James Stone is an Ocean Conservation Mixed Media Sculpture Artist, working full-time out of his environmentally conscious, hot glass studio, in Escondido, Calif. James creates sea creatures and marine-themed sculptures that portray the beauty of the ocean’s diverse flora and fauna. His message of eco-awareness leaps from the forged aluminum and sculpted glass pieces.
I think that we can confidently say that we are back. Since the 2017 April Fool’s Day fire, Stone & Glass has morphed into a very different business.
It is a funny thing, this is my third studio since I began in 2001, and it is by far the best place of the three. In real estate, you learn that there are three things one needs to be successful; location, location, location. That is so true. We are now located on the west end of Grand Avenue, still considered downtown Escondido. One-hundred-thousand plus cars go by every week. We have wonderful landlords who understand what we bring to their property and appreciate our efforts. What a blessing to finally be here.
When we opened, it took all of our resources to get into the building; building permits, approvals, restore and replace equipment and then get up and running after the fire that closed our doors. There was little left over, no extras, some of the “niceties” were axed in the name of budget. As the New Year progressed we were able to pay our bills and breathe again. Before the end of our first year on these premises, we were able to get the new patio in place and resurrect and install our “Urban Tree 3” in the front patio, complete with lights. Now as you drive into downtown Escondido at night you cannot miss our place. It’s on the right – look for the bright blue lights. It has been painful but so exciting to slowly recapture our lives after the April Fools Day fire in 2017.
Next on this list is how happy we are with all the people who have committed themselves to and became part of Stone & Glass in one way or another. In order to accomplish anything in life you have to have support from great people.
By far the most important person to Stone & Glass is my wonderful, smart and patient wife, Carol. She was able to keep all the wheels on the train throughout the entire recovery process. She continues to keep me personally moving forward and keeps me finishing my work and out of trouble, which in and of itself, is a full-time job.
We mentor young artists as they start their personal careers and she does all the things that make Stone & Glass a great place to be, to work, and to create art.
I can’t say enough about my wonderful team. Jon has been with us at all three studios. He is my main man. He is always there when needed by me or anyone else. When he is in the studio he is busy making things better for everyone.
Travis started at Stone & Glass before he went off to earn a BFA. He is now a leader on the sculpture team and has taken over all the cold working. He is smart, reliable and a very talented artist in his own right.
Nicole, who took her first glass lesson with me when she was nine years old, came back 10 years later as a budding artist. She has really blossomed this year. Her torch pieces just keep getting better. I predict she will soon be collected nationally.
We have been so lucky this year, with so many aspects of running a creative business. One area where we have been overly blessed is with great patrons and good customers.
What makes a “great” patron? A great patron is a person who wants to help all of us further our artistic journey by supporting our visions with money and kind words. In the past I would try to make what I thought I understood to be in my patron’s head. After the fire, I decided to give that up. This year I was privileged to have patrons who took off the chains and said “just create; we know it will be good and we trust you.” These people provided the opportunity to make some of my favorites pieces this past year.
A Treasured Frog
I was challenged to make a large glass frog on a throne. It had to look like the stuffed frog that my client’s son had since he was a toddler. The color had to match, he had to have a personality and then I had to make the throne. They were involved in the entire process. Only they knew what “Stinker” as we grew to call him, needed to look like in order for it to touch their son. I had to make it five times before I got it right. Thankfully, they willingly paid for the dramatic learning curve. Thank you for all of the years of stretching my abilities on many projects and for your continued support, it means a lot to me and everyone at Stone & Glass.
I guess I must like a challenge because into my life strolled this very cool project. They saw the article in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles Magazine where I was awarded “Top Ten Rising Star Artists of San Diego”. They kept the article because they knew that someday they wanted to work with me. They have provided the most challenging opportunity of my career. They have funded the creation of a life-sized Pacific Coast Octopus to be cast in colored glass. This is a giant and really complicated project. As of this writing, we are only about 35% of the way thru the project. The models are roughed in and we are getting ready to cast the waxes which will eventually be cast in glass for the tentacles. I am hoping that by the first of February we will have our first glass prototypes finished. A very big part of being a successful artist is having opportunity and this project provided the single biggest opportunity that has come my way in many years, thank you both!
