Metal artist’s Nevada City home reflects her creative spirit, inside and out
Know & Go
Who: Ginny Davis Metal Garden Art
Where: 240 Boulder St., Nevada City
Contact: Call 707-299-7069
For more info: Go online at www.ginnydavismetalgardenart.com
Ginny Davis’ Nevada City house literally stops traffic.
“We often get a honk, which is fun,” Davis said with a smile. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh my gosh, look at that house!’ It’s the funniest thing.”
The sedate Victorian on Boulder Street has been transformed with a paint job best described as vibrant and the yard is well-populated with the artist’s whimsical welded metal statues and quirky birdhouses. Davis has even adorned the porch roof with art, in the form of dancing goat cutouts (there’s also a dragon in the back, perched on the barn roof).
Davis said the teal, yellow and pink color scheme came from a photo she took years ago of a New Orleans row house.
“This house, she really was a plain Jane,” she said. “She needed the color to give (her) the ‘Bam!’ she deserves.”
The house had long been neglected, she said, adding the renovations have been welcomed, by and large, by the neighborhood.
“We did have one person who stopped in the middle of the street and scolded my painters,” Davis said.
Davis said she originally purchased the 2,500-square-foot house as a flip. But soon enough, the huge barn behind the residence, with its potential as a studio and gallery space, seduced her.
“I had this dream, and my dreams often affect my pieces,” she said. “I dreamed I was working on these big flying pieces in the barn.”
When she told her husband, TJ, that she wanted to move in, she said, he told her he thought that should have been the plan all along.
That barn now is taking shape as the studio of her dreams — with room for a gallery of her larger-than-life pieces, a “bone yard” full of sculpture elements from roller skate wheels to fans to springs, and a work space with “every toy available” — plasma cutters, saws, drill presses, with “everything at my fingertips.”
For the last few months, as restoration work at the house and the barn progressed, Davis has been unable to bring any of her visions to life. But, she said happily during an impromptu tour last week, Monday was the day she was going to be able to get back to playing.
And she already had a piece all mapped out in her fertile imagination.
“It doesn’t take much to set me off,” Davis said. “I think the fun thing is how the pieces come about.”
According to Davis, often a stray implement or piece of machinery will suggest who the piece is going to be.
“They’re people to me,” she said.
Davis’ quirky metal folk definitely each have a personality. “Mrs. Henderson,” for example, is an homage to a kindergarten teacher who rescued her when she came into the class speaking only Italian. Several pieces are named after songs — “Peggy Sue” and “Rita,” whose head is, fittingly enough, a parking meter.
It has happened more than once, Davis said, that total strangers stop to ask if she wants something from their truck bed before they take their junk to the dump.
That’s how “Snow” came to be — she rescued a snow blower and cannibalized its innards.
Birth of an artist
Davis became an artist after an epiphany at age 50.
It was then, she said, that she came to the realization she needed to wake up and have a life of her own.
It turned out the answer to what she was meant to do was right in front of her.
For years, Davis had been hauling home pieces of functional industrial art — vintage apple peelers and a pepper cutter she admired for their intricacy and beauty.
She thought she might be able to make something new out of those pieces, and enrolled in a welding class.
Davis was hooked from the very first session.
“That was it,” she said, marveling, “I had never even drawn anything before that.”
Davis remembers telling the instructor that she didn’t know what she wanted to do, and asking him to show her how everything worked.
When he demonstrated the plasma cutter, she fell hard.
Before the semester was out, Davis had taken over the family’s three-car garage and filled it with welding tools.
“TJ was freaking out,” she said.
Everyone in the family, including her pre-teen children, initially were shocked at the transformation from “Mom” to working artist.
“I was setting myself free,” Davis said, adding, “I wish I had discovered this earlier.”
She plans to open her gallery and work space to the public, possibly once a week, and is signed up for this year’s Open Studios tour.
Davis would love to draw in younger artists to share her passion, saying ruefully, “Starting at 50, I’ll never get through all the ideas in my head.”
Contact staff reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.
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