Andy Spence has been in business for 9 years as Stone Works by Andy Spencer, and he has been living in Idaho (after moving from Arizona) for just one year longer.
His love of working with stone started with a small tile/stone company in the early 90’s where he quarried and sold sandstone from the North Chino Valley of Arizona. This gave him a large supply of stone to create all kind of pieces. In 1990 Andy had formed his company, Arizona Stone Creations. This was the creative and artistic side of his business. The first picture frame he made was in 1993-1994, and it was given as a wedding gift. At the same time, he was also learning to bend neon. Some of his most creative expressions were brought out by mixing neon and stone. Unfortunately, in 2000 the neon market took a severe hit with a code change that described neon as a dangerous product for in home use, and this stopped most all of his neon work.
While most of the work Andy did in Arizona was done with sandstone, here in Idaho he has so many different types of beautiful stone that are workable. He used to especially love working with the East Fork of the Salmon River slates, because the stone had such a wonderful palate of colors and richness; however, this stone is no longer available. He now uses stones from the west side of Bear Lake, Quartzite from the City of Rocks area, Rhyolite from the Snake River near Bruneau, and slate from north of Sandpoint. His stones not only come from Idaho, but they also come from the western states of Arizona, Utah, Montana, and Nevada.
There are few methods that Andy utilizes for obtaining the various stones. One option is by pulling a permit or getting landowner approval to pick stones off their property. A second way he finds stones happens when people bring him pieces from their own property that they want turned into something unique. As a third option, he can visit local stone yards that have locally quarried stones, but the shipment of stones can often rough them up too much making them unuseable. It’s a tricky business trying to find the right stones. Andy studies each stone in search of a very specific size, shape, color, texture and a living edge. A living edge is an edge that is completely natural. It has seen the passage of time and shows that with the patina (or surface edging and coloring) on the edge of the stone.
The two main questions Andy gets are “How do you do it?” and “How many do you break?”. All of his work is done by hand with a mix of grinders, hammers, chisels and a bridge saw for cutting the angled base for the picture frames. Doing the work this way is tedious, demanding, very loud and dusty. The breakage on the picture frames averages 20%, but even this small amount of breakage tends to impress students who work with Andy who come to find out how difficult it truly is to work with stone.
In his free time, Andy envisions traveling the world with his family and working on his photography. Little do many customers know, but the photos shown in all the pictures frames that he sells are actually photos that he has taken. Part of his heart, and his inspiration, lie with Arcosanti in Arizona. This location was envisioned by Paolo Soleri, and it is a living experiment of ecology and architecture in the high desert north of Phoenix. He felt that working on projects and in workshops was a eye opening experience for him.
If you’d like to see more of Andy’s work, you can find him on his Facebook page, at the gift shop in the Idaho State Capitol Building, in McCall at 44 North Gallery and Gift, in West Yellowstone at Montana Gallery and Gift, and finally at the market each Saturday, which starts in just two and a half weeks!