And the winner is…


This is a totally self-congratulating, apparently I did something good so indulge me kind of story, and may contain an expletive or two. Continue at your own risk.

I struggled whether or not I would write about this, but eventually came to the conclusion that this blog is about my life’s journey in the stone industry, and thus, the following events will certainly go down as the most special few days of my career. So, pretty important to mention, I suppose.

So, it’s convention season in Las Vegas, and I’ve just returned from The International Surface Event, which is the stone, tile and floor covering trade show held each January. The town was a madhouse, as massive crowds from the concrete industry, firearm industry, Redken cosmetics and the Adult film industry were also descending on Sin City for their own shows at the same time. Yes, porn stars apparently have their own convention.

It’s at this stone and tile show that the Natural Stone Institute, the organization that basically governs the international stone industry, holds their version of the Grammys, Oscars or whatever celebrities are propping up their self esteem with these days.

They have a few individual awards, as well as awards for superlative applications of natural stone, involving large international builders and stone contractors. These are known as the Pinnacle Awards, highly prized, and are juried by prominent architectural firms. Basically smart people with a lot of little acronyms after their names.

The Natural Stone Institute puts on a well-planned and very elegant awards ceremony, and I had found out a few months earlier that I had been named their Craftsman of the Year, as well as a Pinnacle Award recipient in the Carving/Lettering/Sculpture category for my sculpture Aura. As such, my wife and I were seated in the front row, a perfect opportunity to wear my finest Canali suit and Italian shoes, a strange sight for my employees who are used to my daily wardrobe of tattered flannels and Levis sprinkled with cat hair.

They announced the Craftsman award with a nice, introductory video (see below), and I walked on stage, said a few words (something about my wife being Wonder Woman, I vaguely recall) and had my picture taken with the current and past Presidents of the Natural Stone Institute, both quite tall gentlemen, reinforcing just how short I really am. Would it have killed you to have provided me a box to stand on?  The award itself is a beautiful, albeit very large, exquisitely engraved plaque made by the legendary Rugo Stone company in Virginia. Heavy too, which is why both guys were there to hold it. When I sat back down, the first thing out of my wife’s mouth was “How in the hell are we getting that home?”

A few awards later and it was time to announce the fourteen Pinnacle Award recipients.  Mine was first up, lucky me, so again I strutted on stage, posed for my short guy next to the giant pic, and sat back down, relieved that my night was over and I could just sit back, swat away the butterflies in my stomach, loosen my tie and enjoy the rest of the evening.

Of the remaining awards, there was a crazy application of bent marble from a company in Singapore (which I still can’t wrap my head around how they did it), a really cool wall application of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, an absolutely stunning pool in California with marble ladders,  I could go on, but I’ll include the link to all the projects below so you can see for yourself.

So, after all fourteen Pinnacle Awards are handed out, they name their Grande Pinnacle Award, which they deem the best over all categories. Big, high-profile projects with prominent architects showcasing big money public works, usually.

An Italian gentleman, Flavio Innocenzi from Marmomacc, the massive stone show in Verona Italy who sponsors the Grande Pinnacle, got on stage and said a few words about creativity, passion for the industry, blah, blah, blah. Not to be disrespectful, I just don’t remember, and my mind had already checked out for the evening.

Again, a video presentation began, and icons of the night’s projects started populating the screen. I smiled when mine popped up at the edge of the screen, but wondered who was going to emerge in the center and be the Big Dog. Probably the Singapore project or Rugo Stone’s Church project I assumed.

I was seated on the aisle, and people started gathering near me and the stage, filming the screen with their cell phones. I thought nothing of it, and honestly just announce it already, I have dinner plans.

A moment later and everything became a blur. I recall images of my sculpture on the screen, and I know that on one of those people’s cell phone there’s my voice proclaiming a startled “Holy fuck.” (Sorry, I warned you.)

Breaking with all convention, they named Aura as the 2018 Grande Pinnacle Award. I do remember walking across the stage again, then posing for several pictures with several different, but very important people. Flabbergasted architects, some attractive gal handing me a silver commemorative coin, which I still don’t know what for, chaos, bits and pieces, intense excitement, confusion… I was a reluctant stone industry celebrity for the moment, and as much as I appreciate the recognition, the spotlight and the temporary fame are not for me. I don’t know how celebrities live their whole lives in that state.

But wait, there’s more!

The next afternoon I joined a crowd gathered around the Stone World magazine exhibit to accept the 2018 Fabricator of the Year award. I knew in advance that I would be receiving it, and it too is a very special and prestigious award. But by then, I honestly just wanted to crawl under a rock somewhere and hide until the show was over, away from the public eye. At least my good friends Dave Scott and Marco Duran, both previous recipients of this award, stopped by and helped ease the spotlight.

Now that everything has blown over, I’m back to normal and can appreciate the significance of all this. Running a stone business is not all rainbows and unicorns. It’s a really tough and stressful business, and these awards have given me validation as a business owner, a craftsman and for the first time, a true and legitimate artist.

Now I have to figure out where I’ll put all this new hardware in our showroom.

Title photo courtesy of Kim Photography LLC/

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