Eat, Drink and Be Merry

I finally installed a piece this week that we have been working on for a year or so- I actually got the job in 2004- but fabrication was really just since September or so.

3 modern totems, the two outer ones are 15 feet tall and about 8 feet wide, the middle one is 18 feet tall.
Each about 1500lbs of stainless steel, with forged detailing, but mostly just cold bent and tig welded.
Built in smaller sections, sent out to be electropolished, then welded together.
We transported them whole, all three at once, two on a trailer and one on the flatbed of the crane truck, dropped em right onto the bolt imbeds in the concrete footings, and were done on site within an hour or so.

The site is right downtown Seattle, on the edge of the business district, the 900 block of Pine street, next to the Paramount Theater.

It was a public art project, funded by Sound Transit, the local light rail line.

Eat Drink and be merryEat Drink and be merry

Loading up at home- gotta love seeing a big heavy thing fly thru the air-
Loading up Be MerryLoading up Be Merry

Dropping it in place
setting down Be Merrysetting down Be Merry

jbin's picture

Awesome as usual Ries. I

Awesome as usual Ries. I look forward to seeing it the next time I am down in Seattle.


Frank Castiglione's picture

I Like'm

Hi Reis,
I like how you incorporated traditional outdoor Northwest sculpture,Totems,with a very modern theme.I enjoy looking at a house frame more than the finished abode, so I'm attracted to this style of sculpture.I'm guessing that the Totems can be appreciated from quite a distance yet be intriguing nearby.
Did you have to supply an electrical ground?

Ries's picture

In this particular

In this particular situation, no ground was requested by the client's engineers.
And boy howdy, do they have a lot of engineers. So dont tell em.
I have had to do extensive grounding on some of my pieces, depending on location.
For instance, I installed a pair of similar, but smaller, pieces, beneath a 280,000 volt overhead line- and there, they not only required grounding, but the client, Seattle City Light, had their linemen install the double ground loops.
I also had to ground my big cowboy boots in Denver last year- pound in 10 foot ground rods for each boot, and then use huge double ought copper wire with crimped connections to the sculpture.

Seattle, however, is not a very lightning prone locale, and so grounding is less urgent.

Paula's picture

how in the world do you get jobs like this?

I love the size! Wish I could see them in person!! I would love to do a job on this scale, what is your secret? How does a person find work on this scale?????

Guthrie, MN

Ries's picture

Paula- I have been doing

Paula- I have been doing large public art commissions for about 30 years now- so I have a bit of a track record-but there are lots of opportunities out there for new artists.
In fact, I just got a job in St. Cloud Minnesota- so I know for a fact there are public art opportunities right in your home state.

Obviously, you dont start out with the biggest projects and the highest budgets- you would need to prove yourself on smaller, say $10,000 to $25,000 commissions.

The way to get started is to get into artist registries with state and local arts commissions- like the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Watch sites like CAFE for opportunities-

Sign up for the email lists at places like RACC, in Portland-

And start applying.
As a beginner, you will have more chances entering competitions where they require a design proposal- this requires speculative work on your part, but it allows you to show what your ideas are, and have a chance of getting commissions without having a lot of finished work to show.
Many more experienced artists skip these, as they can usually get work just by showing slides of previous commissions.
There are two basic kinds of competitions- one, they just do a preliminary judging based on images of previous work, and perhaps a one page letter of interest, while the other type requires full fledged proposals.
Unless I have the perfect idea, I seldom enter the proposal type- I know, its arrogant, but I have that luxury, having a resume of previous work.
But that makes it more likely that artists without a track record can have a chance.

Be aware that you will be rejected, a lot. I get rejected all the time- I just pick myself up, dust myself off, and apply again.
Its not personal.

As a blacksmith, you actually have a lot of opportunites out there- lots of public art commissions are actually looking for function- railings, fences, grilles, lighting, gates, and so on. My project in St. Cloud is bike racks- and I will probably forge a fair amount of them.

Paula's picture



Thanks for all the info, and yes, you 'betch-yah' I'll be checking out those websites. Been going through a slump lately, as I'm sure most people do. I have been at a loss as to where to go to get art commissions.... I have no doubt there is work to be had here in Minnesota, i just didn't know where to go... I have signed up for the Minnesota Percent for Art Artist Registry, with photos etc. I often check 'artist opportunities' on the've also recently been accepted into a gallery in Grand Marais, MN. Sivertsons.... but anyway... thanks again for the info and the encouragement!
Guthrie, MN

NA's picture

Excellent work as usual

Excellent work as usual Ries!

I've only had to ground one piece I've done, which was a large sculptural weather vane. Subject has never come up other than that one time, even in more lightning prone areas.

SteelyJan's picture

Awesome Work Ries!!!!!

I am really impressed with this commission and like others I would love to break into the larger scale public work. Thanks for the info. I have decided to put my ornamental work in The Guild, a source book for architects and designers, I'm hoping some larger projects will come out of it. Janet R.

heavy metal's picture

where to begin?

This is as basic as it gets. Somehow I was drawn to in a goggle search. I have known for quite sometime now that I HAVE TO WORK WITH METAL!! Steel alloy, copper or bangin' on some old piece of tin even. I'm at a very general state of mind because I don't know enough about my options academically or artistically. All I know is that I want to sell my house so that I can buy a bigger piece of property with out-buildings to accommodate my dream. After following some member blogs, I figured the best chance to get advise is from the very people who are out there doing it.

After a medical diagnosis changed my life 2 years ago, I have only recently tapped into my artistic side. Started with a bare canvas and painted. Not my thing. More recently working with glass fusion. Would you have any advice for a budding metal queen or be able to offer a website to further my resources. A friend of mine said I should just dive in and, "Come on through a hammer onto my old Volvo at the farm and see what happens". Is it as simple as that??

I chose to ask you specifically, because you appeared very helpful with a previous member when being asked how to acquire larger assignments.

Your work is fabulous - can you remember back to the very, very beginning?