art, love and work

julia blog imageMy good friend Julia Burr came to work with me on the compound this past week. She’s a major artist, a sculptor. She’s usually busy on some project, often a commission. But she offered to come and work with me–donated her time as a labor of love, and a gesture of respect. She says she appreciates how I decide to do something, and then do it. I’m lucky her desire for a little artistic adventure coincides with my Sonoma County compound project.

Geo and I worked steadily to be ready for her arrival. We were still putting down lumber on the third deck section when she arrived. But then we got started on the railings. I had a stack of perforated steel I had been saving for Julia–shelving units from a baseball card dealer who was going out of business. Heavy duty steel, painted (amazingly enough) the same sage green as the primary color on my military trailers.

Julia and I came up with a design, using that steel, plus hog wire panels, and the hardware from the shelving units, to make railings. She’d have to do some cutting, grinding and welding. No problem. Geo bought a new welder, and I bought a new DeWalt grinder.

I stand at Julia’s elbow, as she ponders methods to hold the hog wire firm to the deck. “If we wire it, there may be too much play–” I cut in, “As long as it won’t let anyone fall through, that’s cool.” She handles the steel, “I can make this work, if we add some from the other piece. I’ll need to grind–” I cut in again, “I don’t want you to have to go to too much trouble–” “Shhhhhhhh”, she says, smiling wryly. “Let me think.”

I recognized that I was not giving her room to work–I was too overwhelmed with eagerness to have her here, admiration of her artistry, and gratitude for her giving her time to me. But once I got my balance, we worked together very well. We talked proportion and scale. And we made four railings, including one stair railing, that are variations on a theme, and perfectly in sync with my military industrial motif.

We shop at Tractor Supply, for porcelain insulators to anchor the wire to the deck. Julia picks up some baling wire, “You can use this to attach things to the hog wire panel.” The railings are spare and elegant, perforated steel across the top and hog wire underneath.  I know for a fact that I’ll be putting glass beads there, and other strange metal objects I find in my treasure hunts. It’s exciting. I take photos of our progress, and at night we talk shop and watch the Olympics.

Once the railings are done, we make a protective and camouflaging wall for my propane tank. She came up with the concept before she got here. Using the grid as a matrix, we use cut-offs from the deck lumber to layer a sort of 3-D design. We integrate a little barn wood that is laying around near the old barn. It’s gorgeous. We make it happen in a couple of hours. Julia is amazing – so sure, and yet so fluid. Our collaboration is effortless.

On her last day in Sonoma County we have a little adventure. We do a wine pick-up at Horse and Ladder winery, attend a barrel tapping at a friend’s house, have a picnic at Jack London State Historical Park, drop by Imagery Winery’s tasting room to admire the art, and then back home to let her pack. I take her to the airport on Sunday.

I’m blessed. I get to decide to do things, and then do them. And I get to do that with amazing people like Julia Burr. Check out her art on






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