When I was a kid growing up in Amador County, I spent allot of time playing outdoors. My brother and I used to hang out allot with two other brothers that lived up the road near the town of River Pines. One day when we were up there, we ran into a Native American guy who was friends with my friends dad. He was of the Mewak tribe and belonged to a group called the Red Tail Hawk society. They were a group of people, both native and white, who were dedicated to trying to live the old way, even in todays modern and changing society. They knew allot about the natural ecology of California as well as the medicinal uses of many of the native plants. One day, the old guy showed us how to pick burls from the Incense Cedar trees that grow at that elevation. They just looked like little warts or lumps on the trees trunk and i never even really noticed them before. He picked one off to reveal a root, like a tooth, that attached it to the tree. He then peeled the rough red bark back to reveal a smooth honey colored burl. All the woods grain swirled around and made distinct patterns that usually centered around a dominant swirl he called the eye of the burl. No two are alike. Each Burl is like a little piece of unique art work. I'm not sure which one of us decided to do it first, but one of us drilled a hole through one and put it on a necklace. My brother and I began to wear the burls to remind us of the Native way and the natural beauty of california. Eventually it caught on with all our friends from school. From then on there was a crew of about 10 of us who had burl necklaces and used burls for all kind of decorations. We made knobs for the drawers in our houses, christmas ornaments, jewelry, and even knobs for the controls and gear shifters in our cars. By the time I was in high school, people around there started calling us the Burl Clan. It seemed to also follow suite with the burly lifestyle we all lived. Skateboarding, diving off rocks into the river, getting in fights, going to parties, and just generally burling out where ever we went.
The bird like symbol is a depiction of an indian petroglyph my brother and i saw in a cave deep in the canyon on the middle fork of the Salmon River. On a layover day during a family rafting trip, Eugene and I climbed up a small canyon leading down into the river. There was a huge quarter circled shaped cave with a sand bottom. There on the walls of the cave were several indian paintings. One depicted a huge battle scene between two tribes. There were indians on horses shooting arrows at each other and throwing spears. There was even drawings of bodies of the indians that had fallen in battle. There, next to the paintings, was that symbol. Not really sure what it is, but we called it an owl. Not sure what it meant to them, but it seemed heavy to us. My brother and I started drawing it on our stuff. The symbol stuck around and became a symbol of our brother hood and friendships of the burl clan.
BURL Productions started out as my company making river boards for riding the waves on the Mokelumne River. Then, when i moved to Tahoe, I started a company making hand made beanies. We were the first to offer hand made beanies in trendy styles like the visors, head band and ear flaps. Now the Burl name has followed me into my endeavors in the art of fly-fishing and the craft of movie making. Attached to the Burl name is the same philosophy that the burl clan was founded on: Trying to discover a deeper appreciation for nature and the natural beauty of our planet and getting as Burly as possible while doing so.
The Burl is also a metaphor for the nucleus of creativity from which ideas spread. All the roots, stalks and branches of a tree stem forth from the root burl. From a small seed grows a huge tree. Just like from a small idea grows a successful business. Everything artistic starts as an idea then swirls outward to become a creation. Burl Productions has changed its artistic vision through the years, but at the root of it all still lies the burl.
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