Northwest glassblowing artist Ginny Ruffner oversaw the installation of her five-ton steel flower pot at Seventh Avenue and Union Street on Saturday.

Share story

The 1,100-pound, olive-green stem hung in the overcast sky as construction workers bolted the carbon-steel structure into its rightful flowerpot.

Documentarian Karen Stanton and Seattle artist Ginny Ruffner marveled from a few feet away.

“Not every day do you see a giant leaf floating in skyscrapers,” Stanton said.

Saturday was the penultimate step in the installation at Seventh Avenue and Union Street of Ruffner’s colorful “Urban Garden” sculpture — a 27-foot piece of art depicting a giant flowerpot with a daisy, tulip, bluebells and a red watering can.

Within the next two weeks, parts within the nearly 5-ton structure will be activated to make the daisy spin, the watering can tip and the bluebells open and close.

The brightly colored sculpture will be visible to drivers exiting Interstate 5 at Union Street, as well as to pedestrians coming from the Washington State Convention Center and from ACT Theatre.

The sculpture is the centerpiece of a larger project called the Garden Walk on the block of Seventh between Pike and Union streets. The Sheraton Seattle ownership group has spent about $2.5 million beautifying the area, according to Margery Aronson, who has curated the hotel’s art collection since 1982.

Dave Bonewitz, the installation project manager, said the Sheraton is trying to make the area more of a pedestrian destination. Along with Ruffner’s installation, the southern sidewalk along Seventh Avenue has new landscaping, bench seating, mirrors and canopies with LED lighting at night, he said.

For Ruffner, the installation of Urban Garden is the culmination of seven years of work.

The Sheraton has scheduled a public celebration at Seventh and Union on July 21, a day before SIFF Cinema shows “Ginny Ruffner: A Not So Still Life,” Stanton’s award-winning documentary.

Ruffner, who made a name for herself as a torch-worked glass artist but creates in other modes as well, had never built a moving structure before.

A computer program will trigger the watering can to tip, pouring about a gallon of water into the pot; the computer also controls when the bluebells unfold and close. The clay-colored pot has a window so viewers can peer inside to see the machinery at work.

“It appeals to the geek in me to see what’s going on inside,” Ruffner said.

After more than a year of following Ruffner as a film subject, Stanton said she draws inspiration from Ruffner, who suffered a crippling car wreck in 1991. Though doctors feared she might not walk or talk again, she does both, and continues to push her own limits as an artist.

The Urban Garden is less abstract than some of Ruffner’s earlier work. It weaves together the floral influences of her past torch-worked glass and the lyrical forms in her bronze sculptures, Ruffner said.

“Given the location of this piece, I thought it was more balanced for me to use mainly recognizable imagery to interest all ages, ethnicities, religions — whatever. It’s an all-encompassing audience,” she said.

J.B. Wogan: 206-464-2206 or