PORTLAND, Maine — For further proof of Portland’s growing coffee dominance, look up. Atop Coffee By Design’s East Bayside headquarters, a giant, red coffee cup circles like a weathervane, with coffee beans and cherries trailing in its wake.
The handiwork of South Portland sculptor Jac Ouellette is a 1,000-pound statement piece that can be seen from Interstate 295.
“This was a good challenge for me,” said Ouellette, who spent the last year working on the sculpture, which soars 15 feet high on the Diamond Street building and moves with the wind.
Made of aluminum and steel and rotating on a pin, the new icon is not going anywhere fast.
“We are avid fans and supporters of the arts,” said Kevin Gaspardi, Coffee By Design’s general manager, who worked with Ouellette and CBD company owners Alan Spear and Mary Allen Lindemann on the installation, which the Portland roastery commissioned. “This is what Coffee By Design represents: local talent and local coffee.”
Standing with a cardboard cutout in 3-degree weather last year as the owners shouted “a little to the left” from the street below, Ouellette knew where her piece would go, but not much else.
“They said, ‘We want a big coffee cup,’” the 53-year-old recalled a few days after installing her sculpture last week. The rest was up to her. But she did not work alone.
Like blue-chip artists Richard Serra and Jeff Koons, the Caribou native needed help. She tapped tradespeople to pull off her most substantial sculpture to date.
“I asked people who are smart and good at what they do. I went from Gorham to Westbrook for help,” she said.
Local machinists and fabricators responded. “They were really excited about this,” Ouellette said.
Ouellette found her path to art later than most. After a career in health care left her uninspired, she enrolled in a blacksmith class at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle. “It was life-changing,” she said.
She enrolled in Maine College of Art in her 30s and graduated from jewelry making to metal sculpture. Her lyrical work, which can be seen from Willard Square to Mercy Hospital and private collections up and down the coast, announces Coffee By Design’s arrival in this industrial zone.
“Everything we do is about our love for coffee, our coffee farmers and their families, local artists and organizations and most of all, our customers,” said Lindemann, in a prepared statement. “Jac’s sculpture is the next step for Coffee By Design.”