Jun 1 2010

In 2006 McMenamins moved their corporate headquarters to a former wedding chapel and mortuary in North Portland. Finally, in May of 2010, a new "McMenamins" sign has replaced the words "THE LITTLE CHAPEL OF THE CHIMES" above the door to the offices.

New SignThe new sign may look strange because it's something of an experiment. The bare steel is expected to rust fairly quickly into a nice streaky reddish brown and then the painted letters will pop out. Perhaps the wonderful blue welding stains will still be visible. Perhaps the experiment will gradually turn ugly and passersby will wonder what we were thinking.

Mike McMenamin's idea was to add a few respectful enhancements to the beautiful old Chapel building that would make it look a little less serious and a little more fun. The old Chapel sign would have to be replaced anyway.

I emailed a scale drawing of the design to Jeff Allen, the artist responsible for much of the metal artwork at the various McMenamins locations. About a week later he called and said that the sign was mostly finished and that it looked just like the drawing. All I had to do was paint the lettering onto the steel surface. Jeff's a wizard.

The only thing left is for the good old Oregon rain to finish the job.

About the author: Lyle Hehn is one of our McMenamins artists and has been with the company since 1988.
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Comment on this Posting:

#1 aniko Samu Kuschatka

I am wondering, what did you and Jeff do to make it possible that only the blue part rusts and the white lettering doesn't.
PS I absolutely love your and other artist's work at McMenamins!

#2 Lyle

So far there's no rust on the sign. The blue stains are discoloration from welding the steel pieces together.
When Jeff was done building the sign, I painted the letters directly onto the steel. If I used the right kind of paint, the rust should happen everywhere except the lettering. Thanks for the comment about our work.
There's more to come!

#3 Aniko Samu Kuschatka

That is right. My mistake for not reading it properly. I know that sometimes metals also get a patina effect. Will this sign eventually get a patina effect as it ages, ? I know some metals have patina over time such as bronze and copper but I am not sure if patina is related to the type of metal that is used. You can purchase patina effect kits so that is why I am wondering.
Did you paint the McMenamin's on there freehand or did you use a stencil? Is is embossed? I know I ask a lot of questions. I am totally fascinated by the work at McMeanmin's. I wish someone wrote a book about the art there. I am an artist too so I have the utmost respect for you guys.

#4 Lyle

I "warped" the lettering in Photoshop to match the curvature of the sign drawing. Then I transferred the lettering to full-sized poster board with an opaque projector and cut out a template. Then I traced the letter outlines onto the steel with a black marker. Then I hand-painted steel primer inside the outlines and finished with two coats of "One Shot" enamel.

I think this steel will just rust, rather than develop a patina, but we'll see.

Questions about how things were done are always welcome, I just never know what level of detail will put people to sleep...

#5 aniko Samu Kuschatka

Thanks Lyle for writing the details. I think knowing the details gives a more satisfying feeling to viewing the art. Sometimes creating the art is just as interesting as viewing it. Laughing about your comment regarding detail. Detail doesn't put me to sleep. I do have more questions for you but perhaps not related to this piece of work.
Do you work at your own studio or do you have several studios where you do work for McMenamins? Say for example one at the headquarters and a private studio etc, etc.

#6 Lyle

We either work at home on panels or graphics, or we drag all our paints and supplies to one of the locations and paint on-site.  My own work area is in my cluttered basement.  "Studio" is too fancy a word for it.

#7 aniko Samu Kuschatka

A basement is a good place to work. You need not have space on a top floor with skylights. A big space is good!
What is the panel made of? When I touched a panel in Edgefield, ( I know, one should never touch a fine piece of art) , it felt cold as if it was plaster on wood and the images painted with acrylic. I didn't rub my hand on it but the surface was intriguing and it felt cold when my finger touched it.