Retiree makes birdhouses that sing

Gordon Strauss turns hobby into art

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – One thing you can say about Johns Creek resident Gordon Strauss. His art is definitely not for the birds.

“I got started just making plaques down at the hospitals – for Northside, Emory and Children’s Healthcare,” Strauss said. “Then I decided to start making birdhouses.”

That is sort of like Michelangelo saying he he started to paint ceilings.

The retired civil engineer volunteers his time and combines that with his urge to create things with his hands. He hit on birdhouses, but they are all unique and hand-painted.

Strauss likes to say they are “unique, but not perfect.” Then he laughs. He says they are not perfect, because he could never make two of them alike. But then that is what makes them unique.

“I like to work in wood, and I wanted something to do,” he said.

Strauss calls Pittsburgh home, but he moved all over the Northeast working for U.S. Steel. When it came time to retire, he and his wife followed their daughter south.

Many of them have geometric designs that just grab the eyes. Strauss says he never knows what a birdhouse will look like when he sits down to make one.

“It just depends on what pops out of my mind when I’m at the bench,” he said. “They [the designs] just come naturally.”

The bench is in one tidy corner of his garage in GlenCree neighborhood. There is a place for everything, and everything is in its place. Just what you would expect from an engineer. He has lost count of how many birdhouses he has made. But if you have just one, you know it’s something special.

Strauss started making birdhouses a couple of years ago, and doesn’t want to stop. He will personalize them like the one he made for a friend who is a Pittsburgh Steeler fan. It has a tiny Sports Illustrated cover reduced on the front porch of the house with other Steeler memorabilia attached.

It shows how creative he can be. But what he does not seem to realize is his houses are works of art. They dazzle, they entertain and they provoke thought – which a pretty good definition of the word.

JC 05-28-14