A Special kind of Copper

Contributed by Charice Chambers

What do you call a guy who sews, quilts, surges, embroiders, paints and makes jewelry? Chief. That’s right, former Palmer Police Chief George Russ Boatright is a man of many talents and abilities.

Born in Wyoming, at the age of six Russ and his family moved to the Los Angeles area for his health. Following high school, Boatright enlisted in the Air Force. He was stationed in Alaska for several years, and then returned to California. There, he worked with the SR-71, dubbed “the fastest plane on planet earth.” It was, he says “a Star Wars experience.”

He left the military for a career with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and worked with the Lunar Orbiter, the first spacecraft to orbit the moon. He was also involved in the Mariner program that sent probes to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury. Additionally, he worked on Surveyor, the first unmanned soft lunar lander that paved the way for the Apollo moon landings. It was heady stuff, but his heart lay elsewhere.

Boatright had always wanted to be a policeman. He got his chance: first with LA PD, and then back to Alaska where he had always wanted to spend his life. Boatright worked with the Anchorage Police Department. For over twenty-eight years, he lived the dream, retiring in 1997. In 2001, he came out of retirement to serve for twelve years as Palmer’s Chief of Police.

Though law and order was his passion, Boatright also had a softer side: he loved the arts. For many years he dabbled in painting, acrylic work being one of his favorite mediums. He also began making jewelry in concert with several police colleagues. Most of the jewelry they made was fashioned in gold. At the time, Alaskans were mesmerized by it. Gold jewelry reflected the Last Frontier spirit and mentality of the time. But gold is expensive, and the demand for gold jewelry declined.

For several years Boatright satisfied his creative needs through the exploration of needlecraft. He had, after all, been a single father of two girls. He had created and sewed “poodle skirts” for his daughters while they were in high school. This was not a huge leap. Crochet and quilting also passed beneath his fingers as he explored the crafts.

Several years ago, he read about copper wire wrapping and weaving. His interest was peaked, and he purchased several books on the subject. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. The wire spoke to him in exciting ways. Soon, he was creating bracelets, earrings, and necklaces of extreme delicacy and intricacy. Much of his early jewelry employed the use of Czech beads woven into unimaginable designs. Today the beads have been replaced with precious and semi-precious stones and many of his designs include his now signature rose motif. It is often found on the backs of his designs, especially his necklaces.

This new art continues to consume Boatright as he creates more and more difficult weaves and wraps. He plans to continue working with copper as long as it challenges him (his fans hope that is for a long time). “When I have it totally figured out, I’ll find something else to create.”

Boatwright has chosen Mat-Su Senior Services Gift Shop as the showplace for his art. There it may be seen and purchased daily from 10 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday. The shop is located in the Mat-Su Senior Services building at 1132 South Chugach Street in Palmer and is open to the public.