Another project I would like to share was a very pleasant departure from my usual pieces and interesting challenge. Our client needed to brighten up a dark spot outside between two parts of her house that did not get much sun. She loved flowers and had a great pot to provide for the project. We started making pieces in between other projects; a few a week. The client was wonderful, whenever we asked her to come by and approve pieces she always accepted them all. On the day of installation we worked together to arrange the pieces and it became apparent that the bouquet was a bit sparse, there was room for so much more. We went back to work and created an additional dozen pieces hoping that she would pick about half of them. She loved them all and paid us for the entire installation. It turned out rather stunning and she loves it. Thank you!
There’s another patron couple and project that I’m so very proud of from last year… but where do I begin?
These two have been supporters and patrons at Stone & Glass for many years, since my first studio. When we visited their home it is almost like a James Stone private gallery exhibit. They have supported me through some of my best work. I love to visit their home and see my progress over the years. One of the many projects I created for them was their double door front entry. That was a big project. I had to have lots of help to get that one finished and installed. It had been about three years ago and every time I drive up to their home it takes my breath away. A few months back they ask me to create a companion piece for their side door. By the time you read this it will be installed. The real treat for me was that she is also an artist herself, was very involved in the co-creating the piece. She came into the studio and worked directly with us on the final finish. It’s very exciting to have talented artists that actually can and want to work together to create something even better than any one of us could do on our own. We are already talking about their next project. I am so excited to be working with her. Thank you, for your encouragement, patience love and support.
I had this lovely woman show up one day with her mother in tow. I really think that her mother was not very fond of us initially. The daughter (my client) was building a large new house. She wanted some custom lighting pieces. In the beginning, we were having trouble understanding each other. But by the time the first project was due; we had developed a clear line of communication and were on the path to building a great patron artist relationship. I really enjoyed making her pieces, but I am most proud that after a significant vender screw-up which resulted in a significant delay, I was still able to finish the two pieces we were working on and get them installed by Christmas, in time for her large family gathering. We are now working on our third piece which I am very excited to create because like the frog, I have struggled to get the color correct, but we finally nailed it and will soon blow the needed pieces. Once again, the client believed in us from the beginning and handed us a challenge and the opportunity to stretch ourselves on multiple fronts and fulfill her dream. Thank you!
Mixed Media Wall Sculpture
There’s another wonderful couple who have become collectors of my artwork and decorated their home with blown pieces. They own a second home on the beach. She originally came to me to create a wall sculpture for their beach home, loved our copper fountains but we both agreed it did not seem like a good idea to put water on a wall. We began to look at a cut and cast sculpture but she wanted more dimension. So I came up with the idea combining aluminum and copper to create the “James Stone” fountain look. That turned out to be challenging because you can’t weld copper and aluminum together, they have to be machine screwed together. Yet another challenging project, but one that was well within my skill set, in the end, it came together beautifully, installed without a single hitch and they are enjoying the addition to their beautiful ocean front property. Thanks for the opportunity and for the patience to work out all the small details. Everyone at Stone & Glass loved working on that piece and it showed.
After such a wonderful year, what’s next? What do I hope 2019 brings? I want to have more opportunities like the ones I had this past year. I am preparing for the more intense projects by advancing Jon, my assistant, into a teaching position. Jon will be taking over many of my classes, so I have more time to develop opportunities for larger custom commission projects. It’s been a number of years since I have created a public installation piece, maybe this year one will appear.
