Team Interview: Pattern – Maker Orlando Ricioppo

The foundry has been the heart of Behrends Group for decades – it is where we have built our signage legacy and it has given birth to new and innovative areas of the industry all from the same original banner. The foundry is an ecosystem, connecting a tight-knit group of loyal artisans together through the incredible experience of forging lasting metal signage. In terms of foundry work, the finished product is only as good as the patterns that are made for the molds because they reflect the perfect designs and will be control out finished product. As such, the role of the foundry Pattern Maker is integral to the beautiful products that we produce. Its importance cannot be overestimated and, at Behrends Group, we pride ourselves in having high-quality and consistently exceptional quality metals for all of our signage products. As artisan craftsmen, our smelters are part of our holistic team, where every individual is a cornerstone to the success of the whole system. When we all work together, beautiful things are accomplished and no one knows this better than Orlando Ricioppo who is part of the family at Behrends team.

Tell us a little bit about your personal history and what brought you to Behrends Group.

I moved here from Europe in 1987 and shortly after that I met Gen Russo. He became a good friend and was working here at the time. Of course, now he owns the company, but that is how I first got involved. I was a painter, a commercial painter so when Gen started working more in sales, he asked if I wanted a position with Behrends and since I did, I started working with the company and have been here ever since.

Can you tell me about some of your favourite moments while working for the company?

The first few years here everything was new to me because there was a lot to learn. Those first ten years were unforgettable because it was such an education to come work for the company. Also, I have met a lot of friends working here, some of them are not with us anymore because they passed on or they retired. It’s a place where you make your life so naturally I have a lot of good moments.

What is your current position at Behrends Group?

I’m mainly the pattern-maker and polymer maker. I also work as a finisher.

So, you are primarily responsible for managing the pattern-making for products that have been fabricated by Behrends. What can you tell me about this particular aspect of your work?

The process for making a sign in the foundry starts in the office with our design team. After a design is approved, it comes to me in a format almost like a photographic negative. With this, I short an imprint out of liquid resin and that imprint goes onto boards with form the shape and size of a plaque or whatever it is that we are making. That then goes to the foundry to be made into a mould as the next step in the process.

What does your position mean for the whole foundry process?

Whatever I do ends up in moulding and is the first manufacturing stage after the design process – it’s where the physical object starts to come to life. In a foundry, everything tumbles from one department to another, right up until it arrives at the customer. The better I do my job, the better the boys in the foundry do their jobs as well. The whole process is really finicky and precise so our level of experience individually and collectively is a real asset.

What sets this company apart from others? What, in your opinion, has made the company so successful?

Honestly, this company is really family-oriented and once you work here, everyone is family. The staff are not treated like numbers like in bigger corporations – we still have names here, but when we work together our output is still excellent. The size of our company is perfect – we’re small enough that we can communicate easily with our boss and get our opinions and expertise through. The company is based on listening and communicating since so many of us have such good experience.

What are some of the most memorable projects you have worked on so far? Do you have a particular favourite?

I would say that my favourite is the Old Strathcona archway which stands over Gateway Boulevard. It’s a stand-out piece and it was done quite a few years ago now but I got to work on it with a dear friend who used to work with us, Sam Pagliuso, who has since passed away.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I’m an outdoorsman. I like hunting, fishing, camping…everything except hiking! I love the outdoors but for relaxing activities. I also love travelling.