The Honoured Walleye

Articles on manhole covers keep on popping-up. More and more people are noticing the design underfoot as they walk their city streets. 

Rob Turner writes on the subject of cities much smaller projects that make a big impact in his “Cover Art” article.

“As a visitor to a new city I’m always intrigued to discover and surprised by fantastic cast-iron works of art—they delight me.” 

This article lists wonderful photos of "manhole covers that left their mark in New York City". 

Andy Sturdevant lists stunning manhole cover designs in Minneapolis in his article “Minneapolis' sense of itself revealed in artist-designed manhole covers.” Andy helps us discover the reason for the covers by describing them and their location in Minneapolis. Andy directs us to a few of Kate Burke’s manhole cover designs. 

I received a wonderful email with a nice surprise this week, a sequence of photos showing the steps in the creation of Kate’s walleye manhole cover design. 

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t bring that darn camera with you? Kate wished she had a camera to document her first experience at the foundry eight inches deep in black sand staring at the wheel-a-matic sandblaster. 

We can’t turn back time and document those fantastic moments of creation, but we can remember them as did Kate.

It was a sandblasting booth that had a huge turntable inside a metal box. As I stood in the sand, the guys opened the door to the first cast manhole cover, which was the walleye. As the turntable rotated the silhouette of the cover [emerged] out of the darkness. It was glowing red in the center as they had just cast it and it was still hot. It was jaw-dropping. 

Below is Kate Burke's production process for the Walleye manhole cover for Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis: 

© 2016 Kate Burke, a quick sketch to help with the design process

© 2016 Kate Burke, a quick sketch to help with the design process

© 2016 Kate Burke, the sketch created for the carving of the design

© 2016 Kate Burke, the sketch created for the carving of the design

© 2016 Kate Burke, the actual drawing used to cut the design—many copies were made to prevent the loss of image detail when transferring the drawing 

© 2016 Kate Burke, the actual drawing used to cut the design—many copies were made to prevent the loss of image detail when transferring the drawing 

© 2016 Kate Burke, these recent photos of the finished cut pattern show its resilience after two dozen casts. It held up well and is still beautiful 

© 2016 Kate Burke, these recent photos of the finished cut pattern show its resilience after two dozen casts. It held up well and is still beautiful 

© 2016 Kate Burke, altered photo of the original photo by Will Crain, manhole cover installed at Nicollet Mall

© 2016 Kate Burke, altered photo of the original photo by Will Crain, manhole cover installed at Nicollet Mall

© 2016 Kate Burke, a rubbing from the original pattern above to create prints

© 2016 Kate Burke, a rubbing from the original pattern above to create prints


Need to get back to work and finish eleven new volumes of City Shields from my trip back to Canada. My residence and installation at Ming Studios will come soon enough.

In the meantime, go for a walk and discover your city.

© 2016 Kate Burke, installed Walleye manhole cover at Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota

© 2016 Kate Burke, installed Walleye manhole cover at Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Hail Minnesota!

I was downtown Ottawa, to deliver my volumes of City Shields to the National Gallery of Canada this summer when I noticed a manhole cover with a toilet in its design on Sussex Drive.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, this photo is an Ottawa maintenance frame S25 and toilet logo cover S24

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, this photo is an Ottawa maintenance frame S25 and toilet logo cover S24

Ever wonder what or why sewer covers have certain designs like a toilet? I wonder as well! 

The city of Ottawa, Ontario, has several manhole covers with a fish design. Evan Thornton in his article The Sign Of The Fish: Ottawa Sewer Grates of December 2009 found that Ottawa, lets its residents figure out the significance of the decorated storm sewer drains for themselves.

I guess we will not easily have an answer to our question.


When one has access to the artist who designs the covers for a city, we can get an answer to the reason behind the designs?

Kate Burke designed manhole covers for the City of Minneapolis back in 1992. These manhole covers were part of 75 cast iron manhole covers created as one of seven other art projects for the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kate explains the development of Hail Minnesota installed before computers and digital cameras!  

I worked with Craig Amundson from BRW Architects to evolve the ideas and designs.  As the first ones he chose not only had a natural theme but were, also, state symbols. I evolved further designs from there. I designed for the state bird, tree, flower, grain, etc. In the end I titled the project with the state motto, “Hail Minnesota”.
It took at least a month to create each hand cut pattern. I evolved a unique technique of layering chip board to create detail and to guarantee a flat surface for a safe footfall. There are eleven different designs with each pattern cast seven times.

