Bronze geese, Tualatin marker receive TopProjects award

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rip Caswells bronze geese, and the installation designed by Art Studio Direct, received a prestigious award from the Daily Journal of Commerce last month.The Daily Journal of Commerce recently recognized the true gateway to Tualatin. It isn’t the I-5 off-ramp marked by the bright lights of the aging Jiggles Dancers sign, but the serene point where Tualatin-Sherwood and Nyberg roads meet, and where, a flock of bronze geese take flight over the city name.

In October, the Oregon publication named the gateway its 2013 DMWESB TopProjects Award recipient in the category of Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation.

The award recognizes infrastructure and construction contributions made by minority-owned and operated small businesses.

The project was helmed by Art Studio Direct, a Portland consultancy that specializes in providing custom art to corporate, government and hospitality facilities. President Janelle Baglien knew exactly what she wanted when she responded to the city’s call for gateway proposals, she recalled.

“I wanted bronze, because bronze can literally last forever,” Baglien said. “(Artist Rip Caswell) happens to be one of the best wildlife sculptors in the U.S., and he’s right here, in Troutdale.”

“He's also very professional, and knows how to do jobs on schedule, on budget, which is very important to us,” she added.

For Caswell, geese were a natural focal point in the outdoor installation.

“It’s an animal that works together,” Caswell explained. “I've always been intrigued with their migration, the way they take turns being the leader. One will fall back and rest while another one takes the lead.”

He found the analogy appropriate for the city of Tualatin, and community in general.

“Sometimes it's just important to let each person take their turn and exert their talents and gifts for the betterment of everyone,” he said.

He sketched out a rough design of seven geese -- “odd numbers are always best in composition,” he said, “and the number seven has a lot of significance in a lot of different cultures and religious beliefs.”

He ensured the sculpture was strong from every vantage point, which played into how he positioned each goose wing.

“Your eye weaves throughout the flock,” Caswell added, “so it doesn't have an area you get stuck on.”

He put a premium on depicting upward, forward movement to give the sculpture an uplifting feel.

With the design approved, Caswell worked with engineer Gary Lewis to create a miniature pinch sculpture, which not only served as a three-dimensional preview of the sculpture, but which allowed the two to work through structural concerns, including potential seismic and wind load issues. It was a delicate illusion to achieve: The geese appear to be frozen in mid-flight, but are in fact connected to each other by their wing tips.

Then Caswell set to work at his Firebird Bronze foundry, where he worked with his team to create the sculpture piecemeal before welding it all together.

“I was tired of sculpting feathers, I'll tell you that,” he said.

The process took nearly 10 months.

Baglien likens the sculpture’s installation to putting together an intricate puzzle that requires exact structural and civil engineering. The 18-foot bronze sculpture is anchored by a 20-ton slab of limestone.

“It was blasted out of a mountain in Boise and engraved and shipped to Tualatin,” she said. “Everything was being made by different fabricators. Everything has to fit together perfectly on site.”

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