Thompson Traders: Copper Sinks a Family Affair

The mother-daughter team of Alejandra and Samantha Thompson at the helm of Thompson Traders is changing the way we see copper, one sink at a time.

Long associated with rustic or country design themes, copper has played second or third fiddle to more traditional materials like stainless steel and enameled cast iron, but Alejandra believes the natural beauty of copper coming into vogue will actually prove to be a turning point in kitchen and bath design.

“You can mix copper finishes with so many other metals,” she said. “We’re so lucky to watch copper come into fashion, but I don’t think it’s going away. Copper is here to stay.”

Alejandra is the chief designer for Thompson Traders, and she wants to elevate the copper sink’s form and function to serve more as art.

“A copper sink in the shape of a flower or one that has unexpected details like precious stones turns the sink into the jewel of the bathroom,” she added. “I want to create pieces of art that are priced to help people add art to their homes in unexpected ways.”

She finds her design inspiration all around her, she said, from fashion to museum exhibits to people watching and nature. While the majority of Thompson kitchen sinks are traditional farmhouse (apron front) or drop-in/under mount copper sinks, they also offer brilliantly polished nickel sinks in the same configurations.

But, it’s in the bathroom where Alejandra’s eye really comes into play.

Take, for example, the handcrafted Ibiza vessel sink, a fish that looks as if it were captured mid-leap. There’s also the flower-shaped vessel sink, the Matisse-inspired pieces, and the stunning bowl of polished copper with a malachite gecko perched on the rim.

“The bathroom can be for attention, so think out of the box,” Alejandra said.

Family business carries on tradition

Alejandra grew up in Patzcuaro, Mexico, a short distance away from Santa Clara del Cobre, the veritable capital of copper, in a centuries-old home with a copper sink in the kitchen. Though she went to school and trained as a psychologist, she said her dream was always to found a family business so she could live her love of design.

“Before I went into psychology I studied design,” Alejandra continued. “I love, love, love to design, especially with copper because the sky’s the limit. I got started a little bit later because I fell in love with my children and was very lucky to stay home with them and not work for many years.”

Thompson Family at KBIS 2016
The Thompson family at #KBIS2016

As it turns out, family-owned businesses are a family tradition from both sides, her son, Clifford, Jr., and Samantha explained.

“Mom is the youngest of 14, and everyone in Mexico has their own business, so it’s normal that Mom would also think of having her own business,” he said. “It’s the same on Dad’s side of the family where most everyone is an entrepreneur.”

It was a family business that brought the Thompson’s together.

Specifically, Clifford’s grandparents owned an import business where they brought in handmade wooden bowls from Mexico glazed with a ground-breaking finish developed by Clifford’s grandfather that made the bowls dishwasher and microwave safe. When Clifford, Sr. was 13, he was sent to Mexico to start learning the family business, and that is when he met the 11-year-old Alejandra.

Clifford, Sr. and Alejandra stayed in touch over the years through weekly letters and his visits to Mexico and eventually married. They settled in Raleigh, NC, where Alejandra and Samantha founded Thompson Traders in 2002 to bring the warmth and beauty of copper to American kitchens and bathrooms.

Samantha pointed out that copper is naturally antibacterial and its good looks only grow over time.

“Copper should be considered a neutral in your design,” she said. “It’s a healthy, beautiful material because of how it changes over time, adding value and character.

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