The City of Minneapolis is redeveloping Nicollet Mall, the location of Kate Burke’s designed manhole covers. Architect James Corner hired for the redesign, is the architec who designed the High Line, a beloved project in NYC. To prepare for this complete redevelopment the city assessed and archived the eight artworks originally installed. The manhole covers rated well and people enjoy them. Their condition and maintenance care are easy.

To view these fantastic cover designs in person, one will have to wait for the covers to be removed from storage and reinstalled when the Mall is rededicated in the future. Millions of people pass over Nicollet Mall yearly, but ME, Louise, never knew of them when I visited Minneapolis, two years ago. It is worthwhile to call a city before visiting and asking questions on the project you might be doing.

Take a look at these stupéfiant (amazing) manhole covers!

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 APPLES and detail; image 2 NORWAY PINE and detail; image 3 TIMBER WOLF and detail; image 4 LOON and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 APPLES and detail; image 2 NORWAY PINE and detail; image 3 TIMBER WOLF and detail; image 4 LOON and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 WILD RICE and detail; image 2 WHEAT and detail; image 3 CORN and detail; image 4 LADY SLIPPER and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 WILD RICE and detail; image 2 WHEAT and detail; image 3 CORN and detail; image 4 LADY SLIPPER and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 OATS and detail; image 2 WALLEYE and detail; 4 NORTHERN PIKE and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 OATS and detail; image 2 WALLEYE and detail; 4 NORTHERN PIKE and detail


Last April, I introduced large sized artists’ books, included in these posts was Alex Appella’s book, The János Book

This year, Alex had a lovely experience publishing her book as a Spanish independent trade edition in Argentina. The János Letter / Después la carta sells for the low price of $39.99. The János Book is available on Amazon, with good reviews. Enjoy a free PDF of this book!


Are you getting ready for Christmas? Are you looking for beautiful and unique decorative boxes to offer someone special? Look no further. My decorative boxes are a great gift for anyone who loves to store small items, special trinkets, keepsakes or jewelry.

For the purchase of my hand made boxes visit my website or email me directly.

Have a great week!

Fun, Fun, Fun

Still on holiday and time is going by fast. Friends and family to visit, shopping and of course searching for new manhole covers of home. Work never stops!

Ottawa has changed and has new manhole covers. I’m looking forward to walk the streets and photograph manhole covers of the city. I hope I can collect enough to create another province of Québec and Ontario volume. Will see! 

During our trip, between the rain and fog, this older Cranbrook City, BC, manhole cover did not miss on type size.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, BC manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, BC manhole cover

The best manhole cover design of our trip is the “Chinook” sewer manhole cover in the City of Calgary, AL. Yes, it comes close in rating to the Rodeo Cowboy! This “stupéfiant” amazing manhole cover was designed by the late artist Garry Williams in 2002.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Alberta manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Alberta manhole cover

Drumheller, Alberta, is the heart of the Canadian Badlands and is widely recognized as “Dinosaur Capital of the World." The World's Largest Dinosaur (86 ft/25 meters) built as a Millennium Project by the Drumheller & District Chamber of Commerce. Look at the photo and check out the size of our small camper. Drumheller also has a pleasing manhole cover.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Dinosaur Valley

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Dinosaur Valley

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Alberta manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Alberta manhole cover

Before leaving Saskatchewan, I asked Cathryn Miller to show me how to create a Chinese Lucky tar. This star will be added to the thousands of stars waiting to be part of her next project—an installation of wishing stars in the form of a walking contemplation labyrinth. Please help Cathryn by making wishes. Click here to leave her a wish.

Our next stop the City of Regina had quite the excellent manhole cover design.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Saskatchewan manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Saskatchewan manhole cover

I’m interested in plain designed manhole covers like this one in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Manitoba manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Manitoba manhole cover

What an asymmetric design in Terrance Bay, Ontario.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Ontario manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Ontario manhole cover

Having fun, fun, fun, talk soon!

'jamais deux sans trois'

I’ve been busy getting my family prepared for our annual trip across the country to my home town of Gatineau, Québec, Canada. We are leaving next week and for the first time in eight years, we will travel the Trans-Canada Highway from Alberta to Québec.

This is the snail way across the country. The slow driving gives me the opportunity to photograph manhole covers along my journey. With the intention of publishing an artists’ book of Canadian anecdotes, I will collect photographs that catch my eye along this 10-day trip.