I am also working on writing my biography. When I agreed to take on this project I had no idea what a huge job it would be to get it all down and that is before I really have anything to publish and promote. I am 29,000 words into the project and I am barely past chapter 1. Because I’m an artist, I am also hoping to create a series of new blown glass pieces based on my story. The pieces will be featured in the book and hopefully, I can get a “solo” traveling show of the actual pieces. When we are finally ready to make the pieces, I will be reaching out to my friends, family and patrons to help with the cost of getting everything done. Remember, no one can do great things without great support.
Happy New Year!
Other than that, Carol and I will be working to make Stone & Glass a better place for everyone involved. We want to continue to foster a warm, open and creative environment for our people and patrons. I am wishing each and every one of you a happy, healthy new year filled with peace, love and success in your own life journey.
We were fortunate to have Roberto Beltrami, Murano Glass Maestro in our studio this summer; we have the honor of presenting a limited number of his signature pieces made in Murano Italy in our Gallery. It’s a rare opportunity to find genuine Murano glass available here in Escondido.
Artists from the beginning of time have needed a patron or a series of patrons to support their creative efforts and allow them to develop their personal talents. There are all kinds of patrons. The best ones give you money and want nothing in return except to share in the feelings of your success. Then there are the ones who need to have some specific part of you in return for their support. They are good to have because they usually just buy your biggest and best pieces, without negotiation. Their support moves your career forward by allowing you to create another piece, usually from your heart.
Finally there is a third type of patron, the one that is willing to support your efforts as long as you support their dream. Seems these patrons may really want to make art themselves but for whatever reason cannot. Assuming they value your abilities at the same rate that you do, they can be an asset. Also, assuming that you and they have a clear line of communication and understanding of their desires, that relationship can be very rewarding for all involved and precipitate a great outcome. This third type of patron can also prove to be a nightmare, for both of you.
I have been blessed with all three types. My all-time favorite patron was one who first commissioned me to make a significant and fabulous piece from his home. He then created a fabulous piece for me to sell in my gallery and in between when we were under extreme distress due to a catastrophic almost career ending fire, he was the first to show up, write a check to help us get back in business and he ask nothing in return. This has become one of my most endearing relationships.
Every project has a story.
A couple of months ago I became engaged with the third type of patron. This family has commissioned me to make custom art for their home and family several times. Each time we were commissioned they ask me to make something I had never made before. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, when you are confronted with a challenge that you have never done before it takes practice to get it right.
In my case, because I have such a huge ego, I always assume that I can make the piece right the first time out. I make that particular mistake over and over again.
In this case my patron wanted to create a memorable piece as a gift for his adult son. His son has had the same stuffed frog from the time he was a young boy. The frog has traveled the world and become a treasure to his children too. The patron thought it was a brilliant idea to make a glass replica of his frog as a way to immortalize the memories.
Even though I had only made a few frogs during my long career, because I valued this patron, I agreed to do the project. Then the fun ensued. First, he sent me a picture of his son’s frog. He wanted it to look just like his son’s treasured frog. Ok, I probably should have walked away right then. Was I smart enough to do that, noooo I wasn’t?
Color tests and prototypes.
So off we go to do color tests, about three sets. We had to drag the customer back in to approve the color. Then, that stinking frog had a certain look in the face, so there were face tests. We were finally ready to make an attempt at making the entire frog. The first three attempts were total failures. They were good learning experiences but yielded only a loss of time, materials and opportunity to make something else that I could sell. At this point I realized that I had already exceeded our agreed upon budget for the project. I was willing to make one more attempt and include it in the original price, but even if I was successful I would end up paying this patron for the privilege of making him this piece. I hate being in this position. But, I thought it was fair on my part to at least make the next attempt.
On the scheduled blow day, I went over all the intricacies of the project with my intrepid team and started the piece. It went really well, all the way through to the end. I was getting ready to take the piece off the pipe and put it in the box to cook it all night when I committed a rank beginner mistake. As I got up to put the stinker in the box I “tailed the bench.” That flipping frog jumped right off the pipe and committed suicide on the floor. I was a broken man, broken. I am now a couple thousand dollars in the hole and nothing to show for it and a looming unmovable deadline.
