Yes, After Twenty Years Living and Working, Here in The The Roaring Fork Valley, Kris and I are Pulling Up Stakes, and Moving On
And so, on May 1st, 2023, a full six years to the day on which we took posession of the place, we will hand over the keys to 111 Aspen Airport Business Center, Suite D, and head out on the open road
Introducing: THE KMJ Stoneworks Travelling Gallery
~ ~ ~
THE KMJ Stoneworks Travelling Gallery
is bound for
The Great American Mid West
The reasons for our departure are many, but in short, Kris and I feel that the time has come to leave the Rocky Mountains and relocate our lives in less severe circumstance than prevail here at 8,000 feet above sea-level. Also, The Roaring Fork Valley, and in particular Aspen, has change so much over the two decades we have spent here so as to be quite unrecognizable from the sleepy Alpine community that greeted us upon our arrival. In the end, the decision arrived quite easily.
There is a good reason why Aspen is world renowned for its natural beauty and magnificent skiing. Given its stunning location, plumb in the middle of the Rocky Mountain’s most spectacular point – the mighty Elk Range – it is difficult to see how indeed it ever could fail. But, if holding to tradition and maintaining the proverbial “livable city” is part of the program, then I guess they have suceeded in failing, and spectacularly so.
Gone are the ski bum apartments that funished the town with so many ‘colorful’ characters, back in the day, so too the bars and cheap eating holes that they frequented. Employee housing is now so scarce that a long commute faces those charged with the cleaning, cooking and maintaining of mansions, often built onto and over former miner’s cotages, many of them well lived in until recently. Retail has been reduced almost exclusively to selling wealthy women over priced clothes, handbags and ludicrous excessories. Letters to the Times now concern themselves with, not how great a place it is and how they love, but instead present a litany of gripes and complaints, leading to the inevitable plea; ‘when did Aspen lose its Mojo’? Potholes the size of shell craters now plague ever street and alley. And, just the other day, I read of a parking space in “the central core” going for, wait for it…. $400,000! So, you see, evertything appears to be pointing to the exit, and that’s where Kris and I are now headed. For pastures new.
However, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. Whatever my feelings regarding Aspen and the current woeful state of things, nevertheless, this valley has afforded me and my family a tremendous opportunity that I doubt I would have enjoyed elsewhere. And for that, I will ever be thankful, and, grateful.
The following slideshow reveals the extent to which the Roaring Fork Valley allowed me to prosper, learn and grow my passion into a way of life. For having arrived here in the autumn of 2003 I had but two years’ experience as a professional stone carver, having earned my NVQ Level two at the City of Bath College in England, after which I worked for Bath Stone and Phoenix Masonry as a banker mason for a year at each stone yard. But, almost upon arrival, jobs and opportunities presented themselves in a way that I could never have imagined. Soon I was ripping out faulty masonry and replacing it good, solid, structuraly correct stone that I cut in my own studio in Woody Creek. From there I went on to carve fireplace surrounds, entrance signs, large commisions and much else. Take a look.
Memorable as those photographs are for me, my mind wanders to the many, many unphotographed, or barely documented projects that I had the privellege to deliver, such as fireplace headers and exterior ‘trim’ for local stone yard, Pine’s Stone, and numerous private commissions, entrance signs and assorted tasks involving stone in all of its manifestations.
However, the highlight of my sculptural carreer, without a doubt, is my signature Collection Series Marble Sculpture; 67 light and portable Colorado Yule Marble Carvings. Sculpted over a period of several years, the continual action of carving piece after piece of quite superb marble allowed me to take my Curvilinear concept to levels I never thought possible within the natural stone world. Suddenly, I was producing wafer-thin bowls and sculpture to such dimension that light would pass through them as if it were stained glass. Take a look at the pictures below, and I’m sure you will see what I mean.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
Again, I must stress that what you see here is but a fraction of The Collection Series Marble Sculpture. As mentioned, the work stretches to 67 individual pieces, all of which you may examine by using the various gallery tabs at the top of the page. At the time of writing, aproximately half of them have sold, and the rest are just waiting for you to pick one out while they are still available for purchase.
And so, just where did I carve all of this distinctively different fine art marble sculpture, and almost everything else, for that matter. Follow me and I’ll show you the workshop where it all happened. Tiny, it is, but that’s all you need for a banker shop, with everything right at hand and ready for immediate application. Seconds matter when the same few tools are picked up and put down dozens of times a day. Let’s take a look at the Birdhaven Studio Workshop, 2003 to 2017, in Woody Creek, Colorado.
~ ~ ~
But, perhaps best of all, right alongside my lovely little banker shop, our cabin awaited with a refreshing cuppa tea, lunch break or snack, just 25 paces along the garden path. And just to the right, across the lawn and through a gate, stood the floating garden of Birdhaven Rocky Mountain English Country Garden. Take a look.
That’s the cabin on the left, with the workshop on the right, and sculpture garden straight ahead. My commute!
The Colorado Rocky Mountain English Country Sculpture Garden, or Birdhaven, as it became known, made itself the center of our world as it gradually swelled to a scale and proportion that Kris and I had never encountered before. It truly was a wildlife paradise, with birds and animals of all kinds enjoying the benefits of its shade, water and abundant food. We even created an Ice Palace one winter that remains to this day my largest sculpture to date.
The whole garden ‘floated’ on a bed of ditch water fresh out of the Woody Creek River, just a half-mile or so down the road. All in all, the whole 15 years that we were there bring back sweet memories indeed.
Finally, I will leave you with pictures of what perhaps constitutes our greatest achievement in this valley; the establishment of our beloved KMJ family business (Kris, Martin and Joseph – our son), first in the guise of THE KMJ Gallery, then as THE KMJ Stoneworks as we switched our focus from exclusively promoting my fine art marble sculpture, to embracing a wider retail experience with the inclusion of many functional and useful stone carvings utilizing Kansas Creme and Oklahoma Winterset, to stand side by side with my signature Colorado Yule Marble Collection Series. Three beautiful carving stones hailing from three beautiful neighboring states. And now, six years later we are closing our doors and moving on. So let’s take a look at how it developed down through the years.
Well, that’s just about it. This is the world that we are leaving – one that has been largely kind to us, but also, one that has placed limits on our upward mobility at the same time. Aspen, as I will remember it, served as a place that offered me a chance… albeit to fail, actually. And once I refused to do that, for whatever reason, a cloud descended upon my prospects and the oportunities eventually dried up. Aspen is, after all, here solely for the super rich and their attendants. And so – we’re off!
In my next post I will outline the plan to take our work to a whole new audience – namely, the Great American Mid West. Just how we aim to accomplish this with our KMJ Stoneworks Travelling Gallery? Well, click on the follow button in the column to the right of the page, and you will find out, soon enough.
~ ~ ~
Leaving Colorado: The Time Has Come
~ ~ ~
thanks for visiting martincooney.com
~ ~ ~