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Rachel heads home after market run-in

Virginia Keck welds the crack that opened above Rachel’s left ear during the sculpture
Virginia Keck welds the crack that opened above Rachel’s left ear during the sculpture's collision with a Seattle taxi.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Randy Hudson

Rachel the Piggybank is expected back in Seattle today after recuperating for a month in Clinton from its confrontation with a taxi cab.

“I’m glad she didn’t need major repairs,” South Whidbey sculptor Georgia Gerber said Monday. “The integrity of the original Rachel is intact.”

 

The 550-pound bronze Pike Place Market porker was knocked about 10 feet off its concrete-and-tile stand on Saturday morning, Feb. 5, by a Seattle taxi.

 

The driver said he inadvertently hit the gas after his cab was rear-ended. No injuries, other than Rachel’s, were reported.

Since 1986, the pig has stood stoically outside the popular fish-flinging stand at the market, below the famous clock, inviting visitors to pose for photos and to tuck money for charity into the slot on its back.

After the mishap, Rachel was rushed back to Gerber’s studio foundry on South Whidbey for minor surgery and tender inpatient care.

“Given the impact that must have occurred, Rachel’s overall damage was remarkably light,” said Gerber’s husband, Randy Hudson, who assisted in the pig’s creation and was helping with repairs.

“It would be possible to completely restore Rachel to a new condition,” Hudson said, “but the wonderful polished patina that hundreds of thousands of hands and seats have given her over the years would be sacrificed.”

Gerber said the sculpture was scratched in several places, and had at least one gouge, but that only minimal welding was required.

She said the most visible damage was a 10-inch crack along the top of Rachel’s left ear, and a large but shallow dent on her left side.

“She’s basically back to normal,” Gerber said. “But a few signs of the accident will remain.”

Hudson said that the internal structure that supports the removable cashbox was undamaged. If it had been bent, a large access panel would have had to have been cut, he said.

Also, the large threaded nuts in the sculpture’s four legs that attach to the base were either unaffected by the collision or could be forced back into position without welding, Hudson said.

Meanwhile, Gerber this week was sanding scratches and applying a new patina to specific areas of the sculpture, taking care to match the luster to the human applique that has accumulated through the years.

“Rachel will forever carry some subtle reminders of the incident,” Hudson said. “But after a few more years of children and adults rubbing her nose and sitting on her back, it will all become just part of her story.”

 

Beginning Sunday, Rachel will make a comeback tour of Seattle, stopping off at several locations before being placed on her new platform at the market on Friday afternoon, March 18.

 

The sculpture will travel around the city on the market’s vintage 1936 farm truck, and during the week will make stops at the Space Needle, Colman Dock, Seattle City Hall, Seattle Art Museum, Occidental Park and Westlake Plaza.

For the full itinerary, call 206-774-5225 or e-mail james@pikeplacemarket.org.

Rachel belongs to the Pike Place Market Foundation, and for years has collected as much a $1,000 per month in donations for the market’s medical clinic, food bank, childcare center and preschool, and senior center.

“We’ll be thrilled to have Rachel return,” market foundation executive director Marlys Erickson said Monday. “We’ll be happy as a pig in mud to have Rachel back doing her job.”

Twenty-five years ago, Gerber and several other artists competed for a commission to create an old-fashioned bank that would encourage visitors to put their money in it for worthy causes.

The design submitted by Gerber, Hudson and their colleague, longtime island welder Virginia Keck, was selected because of its nostalgic authenticity, Gerber said.

She said the inspiration came from a real pig, which may or may not have been named Rachel, living down the road from her studio.

“I used her as a model and took photos as a reference,” Gerber said. “But of course, that pig is no longer around.”

Gerber said Keck is also helping with Rachel’s repair, meaning the team that originally produced the pig was reunited for its rehabilitation.

“We started out, the three of us, with our little foundry, and now we’re back to our original three,” she said. “And Rachel is back, too. We’ve kind of come full circle.”

“It’s so great Rachel has become such an icon at the market,” Gerber added. “I was hoping for that 25 years ago.”

 

 

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