The Skagit Valley artist, armed with a plasma cutting machine and unending ideas for public spaces and private homes, calls himself a “postindustrial craftsman,” accused of making “attractive nuisances.”

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Calling himself a “postindustrial craftsman,” Ries Niemi has been accused of making “attractive nuisances.”

The Skagit Valley artist has a plasma cutting machine and unending ideas for public spaces and private homes. Niemi says reactions sometimes include, “We really like it — but. …” He approaches the challenge of integrating the technology of the 21st century with craft, like blacksmithing. “Let the idea have its own destiny. It’s not always predictable (and) takes you to a place you might not expect. That’s a good thing.” His work must “integrate the artistic idea, the spirit, with the real-world requirements.” Those would be building and safety codes. For public projects, the client might say, “It’s a great idea, but design it so no one can skateboard on it.” That’s risk management. His best known local piece is a series of two dozen stainless-steel ballplayers set into Safeco Field gates around the stadium. They’re loosely based on real, historical players. He’s made two forged steel belts originally meant to encircle trees or telephone poles with protuberances up to 8 inches long. “Jewelry for the environment.” They’re based on the old punk-rock studded bracelet or collar. But he thought, “I could probably wear this to an art opening” as a belt. It had the unintended benefit of creating increased personal space, keeping people away, becoming “a personal protection device.” His largest project is 550 feet of panels for a Pasadena metro-line station. No two panels are the same, and it took two years to complete. Influenced by Andy Warhol, Niemi explores the nature of celebrity and pop culture with large, metal beer bottles with caricatures of Dale Chihuly, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton. With art, Niemi says, “you don’t have to like everything. But you’ll like something.”