George H.W. Bush
41st President of the USA
His Royal Highness
The Aga Khan
Duke & Duchess
of Westminister


Hawaii and Tucson

Lyle Sopel -

Dear Collector Friend,

Being immersed in an azure lit environment and surrounded by magenta and crimson tinted skies certainly leaves one filled with a sense of harmony and oneness with nature’s beauty. My first excursion in Hawaii was full of eventful occasions, as well as days that comprised of just observing the expansive primordial power of the ocean. Before the invitation to attend a recent fine art event in Maui, I spent many months preparing designs and working through the remainders of some of my most rare materials, both semi-precious and precious gemstones. I began the very involved process of creating new pieces for this event. What subjects to create and materials to use is always my first concern. One would think that ocean mammals would make the most sense, yet experience has showed me differently.

It seems the more eclectic my subjects are, the stronger reception I receive. So I actually began with my search here in my own environment of the West Coast. I also included some mammals that are native to Hawaii. For instance, a few years ago after swimming with a couple of turtles, I promised myself I would get back to the studio and create a turtle piece. Following that event this is exactly what I did. For years I have had so much reverence for the iconic sea turtle. I found the purest jade to execute the piece, selecting the greenest specimen that I could source out. This luminescent piece was deep green with bright emerald-like chromium spots. I created the piece trying to incorporate a character-like appearance in the turtle.

I had this piece completed in time for the next art event held in Maui. I remember this piece very fondly. And now some very good collector friends have this sculpture in their secondary home in California, near San Diego. It’s a perfect setting for this delightful and impressive work of art. It is thrilling for me to know that all of the struggle, sourcing, and finally sculpting of this piece has evolved into bringing not only myself a feeling of immense satisfaction, but great joy to my collectors and to their family and friends as well. Before this trip ended I did also get to swim with the turtles. I remember in particular one very stoic creature whom I spotted while out among the reefs. He didn’t swim towards me, but rather I swam as close to him as I could. Although I was close enough to touch him, this wise and noble creature of the sea made sure to keep his guard when I reached out my curious hand. As a vulnerable mortal playing in his environment I felt ever so fortunate to even have glimpsed briefly into his world of aquatic wonder.

After a few sublime days of relaxation, Colette and I headed over to Arizona to take part in the gem and mineral expedition. In order that I may obtain the highest-grade stones and materials on the planet, it is essential that we take trips to visit the miners and purveyors of rare specimens of stone. Strangely, when we arrived it was very overcast and there was even a little rain. It seems that visiting this area always brings a little surprise in terms of the weather. Being from a relatively colder environment, my brain is programmed to think that going to the desert means being in the heat and sun. Well, this is not always the case. For instance, a couple of years ago the snow that usually only falls in the nearby mountains of Tucson crept into the city. Frozen pipes closed roads. This event in turn supported vendors who were selling items of gorgeous cashmere clothing from Tibet. They acquired a nice little fortune that year by selling mitts, scarves and blankets to global visitors as well as locals. Considering the early morning chill, and that all of our sourcing-out with purveyors is done outdoors, we indulged in some blankets. Cashmere for $30.00 a pop- who could resist? So, this year we were prepared for the little bit of rain that came. Being that a day of rain in the desert will most likely not repeat for sometime, around mid afternoon the skies cleared up and stayed that way for the rest of the trip.

lyle with rocks     blog pics 2

As I have tried to communicate following other trips to this area, the goal of this researching is to acquire the finest material for the best value, as well as to establish a reliable contact that we may continue to place orders with. Through the years I have found miners whom I believe to be some of the most industrious individuals on the planet. Not only do they have to navigate the elements of some of the most remote areas, they now have to deal with aspects of the political environment as well. For instance, getting certain gemstones, such as lapis lazulite, is now nearly impossible. In previous years this was also very difficult, but with the right political pull a specimen could be obtained. Now, large companies that never make it to a global market literally gobble up all of the high quality and sizeable pieces.

This year I was able to find a smallish piece that has exceptional colour. And when I say an exceptional colour you might ask, “What exactly is that”? This is the colour of blue that I lust over, a deep blue without any other influence of white or grey streaks, which most of the lapis in the market now has. The blue I am after is sometimes known as a cobalt so deep in colour that it almost becomes violet. It is shockingly beautiful when polished. I would have liked to acquire more, but rather than settle with a sub-par colour I chose only this small, perfectly coloured slab. When sculpted, sanded and polished, this will no doubt be a much sought-after gem.

Traversing the exhibition area with Colette and Kurtis, our IT graphic design team member, we all kept our eyes peeled for the exceptional. A great deal of the outdoor exhibition is filled with similar stones of varying grades. It is tempting to select stones that are appear to glisten as the sun illuminates their surfaces. Yet, once some previous purchases hit my studio shelf I felt there was not enough light and life in them to really be of use to me. This year I was fortunate to come across some unique stones that are literally millions of years old, and in the most unlikely of places too. Staying open to finding a treasure in unpredictable places, I stumbled into what appeared to be an antique vendor’s domain. My first glance was not promising, but after viewing further into a corner, I found a material that blew me away. In over 25 years of attending this show, I have never seen a specimen of such a high quality. This is a stone that I have used in the past, but I have had to reduce my use of it due to its scarcity. And here, before my eyes, as if it was waiting for me, was this ultra fine, pure white petrified wood gemstone in a scale that I find to be wonderfully inspiring. When incorporated with other gems, this significant material will make an impressive presentation. This is one aspect of working in this medium that I love – the little surprises.

Art, Nature, and Beauty Always,


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