If you look at some of the most famous landmarks around the world, you’ll realize that those who work in stone played a huge role in the beauty we see; everything from statues to huge, ornate marble pillars. And that beauty extends to the local stone carvers working today. At least, that is the case when it comes to Eric Dobbs, owner and CEO of House of Stone, Inc.
“I got started in the industry thirty years ago,” Dobbs recollected. “I have always worked in stone installation, but around that time, I was working offshore, so I would work two weeks on and then two weeks off. I would visit Mexico when I had that time off.” During his stays, the stonework that he saw in the area really had an impact on him. Once he discovered where the stones originated, he got to work obtaining them, which led him to eventually open his own factory.
Considering Dobbs is a self-taught man, the things that he can create are even more incredible. His company supplies an assortment of statuary to everything from local country clubs and shopping centers throughout the west, and the sheer size of the pieces they create is staggering (think of a fountain that spans 90 feet from one end to the other). House of Stone, Inc. has a fun and varying portfolio, and regardless of whether it is a statue of the Archangel Michael or a decorative column, it is all equally stunning.
The great artist Michelangelo was known not just for his work as a sculptor, but also his quotes about seeing the finished images in a block of stone, and working at that block until he released that image he envisioned. Dobbs adopts the same philosophy, starting out with a large slab of granite or sandstone and using his skills to turn it into a thing of wonder. “Working with stone is creating a beautiful piece of art that will last for decades,” he said.
While a lot of companies have taken to computers to carve the stone into what they desire, Dobbs makes sure that his company keeps it old school and hand-carved. He starts with a large piece of whatever stone he may be working with and then sets it onto a very large lathe. As the lathe spins the stone, he uses a template as a guide so that he knows exactly what the finished piece should look like. He then gets a special bar which typically has a tungsten tip (for harder materials, like granite, a diamond tip is employed). Then begins what he described as a “long, slow process” of using the tungsten to clear the object of the unwanted stone.
Once that part is finished, then the stone has to be smoothed out and shaped (the process of applying the finishes being a totally different beast, depending on the kind). “If it is a column, then I have to drill out the center, because almost all of our columns are veneer, not structural,” Dobbs relayed. “You also have to be certain that you smooth out the inside, as well.” Sometimes, the stonework needs sprucing up, like the forty-foot sea serpent that they installed in the Simi Valley Mall—a project that took months to complete. After all of the intricate carving was finished, Dobbs affixed innumerable small pieces of colorful mosaic glass onto it to bring the creature of stone to life, teeth and all. No matter what he is working on, at the end of each project, everything is pressure washed and sealed to protect it for years to come.
You can find Dobbs’ exquisite work at locations that vary from the Bakersfield Country Club to the Venetian in Las Vegas. Much like the masters who came before him, Dobbs has that rare ability to see great potential in a seemingly common piece of earth—and he also has the skill to set that potential free.