Quirky Berkeley: Melissa Mork’s sheetmetal origami

Melissa Mork and copper eagle. Photo: Colleen Neff
Melissa Mork and copper eagle. Photo: Colleen Neff

Melissa Mork is the fourth generation of the Mork family to work in the sheet-metal business started by her great grandfather, Walter Mork, a patriarch of Berkeley’s early 20th-century Finnish community. She grew up around the shop. Her father taught her about sheet metal, theory and skills.  And then she took it away from HVAC and functional fabrication into art.

Gecko in progress, finished skink. Photo: Colleen Neff
Gecko in progress, finished skink. Photo: Colleen Neff
Skull in progress. Photo: Colleen Neff
Skull in progress. Photo: Colleen Neff

She has an extraordinary knack for sheet metal origami – visualizing a three-dimensional creature, translating it into a piece of sheet metal, and then – fabricating.

 2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
 2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff

Her most prominent work are the two grotesques on the roof of Walter Mork Sheet Metal on 6th Street. Because there is no rain water conveyance, these are not gargoyles, which is the name that first comes to mind. They are grotesques, and they are made in a fine old tradition of sheet metal shops, where fabrication skills are used to make vernacular sculpture that serves as a silent advertisement.

 2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff

Just inside the shop door is a counter where some of Mork’s smaller sheet metal origami pieces are on display and for sale.


 2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
 2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
 2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
2418 6th Street. Photo: Colleen Neff

These pieces represent a contemporary representation of the creation of figurative sculptures by tinkers, tinners, and tinsmiths, fitting for the fourth generation of a sheet-metal family. With all their heritage, they are more than just a little bit quirky.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

A longer version of this post may be found at Quirky Berkeley.

Support independent local journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside member. Members enjoy lots of perks, like invitations to member-only events, and an annual party.