Howard & Kaye Carter

   "I arrived rather late to the lapidary hobby. It was only after retiring from a 45 year career as a structural engineer that I was able to finally devote my attention to rocks. I had attended the mineral and gem society shows for years, marveled at the beauty of the gems and jewelry, and somehow decided that I would become a rockhound instead of a fisherman or a golfer, and enter a new world of earth science that I had never had time for while making a living.  

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   I joined the Monterey Bay Mineral Society, enrolled in some local college courses in geology, joined in rock collecting trips, took winter vacation visits to Quartzite and Tucson, bought a diamond saw and a Gem-Tek, a few how-to-do-it books, and I had found myself a new career.
   I learned to make cabs of all shapes and sizes, miniatures, monsters, and freeform. I glued slabs together, then shaped and polished them; made doublets and triplets of opal and plume agate; contoured and polished fire agate and chalcedony. Tried my hand at gemstone carving but gave it up as too unproductive. All this time I was accumulating drawer after drawer of polished beauties and realized that it was time for a new challenge. 

   I had also accumulated drawer after drawer of slabs with beautiful colors and patterns and even pictures if you could use your imagination. Big pictures are hard to come by, but by framing little portions of them to cut out all the distracting patterns, I discovered colors and shapes, movement, and even realistic scenes that rivaled any that I have observed in the impressionist and modern art exhibits in the galleries. My experience at the galleries also taught me that if you put a frame around anything, it becomes a work of art, even if it was the doodling of a monkey or an elephant. Voila! Let's put a frame around it! 

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   For years my relaxation hobby was woodworking, so of course the system of putting pieces together came naturally. I tried laminating, then mitering the frames, then inserting the pictures. This was difficult and seldom successful. Better results were obtained with more direct methods with butt joints. I think my next challenge will be to master a system for fabricating curved elements to give my gallery of pictures additional variety.
Many of my rockhound friends find ways to market the output of their hobby - some because they need the extra income and some just to cover the costs of the hobby they enjoy. So far I have resisted the idea of selling my lapidary products. When I sold my business to my employees and retired, I resolved to stay away from any activities with time pressures and deadlines; making and selling merchandise has both. When asked what I might sell some of my pieces for, I quote a price based on a piece of art rather than a craft item. So far there have been no takers and without gallery sponsorship and their promotion there will not likely be any. I have donated many wearable items to "white tie" service clubs or charity auctions where they were well received but were obtained at bids that made for real bargains.
   My family and close friends receive them as Christmas gifts. People who have done me a great favor or a special service receive them with a thank-you letter. My favorites are set up in a display case art gallery in my home for visitors to admire and help me title. In the meantime there are still drawers full of slabs with pictures to be discovered, trays full of the little rock strips of assorted colors and shades to be used for matt and frames (these I call my intarsia pallet), and the frustrated artist's desire to keep searching for the ultimate picture".

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