George Benner

   "My first real involvement in lapidary came in 1992. A very good friend was involved as president of the Toy-ki Silvercraft Club here in Sun City West, Arizona. We were talking and I expressed an interest in learning both lapidary and silver craft. He took me on a short tour of both facilities here in Sun City West. Both clubs have flourished this being a retirement community, which encourages arts and crafts.  

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   My first involvement with intarsia started as a result of an article in the Rock and Gem Magazine detailing the intarsia school conducted by Jim Kaufmann in Sedona, Arizona. I contacted Jim and invited him to come to Sun City West and put on a short program about intarsia. Many of our members expressed an interest in taking the course, but n the end I was the only one who signed up for the 5-day class. I have a medical problem with rheumatoid arthritis and of course during my class it flared up. Jim was very understanding and said that when it cleared up to give him a call and I could restart and complete the course. I did complete the course a few weeks later.

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   After my return to Sun City West I made several pieces just to keep my skills. Then other members of the Johnson Lapidary Club wanted to learn how to do it and I accommodated them by conducting a short course sponsored by the Club. Since those days many more members have taken the training and many have become quite proficient.

   A couple of years after I started intarsia I decided to enter some of my work at the Arizona State Fair. At that time, the lapidary arts had a fairly god representation at the fair. On my first entry, I won a blue ribbon for my efforts. A couple of years later in 2003, I entered for the second time. My work had improved over the intervening years and this time I won not only the blue ribbon for my work but also the Martin Koning Award Outstanding Lapidary Exhibit and a purple ribbon for best if show. I am particularly interested in incorporating opal, lapis and various jaspers into my work. I have enough projects in my mind and roughed out on paper to keep me busy for several years.  

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   I have been continuously fascinated by the work shown in the Lapidary Journal and Rock and Gem magazines. Certainly as I attended various trade and craft fairs I have seen considerable growth in this aspect of lapidary arts. I think it is only through efforts like this that this little segment of the lapidary arts will prosper and grow."

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