Metalsmith Julia Woodman in her art studio.
Metalsmith Julia Woodman in her art studio.

After living for 38 years in Sandy Springs, Julia Woodman was talking one recent afternoon about moving.

“This was country when I moved out here,” Woodman said as she sat in her sprawling, art-filled home on Powers Ferry Road. “Cars on Powers Ferry were an event. Now they’re a menace.”

She feels it’s time to move. Her husband died two years ago. She wants to be closer to her family in Cobb County. “It’s lonely here,” she said. “It’s isolated because everybody has 2 acres. I don’t know my neighbors.”

But, unlike many aging Sandy Springs residents who contemplate settling into smaller, more manageable homes, Woodman had some special, well, considerations as she planned her move.

After all, not everyone who’s downsizing takes an anvil with them. Or a hammer to use on the anvil. Or a metal press.

“This is my 50-ton press,” she said, sitting in her basement studio crowded with metal-working tools. “It only weighs 1,400 pounds, but it has 50 tons of pressure.” She uses it to make bowls. “I want to make bowls into my 80s.”

So, how old is she? “81. And I’m still making bowls. Can you imagine?”

Well, yes you can. After an hour talking with Woodman, you can imagine her tackling all sorts of things. She radiates enthusiasm and energy. And she’s still eager to try new things.

“If you stop learning, you get ripe and fall off the vine and rot,” she said.

She’s a metalsmith. Not just a silversmith, she says, but a metalsmith. She works various kinds of metal into works of art. “Metal requires an enormous amount of discipline,” she said.

She earned her B.F.A. degree designing and making a silver teapot and creamer. She moved on to other things – processional crosses used on special occasions at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Buckhead, a medallion worn at Georgia State University’s formal ceremonies, more tea services. She’s studied abroad, teaches, and has developed a following. Her work has been displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among others.

That’s a long way from where she started. She grew up on a farm in North Carolina. Her dad ran a dairy just outside Asheville. She “always had been arty,” she said, so she went to college in New York to study industrial design. There, she met her husband-to-be. He was a military man who taught ROTC at the time. After she married, they travelled all over, from Fort Knox to Iran. “We moved 19 times in 20 years,” she said.

Once he retired, he found work near Atlanta and they settled in Sandy Springs, out in the country. She decided to go back to school and, at age 49, enrolled at Georgia State University with plans to study sculpture. She found she liked working with metal. “I discovered I had a little talent,” she said. “I started winning competitions and commissions.”

In 1986, she started spending portions of her summers doing metal work at an international craft school near Asheville. Eventually, she won a scholarship to study metalworking in Finland “from second and third generation Fabergé masters.”

She intends to keep working with metal as long as she can. “All so I can continue working with metal, so I can sling a hammer.”

After all, it’s still fun. And fun is important.

“You don’t stop playing when you get old,” she said. “You get old when you stop playing.”