Spoon Bridge & Cherry – Oldenburg

Spoon Bridge & Cherry - Oldenburg

The Spoon Bridge & Cherry, is a work of Art by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The Spoon was built by MRI and the Cherry was built by Paul E. Luke Inc., a shipyard in Maine that built boats, but also the best stainless steel marine stoves. It was installed by the Lippincott Brothers of North Haven CT.

Claes was in charge, the creator and decision maker, the Lippincott’s would manage everything. They wanted an aluminum boatbuilder that owned an Eckold bending machine to do the Spoon with finesse and discovered that MRI had one. This was our first work of Art, and it was for one of the most famous Sculptors in the World. That lead to more work not only for Claes and Coosje, but other famous artists, too.

The work of Art is a fountain squirting water, like so many are, so you can see the water is dripping from the cherry in the photo. The internal plumbing is stainless steel piping.

I love this piece and all their works in general, they are elegant in their simplicity. Color adds a tremendous amount, which you can see, if you can find the other work of Art in the background to the left, painted black. Color is king and the paint jobs have to be superb, fasteners have to be hidden from view. Art Work has to last forever, including its beauty. In writing the contract they were concerned on how to define the quality of painting. The wrote words that filled one entire page describing acceptable success. In boatbuilding our contracts would say “Courageous like” to sum it up.

Spoon on truck with Q

Spoon on truck, with Q




Spoon is being shipped to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN. On the truck as well is a magenta colored sphere called the “Q”, after the letter.

The “Q” is made of cement and is also created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. It is being sent back to the Lippincott factory in North Haven, CT for storage. MRI was hired to make a fiberglass mold off of it, to produce four (4) fiberglass Qs. They were shipped all over the world.


Shuttlecock & Claes Oldenburg

Shuttlecock & Claes Oldenburg

Claes and Coosje had us make four (4) Shuttlecocks to surround the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. They were all at different orientations to the horizon. There were three kinds of feathers sculpted uniquely by Claes himself which we had to mold off of. The surface was enormously bumpy and textured, so to get the parts out of the molds we made silicone molds. There were nine (9) feathers per Shuttlecock and two (2) sides to each feather which made seventy-two (72) feather sides. We had feathers everywhere all over MRI.

We installed this work of art on site ourselves, with the help of the Nelson Atkins employees.

Alfred Lippincott is on the left, John Merrifield is in the middle, and Claes is standing on the right.

Claes and Coosje were going to have a big show of their pieces at the Gugenhiem Museum in NYC. The Q and the Eraser would be there, so they had us make a fifth Shuttlecock of soft fabric to hang over the railing and stretch across the vaulted ceiling, as a center piece to the show. Opening night was a wonderful soiree, and the show hugely successful.

Bandshell 12′ – Frank Stella

Bandshell 12' - Frank Stella

We first made Frank Stella’s  “Bandshell”  in 1/3 scale, 12’h x 16′ sq., so it could be transported around the country. The first stop was his work shop that had big windows, the pieces could pass through. When it got there he would add different colors to the edges of the rib bands.

It was the first work of Art designed wholly in a computer, by the artist and his helpers. So, we had to extract the geometry out of the computer. It is sandwich construction of fiberglass over foam cores. In some cases it is C-flex rods spanning forms, fairing the curves. It was complicated, we jigged the core off the floor grid and controlled altitude, direction and angle. It might have been better to CNC cut the pieces, but we were before that capability. The painters solved all problems. It separated into four (4) modules for trucking. All the joints were pulled together tightly by mortised cam locks so all one could see is an allen key hole on one side of the joint, very clean.

It has a stage on the floor to the left, so it is like an amphitheater for a band. We lovingly called it a Hurricane because all the rib bands come to a circle and a hole in the roof center, spiraling around a center like an eye of a hurricane. The full scale Bandshell was going to be installed in Miami, the land of the hurricane.


Bandshell 36′ – Frank Stella

Bandshell 36' - Frank Stella


This is a computer generated picture of a full size “Bandshell”  36’ x 48” sq. This is big and was going to be installed in Miami, the land of the hurricane. All works of Art have to be engineered to local building codes of the installation site, Miami gets some heavy air, and wind is the big load factor. Up north snow can be a big load factor.

We all decided on aluminum, because two of the legs of support are tapering to a point and therefore tiny in section, for the load that will be applied. Even so, a lot of the metal was 2” thick which is actually hard to weld with full penetration, so we were still concerned. Metal was also good for final installation and assembly of all the individual sections with welding, no joints, all solid.

We had to divide the sphere of rib bands into truckable entities, nineteen (19) in all, in the computer. Then we had to create new planes of reference for each section and bring those sections down to the floor, rotating them so the plane of reference was a horizontal plane, useful to men. Then we could setup section frames at altitude, angle and direction and cut, weld and fabricate conveniently. We had made about nine aluminum sections, big, heavy and welded, when Frank’s buyer pulled out. He eventually found a new buyer, but it required a new fabricator, which turned out to be in France.

The next stage was to send it all there and to transfer the technology of section breakup, and computer manipulation. I have lost track of it, but look forward to that day when someone assembles it and it appears in magazines or the press.

TimeSculpture – Philip Johnson


TimeSulpture - Philiip Johnson

Philip Johnson was our oldest and most famous architect, at the time, but he was a sculptor too. We made many pieces for him, in spite of the fact that by the time we met, he was 87. This piece is at Lincoln Center, NYC. It is a triangular tower, wrenched severely corkscrewing counter clockwise as it goes up. It had four (4) Mavado clocks in it, all tied to GPS satellites, so that when the electricity was lost, and came back on, the clocks would find the correct time and reset themselves automatically. There were three(3) 5’ diameter dials on each face and the forth one was 12” in diameter. The glass dials are two pane laminated safety glass, wrench and distorted in the same way as the surface demands. They had to be molded and glued in their unique shapes. Very tricky.

The granite base was made for us in Rhode Island, the granite came from a quarry in Franklin, MA. The surface texture Philip chose was flame finish. After sculpting the planar surfaces they would take a torch to the surface, and the air inside the granite would heat up, build pressure and explode, creating a rough but uniform finish. We learned a lot about cutting stone from a mountain. I love stone, because every stone can be brought to a high polish like a kitchen counter, showing its true beauty. We had to crawl inside the granite and then up the tower, so you can see the trap door in the short granite wall with two (2) keyed locks.

Olympic Torch – NBC TV Commercial


OlympicTorch - NBC TV Commercial

A TV Production Company in NYC needed a prop of the Statue of Liberty Torch to complete a TV Ad about NBC televising the Olympics. I had to do research to find what it looked like and sculpt it myself. The railing and underneath is a fiberglass molded piece 1/12 of a circle, so 12 pieces makes it around a circle.

To get the right patina we painted the surfaces with copper paint, like three times as heavy as normal paint, because of the metal content. We sprayed it and let it set up, and before it hardened completely, we sprayed acid onto it and it turned the perfect copper aged green and even created runs and drip marks just like rain would. I was very pleased.

They were talking about putting it in front of a blue screen to digitally add the night sky. I said come out of the city, we have night sky here in RI, so they came. It was funny, everyone who came from Boston, Cape Cod, and NYC was a subcontractor and when it was all done and before leaving, they all got paid in cash.