We connected at a meeting of the Milwaukee Steampunk Society—perhaps the first I ever attended—and I met up with her to purchase a couple of costume items she had listed on the MSS page.
But it wasn’t just the costumes. I discovered that in addition to being active in the steampunk culture, Julianne is a graphic designer and a fine artist. “Like most steampunks, my work is contemporary but has a strong Victorian influence.,” she says. “I’m also passionate about mid-century modern design.”
Passions which, if you’re counting, also stand beside her love of nature, longtime career as an industrial hygienist, and life with an engineering professor husband and three wonderful tabby cats.
As passionate do-ers with more interests to pursue than there are hours in a day, and lovers of all things from the past, Julianne and I have a lot to talk about.
You might notice both the sciences and the arts are high on her list of pursuits. So which gets precedence?
Julianne explains, “Way back . . . in high school, I debated whether to pursue a career in the life sciences or art. I chose Zoology but told myself I’d go to art school some day. ”
But not without a detour first into industrial hygiene, which was her career field until she and husband Charles Tritt moved to Milwaukee. Following the move, the winds changed in Julianne’s field, and she took the opportunity to pursue fine art instead.
But not, of course, without finding plenty of ways to incorporate her background in zoology.
“I’m now combining my loves to specialize in natural science illustration,” she explains. “Or at least, I’m trying to!”
What keeps getting in the way, however, is ironically her fine art pursuits, which Julianne says are her most popular works right now.
In fact, this December she will be installed at Cedarburg Cultural Center as the artist-in-residence for the duration of this festive wintry month, where she’ll create fine art pieces especially for the CCC.
All of which means Julianne’s days are busy working her craft. She maintains an at-home studio the beautiful vintage farmhouse she shares with Charles Tritt and the cats (the Philip Klumb house, for your southeastern Wisconsin history buffs).
Despite the inspiring indoor surroundings, Julianne confesses she prefers to paint plein-air whenever possible. Outdoors or in, she often finds it difficult to get down to business right away. “Often, I don’t get down to work until after lunch,” she confides.
It’s not the ordinary distractions that keep her from hitting her easel early, though. Working out, reading steampunk fiction, sewing and embroidery, rockabilly culture, vintage clothing, thrifting and flea marketing shopping, and even bellydancing all vie for her attention on the weekly to-do list. In fact, Julianne performs regularly with a semi-pro bellydancing troupe and is sometimes responsible for original choreography and solo performances.
Her dance name? “Akilah,” she grins. “for ‘she who applies logic.’ Guess that pretty much gives me away as a Trekkie [too].”
All joking aside, and looking back over her journey, Julianne offers one piece of advice for young creatives: “Pay yourself first, in both time and money.” While it’s often deemed selfish to set aside time and resources for ourselves, she points out that artists need both to create work they can share with the world.
“This is something I’m learning to do. It’s not selfish. It’s a must.”