In between preparations, I’m trying to finish phase seven and eight of City Shields by printing and cutting inserts, collating and packaging.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, front and back of inserts ready to cut

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, front and back of inserts ready to cut

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, phase seven, cutting the inserts

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, phase seven, cutting the inserts

©2016 Louise Levergneux, probably the last 10 pack of Iomega Zip disks jewel cases in the world!

©2016 Louise Levergneux, probably the last 10 pack of Iomega Zip disks jewel cases in the world!

If any of you know where I can purchase more of these Iomega Zip Disks Jewel Cases, please email me. They have been discontinued by the manufacturer.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, fresh off the press Vol US 26 : No 1 Dakota

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, fresh off the press Vol US 26 : No 1 Dakota


Last week, I posed the question “Has the manhole cover become a point of interest for other artists?”

I received a link to Raubdruckerin Printers’ website. They print t-shirts, hoodies, tote and gym bags inspired by banal urban street manhole covers. People who buy the garments and bags become themselves a part of their project. So, the project is a refinement of the everyday culture as well as a permanent consciousness-changing connection with our surroundings. 

The video below demonstrates Raubdruckerin using a manhole cover at the Centre Pompidou in Paris to print a t-shirt. 

Raubdruckerin continue their journey to Berlin. The t-shirt prints are taken directly from a manhole cover using water based ink without solvent, flexibilizer, PVC or heavy metals. 

What a fabulous idea! What I found even more interesting, believing in the French expression—'jamais deux sans trois' ("never twice without a third [time]"), is that I received not two but three emails with the same link. Three of my regular blog readers are thinking alike! Peggy Seeger and Cathryn Miller must hang out in the same places on the web. Betty Mallorca, a friend and painter based in Nampa, Idaho, seem to frequent the same circles as Peggy and Cathryn since she sent me the same link to this project.

How should I respond to this phenomenon? The never twice without a third is a sign, I’m sure! Do I contact this group based in Berlin? Do I start a dialogue of my project City Shields with Raubdruckerin? Do any of you know the group? 

Back to packing!

The Hunt for Manhole Covers

WOW! another week flew by, a repetitive occurrence nowadays. The hours come and go without warning. Busy is good; but life is fleeting. Did you carry out what you intended to do this week?

I went hunting for more manhole covers in the town of Emmett, northwest of Boise on Wednesday. A quaint region at an elevation of 2,362 feet (720 m) above sea level and below Freezeout Hill—a steep terrain overlooking Emmett. Following the winding road constructed in 1919, we noticed a welcome sign to Gem County. The only gems we saw were dark red, soft and round, juicy and sweet. Cherry Festival! 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, descending Freezeout Hill

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, descending Freezeout Hill

We drove around the streets till we came upon a manhole cover that might be the oldest manhole cover in Emmett. Most are run-of-the-mill, I call them ersatz. The hunt is part of the experience and we had a lovely afternoon. 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole cover at N McKinley Ave & E Main St, Emmett

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole cover at N McKinley Ave & E Main St, Emmett

On our way back home passing trough Meridian, we found two manhole covers with stunning designs.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole covers designed for The Village Mall in Meridian

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole covers designed for The Village Mall in Meridian

Friends viewing the volumes of City Shields often ask questions about the designs of the manhole covers and the reason for so many? Where or how I find the covers?  A manhole is used for many types of utilities: cable, sewer, telephone, sanitation...  So each design of the covers differentiates the use of the manhole. I find the covers wherever my life brings me. They are part of the city I live in or visit; and I’m obsessed with finding the most striking designs. I’m interested in bringing these entryways to the world beneath our feet to the forefront of city dwellers as art. At this point as an artist, I am more interested in the visual designs of the covers.


I had to stop my printing process till the delivery of more ink cartridges. Two printers are expensive to keep. Now, I buy separate ink cartridges when needed. My delivery arrived today, now I have no excuses. 

Except, I’m entertaining another excuse, I would like to photograph and document my book Finding Home in ample detail. Finding Home is part of the Wanderlust exhibition at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland. Laura Russell, the owner, sold two copies last week. What wonderful news!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, artists' book Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, artists' book Finding Home

I took numerous photographs before mailing my last copy to 23 Sandy Gallery. The number of an edition is tricky. Will every copy sell or will my closet of inventory get bigger? I remember contemplating on the question and thought I may need to create one-of-a-kind books soon if my studio gets smaller and smaller. Well, I was wrong and should have made a bigger edition according to Laura.

It’s a crap·shoot!! Publishing and editions are an uncertain matter.

Download, copy, Photoshop, prepare, templates, print—it’s all waiting for me to publish more volumes.

