Its not very often that something new comes to a neighborhood and you immediately know it will stand the test of the time and become an iconic part of the streetscape. Last summer the Wallingford Boys & Girls Club gave us that when they constructed a community courtyard and commissioned Seattle glass artist Rodman Miller and metal artist Mimi Riley to build a fence along 45th St. Mimi, came up with the concept of ‘storybook stream side”. Out of her vision came, what one Club staff members calls, “The coolest thing on 45th.” He watches people all day stop and admire the beautiful fence. Dedicated on June 5th, 2009, the fence shows that the Club has a commitment not only to our kids but to our neighborhood as a whole.
Mimi is a former electrician turned welding and metal bending guru. Proficient at using plasma cutters, hydraulic presses, and the old oven and hammer technique. She considers herself a bit of a purist, hand crafting every piece of metal on the fence. This purity isn’t without a price though as she says, “I did get my share of cuts and blisters and burns while creating the fence…always makes for good cocktail party conversation when you can tell a story for every scar. And, yeah, I hardly ever paint my fingernails.”
This was the first project for which Mimi hand crafted the dies she used to shape the metal. She also delved in new territory by swiping an idea from Rodman who used Mica powder to color his glass. One of Mimi’s favorite pieces is the lone toad of the fence which is given its unique metallic green color with the use of Mica powder. Another of her favorite pieces are the trout, each cut to shape and then spot welded by hand to give them texture. The fence is chocolate colored sliding in a little Willy Wonka influence. Taking full advantage of her opportunity to go playful, Mimi has found this piece to be a turning point in her style as all her projects become a bit more flamboyant now.
The metal work installation took only one day. Mimi brought her crack install crew which included her husband, father-in-law, and Eddie, the 81 year old elder of the bunch. Her husband got an added bonus when Mimi ‘carved their initials’ into a heart on the tree. The crew worked through a chilly day to get it finished. The glass installation had to a wait for a warmer day in order to assure the metal-glass bonding was secure.
Since the installation the fence has been warmly received and respected. *Knocking on wood* no vandalism or damage has occurred.
Mimi, unfortunately, doesn’t live in Wallingford but she has a wonderful studio in Gerogetown where she offers ornamental welding classes to those who are just beginning or those who are honing there skills. Check out more here. She also does commissioned pieces from sculpture to decorative gates and railings for the home. She enjoys any new challenge a client can throw at her. Visit MimiRiley.com