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Travel / Adventure / Nonfiction
Wanderlusting: A Collection of Travel Stories by Gary McWilliams
ISBN number: 978-0-578-07507-5    LCCN: 2011924970

STONE YARD IN A BOAT YARD

Stone Arts of Alaska

In 1999, with money from the sale of the Hyak, I opened Stone Arts of Alaska. I was interested to see if I could make my living with stone. Over the years, I had found many beautiful varieties of marble I could sell to sculptors, in addition to crystals I could sell to collectors, lapidary stone I could sell for jewelry, naturally sculpted boulders I could sell to landscapers. I also wanted to do stone art, particularly sculpture, myself. I chose to open my business in Craig, Alaska, on Prince of Wales Island. Craig was an ideal location. It is both a very fine community, of about fifteen hundred people, and proximate to the marble I both use and sell.

Craig had a new industrial park, located out of town but on the ocean's edge. As the park's first occupant, Stone Arts of Alaska had its pick of lots. I chose the lot most distant from the road and closest to salt water's edge. With old growth forest behind and the ocean to the side, it is a most pleasant place to work. Eagles and ravens are daily company.

Stone Arts of Alaska was the sole occupant of the industrial park for three years. Then, I sometimes had more bears walking through my stone yard than customers.

bear in the stone yard

Photo: More bears than customers.

Since paying customers were few, I took on the job of supplying construction stone for a new high school. The front of the school was to be faced with a greenstone from the island. I and one employee, Kim Patoska, split stone with a sledge hammer for six months. The job damn near killed me but it supplied additional start-up money for the business. I bought a fork lift, stone carving equipment, and six twenty-foot-long shipping containers which were made into workshops, showrooms, and an office.

The industrial part is now fully occupied. I am surrounded by a boat repair facility, a diesel engine repair shop, a welder, a salmon smokery, a fuel dock, and more. Commercial fishermen, during their off-season, are often in the boat yard working on their vessels. I watch them with a sublime pleasure that I no longer need do all that labor. But, also, and particularly when they are putting their freshly-painted boats back in the water, with a nostalgia I can barely stand. I miss my Hyak, a big comfortable boat that could go somewhere.

Over time, Stone Arts of Alaska flourished, with both its physical and human components expanding. It is now a peculiar combination of stone yard, rock shop, art studio, and art gallery. I use over fifty varieties of stone in my stone art, all locally derived and found by myself.

At about the same time that I sold the Hyak, I realized myself ready for another major life change. I wanted a woman in my life, not a she made of wood. Maybe at long last I was ready to settle down. And, with luck far beyond my deserving, I met Karen. As I write this, we are on our eighth year and I expect it to be for our lifetime.

I write in the mornings and do stone art in the afternoons. I still go "outside" in the winters, now traveling with Karen, our recent trips to Sicily, Crete and Mexico—always Mexico. We also share a winter home outside Bellingham, Washington. I have another boat, twenty-four feet and aluminum, and take days off to explore and look for new stone.

Gary McWilliams at sculpture
Working on sculpture "Male," completed 2006.
aluminum boat
Aluminum boat: Sadie Mae.

See website: www.stoneartsofalaska.com

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Copyright © 2011 by Gary McWilliams
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