Thank you Roberto Beltrami.
My salvation showed up in the oddest way. The studio was expecting a visiting glassblower from Italy the following week to conduct an intensive class. The class was not completely full so we ended up with a young and very skilled glass artist in our studio for an extra two days. So as not to waste his time or the studio time, I went ahead and hired him to help me with a few extremely complex pet projects, the “Stinker” became one of those projects. Even with his talent the piece was a challenge and indeed needed to be “fixed in post” (an old video production term from my former career). But we got it done and as you can see it came out as one of my truly best pieces to date.
Now, back to the patron
By the time we got to the piece finished, after 5 attempts and a significant post production job we were 100% underwater. I call the client to approve the work so far and discuss what is it we need to do to complete the job. The patron, as patrons and clients often do, had yet another surprise for me. He wanted the frog sitting on a “throne” like the chairs I make. I can honestly say that at that point I was on the verge of a personal meltdown. Thank heaven I am married to a strong and beautiful woman who somehow knows exactly what to say and do in these situations. With Carol’s help we negotiated what needed to be done to complete the project at an agreed price which allowed us to recover from the tortuous road I went down. In the end the patron agreed to cover all of our costs and allowed us to make a little money.
The moral of the story for me, is think about all the possible ways a project can go wrong before you agree to take it on. For the patron, if you commission an artist to create your dreams be prepared to travel with them throughout the entire journey of discovery and be prepared to support it.
Did I learn a lesson?
One final note, did I learn a lesson here? Probably not. I agreed to yet another giant project, which I have never done before, for favored a patron. I am embarking on creating a life-size octopus on a coral reef in cast color change crystal. Stay tuned, Carol will keep you updated, maybe even with pictures.
This is especially sweet as we approach our first anniversary in our new studio. It was most definitely the entrepreneurial spirit that kept us focused on reopening after the fire that closed our studio in April 2017.
We are beyond excited to announce that Murano Glass Maestro Roberto Beltrami will be working, teaching and showing in our studio gallery in September. This is a young man that shares our passion to keep glass blowing alive.
Roberto started his career in glass in his late teens working with some of the best Murano glassmakers, including Pino Signoretto, Oscar Zanetti and Paolo Crepax. He also assisted Maestro Lino Tagliapietra for a short period in the making of his avventurine miniature series.
Roberto was born near Milan Italy, moved to the United States when he was 16 and studied theoretical physics at Boston University before approaching the world of glass. In 2015 he became the first and only glass master under 35 chosen to teach students at the Abate Zanetti glass school in Murano, where he was later hired as chief production and glass master.
He opened his own glass factory in Murano in January, 2017 at the age of 25, striving to find innovations in both the artistic and the technical aspects of glass production. His start-up business is currently employing 8 people and is rapidly growing, thanks to the markets positive feedback on his innovative ideas.
Artist reception on Friday Aug 31, 4pm to 7pm.
You will have an opportunity to meet Roberto, view and purchase his most recent work.
3 day workshop for Intermediate Glass Blowers, September 1, 2 and 3.
This will be just the second of two workshops Roberto is teaching on this visit to the United States. Where is the first you ask – Pilchuck – yep little old Stone and Glass is second only to the famed Pilchuck Glass School.
We open our doors by reservation and share the science and history of glass with students ages 6+ years of age, in groups of 10 to 30 students. We begin with an introduction, the history of glass and a safety discussion. Moving on to the main attraction; you will see a glass blowing demonstration followed by a hands on activity and finish with a question and answer session.
Each participant will take home a souvenir glass coin.
Fee for the trip is based to the number of participants, each child under 9 must be accompanied by an adult.
For more information on bringing a group to Stone and Glass please call 760-294-7447 or email email@example.com
We offer a similar experience for adult groups too.