Bridges Design Challenge, Pt. 1


Back in April or May, the lovely & talented CMAG president, Leslie Z issued a design challenge to the guild members– make a metals piece based on the theme of “bridges”.  We’re in Portland. There’s a lot of bridges here.

Being me, I didn’t just come up with one idea.  I came up with 3. Because, as I said, me. I still haven’t learned the definition of the word “simplify”– at least, not in my metalwork.

So, three projects. Done & photographed by September 1st. Also while I’m trying to get the FitLocket Project done. And job hunting. And looking for a new place to live. (What do you mean there are people who only do one or two things at a time? How is that even possible? What do their brains do the rest of the time?)

So, 2 of the designs are one-of-a-kind art jewelry pieces & one is a snarky political sculptural piece because we all know I can’t resist snarky political pieces.

First up, Tilikum Twist

The Tilikum bridge has an absolutely lovely design– one I thought would look even cooler if it was twisted around. Why not?

Here’s a picture of the Tilikum:

Tilikum Crossing

Photo (c) TriMet


It’s just begging to be forged in sterling & twisted around.


Second, Marquam

Of all the bridges in Portland, Marquam gets the least love. In fact, it’s safe to say that it gets no love at all & quite a bit of derision. It doesn’t show up on most lists of Portland bridges. I didn’t even know it had a name until I started this project.  & I’ve never seen a fancy poster for it. Admittedly, it is a seriously utilitarian-looking bridge built in an era where giant cement blocks were considered the pinnacle of utilitarian aesthetics. So, yeah, it’s kind of ugly.

Except for the ramps on the west end of the bridge. Viewed from the air, they form a really lovely, almost Art Nouveau kind of interlace design.

Marquam Bridge

The Marquam Bridge, 1966
Photo from the FHA website


This also happens to be one of the bridges I take the most, as my studio is just off the eastern end. I wonder if you could see the building if the photo were blown up to poster size.

The funny thing about this one is that I didn’t even get the idea for it until about mid-August. But fabrication wise, it wasn’t going to be a particularly difficult piece to put together, just a *lot* of forging of some silver bar stock I’ve had laying around for years roughly 3/8 in square. (Which would be why it’s been sitting around. It was originally a piece of bar stock 3/8 in thick & nearly an inch across. It’s incredibly hard to forge a piece of silver that heavy since you can’t hot-forge it like you can copper or iron. Then, a couple months ago I got the brilliant idea of cutting the bar down into thinner strips so I could make some forged bracelets & such out of it.


Third, Columbia River Crossing

Warning- snarky political commentary ahead. But first, a photo of the Columbia River Crossing,

Columbia River Crossing

Columbia River Crossing, from the Oregonian


Note the white wrapped up section on the left-hand side, where they’re obviously fixing the drawbridge.

In Portland, one of the biggest controversies in recent years is replacing the I-5 bridge from PDX to Vancouver, WA (no, not that Vancouver) over the Columbia River, known as the Columbia River Crossing. It’s old. It’s narrow & traffic gets stuck for hours during peak travel hours.The lift drawbridge section gets stuck periodically. There’s no emergency lanes. It needs replaced. However, the issues surrounding the attempt to replace are rather numerous (I’ve put my commentary in  a post on my personal blog) But one of them is that the State of Washington refused to pay their share of building the new bridge, which begs the question of how exactly drivers on the bridge are supposed to get from the state line into Vancouver. Fly? Trebuchet? Whee!

Anyways, looking at the pictures of the bridge, reading about how much it needed to be replaced & pondering that potential gap at the end, I was reminded of a decorative tile my Grandma had up on the wall with all of her souvenir tiles of every single place she’d ever visited. It had this image on it:

Derailed Train- "Oh shit"

“Oh shit.”


You can probably see where this is going.

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