By Linda Whitmore
Out-of-the-ordinary metal work is the frosting on the cake for buildings restored in downtown Silverton by Mo Salem and his crew.
Salem’s current project on the corner of Main and Water streets opposite the Wolf Building, are trimmed with metal fixtures that have a definite artistic touch.
The work is by Jesse Cox, a 28-year-old metal fabricator, who admits, “I don’t like building things you see every day.”
So when he’s asked to make a bracket or a railing, he draws up a design that includes what he called “twisty-cue things.” Examples can be seen at the current restoration project, formerly the Silver Falls Realty building.
Rather than making strictly functional straight railing for around the deck facing Silver Creek, Cox wove in vines and leaves. The deck’s light poles with brackets for hanging planters also have tendrils and Cox picked up these elements to make the brackets for the awning on the street side of the building.
Another eye-catching element seen at the back of the building is the row of leaping fish – one capping off the end of each huge metal I-beam cantilevered over the creek.
Cox cut out the unique fishes from 1/8-inch steel. He textured them with a ball-peen hammer and welded the plates together, giving the fish their three-dimensional shapes.
He said he doesn’t like doing repetitious projects and enjoys the artistic aspects of his work. Cox has a life-long interest in art – including clay sculpting, drawing and painting – that reached a pivotal point when a high-school project turned him on to working in metal.
“My favorite part is coming up with the design,” he said.
A year or so ago he was asked to make a handrail for the side entrance to the Wolf Building. A less-inspired worker might have installed a plain rail or even a pipe, but Cox made the grab bar to resemble a bent branch. But that wasn’t enough.
“A friend and I were looking at the tree branch I was making and thought it would be cool to have a wolf biting it,” he said. His inspiration got the go-ahead from his boss.
Cox has been working with Salem since the Wolf Building restoration. “Mo likes classy stuff. That’s why I like working for him.” Not only did he make the wolf handrail, he built the railings for the interior staircase and the window wells.
These decorative and functional elements set off the newly restored buildings and will last for many years.
“What we want is quality,” Cox said of his work and that of Salem. “Quality is long remembered after price is forgotten.”