City Shields, Phase Four

Sometime during the week I lost a day. Today is Sunday, and I still have not finished the tasks at hand for City Shields.

I’m entering my detail work phase before printing. I find it necessary to pay attention to details—titles and text—to avoid mistakes. Je dois mettre les points sur les I et les barres sur les t, (I’m required to dot my i’s and cross my t’s).

Since I’m doing the volumes as an assembly line, it's a long process. Did I say boring, noooooo! Not at all, my obsessive-compulsive disorder is in full force and I don’t mind repetitive tasks. According to my key job list, I’m at phase 4, this is where I verify every individual elements of my templates.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, transcribing addresses and intersections from the original file names of my photos in Bridge to a template in InDesign.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, transcribing addresses and intersections from the original file names of my photos in Bridge to a template in InDesign.

Details, details... I felt I needed to clear my mind to better focus. I took two days to clean my studio or should I say purge it of unwanted documentation—paper, paper... Who needs to continue carrying that stuff around! Last year I decided going digital was best, but the job never got finished with the move and other artists’ books in progress.

By scanning and copying the original paperwork to DVD. I created a stack of paper, this stack will be very useful for glueing books and boxes. Binders know what I mean. 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

I took an hour to review my inventory of Aspen, Inkpress and Generations G-Chrome papers for the completion of two copies of 18 volumes, maybe more. The list grows as I work! A copy for me which will be part of the installation. The second copy is for the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives / Bibliothèque et Archives du Musée des beaux-arts du Canada. Peter Trepanier my contact, an avid collector of City Shields will be purchasing a copy of these volumes for the library. I will need to communicate with the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal, Québec, in case they want to keep their collection of City Shields complete.

I resume my detail work... To assure myself that the metadata transcribed is correct, I take the time to check the addresses and intersections from my journal in Google Maps. Street signs don't always indicate the cardinal directions, I love details!

© Google Maps, according to my journal we should have been on 2nd Ave N, it was necessary to determine which cardinal direction was the proper one for the location of a manhole cover

© Google Maps, according to my journal we should have been on 2nd Ave N, it was necessary to determine which cardinal direction was the proper one for the location of a manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, detail of my journal with corrections indicated with red circles

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, detail of my journal with corrections indicated with red circles

This task brings me back to the location in question. The city, the heat of the day, the rain, an elaborate design, a city named manhole cover, the surprise, the hooray! moment even the make my day moment... 

After googling an intersection, I had to check for the location of an exact manhole cover I had photographed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The address information in my journal was incomplete, yet again, those cardinal directions! I needed to find the exact location of this manhole cover. Was it a North or South street, East or West avenue?

© Google Maps, on September 6th, 2013 at 7:36am I was standing at the corner of E St Paul Ave and N Broadway in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

© Google Maps, on September 6th, 2013 at 7:36am I was standing at the corner of E St Paul Ave and N Broadway in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I found the manhole cover as I browsed in street view in Google Maps. It's circled below in red. 

© Google Maps

© Google Maps

© Google Maps

© Google Maps

As I navigated my mouse around and around the intersection in Google Maps, I noticed a new manhole cover. How could I have missed this cover while standing at the corner of N Broadway and E St Paul Ave? I searched on the internet till I found the manhole cover designed by Melanie Ariens, an environmental artist in 2015.

© Google Maps, the new manhole cover references a cleaner environment

© Google Maps, the new manhole cover references a cleaner environment

Another visit to Milwaukee is in order!

I spent last Wednesday afternoon driving around Nampa, Idaho, eager to find an exciting manhole cover. I found a couple with the name of the city. That’s good, but I didn’t go wahoo!

While I continue my hunt, I receive manhole cover photos from different people interested in my project. Cathryn Miller sent these manhole covers taken in White Rock, BC.

© 2016 Cathryn Miller

© 2016 Cathryn Miller

Cathryn made use of the manhole covers in her book no skateboarding. This artists’ book is a book, a puzzle, a box, a photographic essay regarding surfaces. Text takes second place to visual images in no skateboarding as with City Shields. The visual takes precedent in the context of both artists’ books.

© 2005, Cathryn Miller, no skateboarding

© 2005, Cathryn Miller, no skateboarding

© 2005, Cathryn Miller, no skateboarding

© 2005, Cathryn Miller, no skateboarding

Many people are interested in manhole covers and lots of articles have been written on these items. My searches bring me to the conclusion that the manhole cover has made a name for itself by getting cities and artists working together.

I think I’m procrastinating the printing phase! Phase 5. I have to get past the impatience and get it done! Make it so number one!!