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Modern weather vanes with an L.A. twist

March 8, 2011 |  6:00 am

Weathervanes-pug Weathervane-whale Weathervane-owl

Here's a traditional architectural detail for modern times: the weather vane.

John Bissell, a Los Angeles lighting designer and former head of production for Rezek, was in the coastal Northern California community of Sea Ranch when he and his wife noticed that a lot of weather vanes didn't float their boat. Bissell recalled with fondness the weather vane that perched on the roof of his grandparents' home on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. -- "a Shenandoah Clipper ship," he says -- but contemporary choices "were all sort of three dimensional and didn't have the charm I remembered."

He was without a job at the time, since Artemide had relocated its Rezek division to the East Coast. His wife, Debra, a design industry veteran and partner in Bissell & Wilhite Co., had closed the flatware company. So she suggested, "Why don't we make weather vanes?" And the idea took hold.

The couple's new endeavor is American Architectural Weathervane Co., and it calls on local metal fabricators whom John previously used to produce contemporary lighting here in Los Angeles. "The welder I worked with for years is doing our manufacturing," he says. "We can make one of the weather vanes from scratch in less than two weeks."

Weathervane_toy_horseEach of about 20 two-dimensional silhouettes are made of laser-cut, 14-gauge steel with a black powder-coat finish. Every pug, whale, owl, ship, lighthouse or rooster sits atop a perky arrow and bold north, south, east and west directional arms made of stainless steel with solid brass fittings. One of John's favorites is a folk art horse, right, whose shape takes inspiration from a Mexican piggy bank. A cat-and-bird silhouette tops the red tile roof of the couple's Spanish bungalow. 

The silhouettes are about 20 inches tall and 23 inches wide; the arrows are about 34 inches. Price: $175, plus an additional charge for hardware specific to roof pitch.

Says John: "It's nice to go back to the old days when weather vanes were seen as folky and artful."

-- Debra Prinzing

Photos: American Architectural Weathervane Co.