Keelor

Spinning copper on a converted wood turner in his home workshop, John Akkus of Stephens City can design almost anything, but when asked, he couldn't single out any favorites.

Candlesticks, picture frames, jewelry and religious items sell well at festivals. They're all made from copper with silver plating, and each is one of a kind.

This weekend he and his wife Cavidan will pack their truck with crafts and head to the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. Sugarloaf holds 11 festivals throughout the year, and the Akkuses attend every one. It's the only place customers can buy crafts from the business they started about 25 years ago -- Akkus Silver Touch.

People ask him all the time how long each item takes him, but he said it's not that easy to determine.

"I make 10, 15 at a time," he said. It's an all-day, every day process of spinning metal on a converted wood turner -- which he also used for making wooden moulds -- engraving each copper item, adding paint and glazing them with a clear lacquer to prevent tarnishing.

"All my life I've been around the machinery," he said. "It's coming from my father. He was in the metal work."

Akkus and his wife are both from Turkey, but they arrived in the United States separately. He moved to New Jersey in 1970 before heading to Virginia. When they married, his wife emigrated in 1976. His brother introduced them, she said, and the couple married a month later.

"We've been married 37 years," she said.

Despite his upbringing in Turkey, Akkus, 65, considers himself self-taught in the craft of metal turning. His wife runs their home business but stressed that he's "the main creator."

In the beginning, he started part-time, with his wife doing more of the copper work than she does now. After 17 years at General Electric, he resigned to build his business.

"We are still a teamwork," his wife said, "but if he didn't do this, we wouldn't have a business."

Akkus uses traditional Turkish styles in his designs, but he said he changes them up each year.

Prices start around $20 and continue into the thousands, with an intricately designed menorah priced at $900 for this weekend's festival and a larger one priced at $1,900.

When considering prices, his wife said, "Sometimes size does nothing, but what kind of work, time he's done. It varies depending on how intricate the work."

A dreidel is priced at $95 and a mezuzah -- a decorative case for containing parchment with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah and affixed to a doorframe in Jewish homes -- is $65.

Though Hanukkah was early this year, he expects to sell the same number of Jewish holiday items that he normally does. It's always the holiday items he can count on.

The Akkuses welcome phone calls for information, but they don't sell from home or through the Web. Customers should look for them at the festivals, his wife said.

"Everything happens at the show."

The Sugarloaf Crafts Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly where 300 craft designers and fine artists will have displays. John and Cavidan Akkus will be at space No. 410-D-3. For more information, call 800-210-9900 or visit www.sugarloafcrafts.com. Contact Akkus Silver Touch at 540-869-2460.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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