by JEFF SPRY Cascade A&E Feature Writer
Entering the home studio of acclaimed local artist Lawrence Stoller is like discovering Aladdin’s magical Cave of Wonders, with glittering gemstones and shining crystal sculptures enticing the eye at every turn. For nearly 30 years, this Central Oregon lapidary wizard has been shaping and polishing these illuminating treasures of the Earth.
Fusing art and technology, his Megagem creations grace the homes of celebrities, tech moguls and an international roster of discriminating clients. His works explore rare beauty and inspire the imagination to new realms. Stoller crystals are seen in museums, exclusive art galleries, national rock and gem shows, corporate offices and even the 9/11 “Eleven Tears Memorial” across from Ground Zero in New York City.
“Crystals are archetypal in the human psyche and the idea of them having resonating properties and powers is very compelling,’’ he explained. “Interest in crystals and crystal art is soaring right now. One of the places the idea stems from is that they are minerals, one of the hardest substances known, harder than steel, and yet you can see into and through them. Also, their pyroelectric properties of giving off sparks further adds to the magic. Crystals have been used ritualistically for ages by shamans and around campfires in every culture. And at the same time they are the bedrock of our modern computer technologies and embody marvels of creation we don’t fully understand.”
Quartz crystals are designed to last millennia and beyond. Scientifically defined by the Mohs Scale, only diamond, corundum (ruby and sapphire) and topaz are classified as harder. The feldspar group of minerals makes up a sizeable portion of the Earth’s crust. No other single component of this family is as prevalent as almighty quartz, comprising nearly 12 percent of the entire geologic mixture.
Stoller’s captivation with the hypnotic transparent mineral began at an early age, as a young treasure hunter scanning the ground for fortune or inside whatever hidden caverns it may lurk.
“When I was five years old, I went to play at my friend Mitch’s house,” he recalled. “Finding myself alone in his room, I began looking through his dresser. In the bottom drawer, among plastic army men and dinosaurs, was a fist-sized chunk of quartz. I picked it up and was dazzled, struck by the moment. There was a memory of recognition that transcended my young life’s experience, a defining moment of pure awe.”
As a young man seeking the Meaning of Life, Stoller received his first quartz crystal by a Native American wisdom teacher, Brooke Medicine Eagle. She told him that spirit worlds live within the veils, sending him on a laser-focused quest for beauty that continues to this today.
“Each crystal I work on is a courtship,” he described. “Replete with all the passions, complexities and commitments worthy of any meaningful relationship. It is a co-creative process. I work on it; It works on me.”
“I often come across a crystal that has been badly broken, hammered by time and circumstance, reconfigured from its millions-of-years-old hexagonal shape. I allow its cleaved body to guide me in the grinding transformation from fractured chunk of stone into an object designed to capture, transport and release the engines of imagination.”
Stoller prowls the Earth, from Brazil to Zambia, Madagascar to Russia, in search of suitable crystals and minerals to use for his next sparkling masterpiece, ranging from simple, palm-size charms to enormous keg-size monster gems weighing over a ton. Ten years ago he cut the largest crystal in history, a 1400-pound citrine quartz boulder unearthed in Africa which he affectionately calls “The Golden One.” Touring his workshops and finishing rooms, one is immediately confronted with the other-worldly wonder of this glowing stone icon.
“At the time it was the biggest transparent rock ever cut,” he said, turning on the crystal’s pedestal light, causing the stone to pulsate with fractured color within. “We spent three years building the studio and working it, myself, Peter Small and Timothy Turco. It was a formidable creative marathon.”
His studio walls are filled with rough stock crystals on shelves and in bins, organized according to size and hue, from purple and gold to garnet-red and aquamarine. Some have been purchased from old government stockpiles over the years, after new technologies rendered their intended use obsolete, appropriately turning crystals from tools of war to works of art. Quartz is one of the planet’s most abundant minerals and can naturally form a six-sided prism, but its appeal and intrinsic properties are far from the mere mundane.
“Most people call crystals rocks but technically they are non-organic life forms, having grown at a prehistoric rate of time, enduring millions of years of pressure, heat and cooling. Crystals also exhibit a piezoelectric property that allows them to amplify, condense, focus and resonate electromagnetic energy. They can be used as tools for healing and medical applications as well as personal companions who exude a palpable and irresistible presence. I see them as harmonic resonating sculptures due to their natural oscillating personalities. As my wife, Sunni, points out – “First we brought plants into our homes, then animals and now the mineral kingdom.”
When Stoller started there were only small gemstone cutting machines used mostly for jewelry. Now, through innovation and imagination, he’s incorporated, among other things, a giant saw with a 5-foot-diameter diamond blade.”
“I call it the Yellow Submarine,” he joked, gesturing to a huge blue and yellow steel box hunkered down in his garage. “We modified it from an industrial jade boulder cutting machine. There’s no one else in the world doing work like this.”
With blue eyes glinting like one of his gorgeous crystal incantations, no one can deny Stoller’s fierce creative drive.
“I believe the soul resides in Nature. Looking through the transparent window of a quartz crystal immediately transports me into a pristine sanctuary that has been untouched for millions of years. Within the stone is an impeccably preserved artifact of creation, documenting the evolution of our planet, frozen in time. Or is it frozen time itself?”
In the grinding room, Stoller and his assistants, Ingrid Mrencso and Timothy Turco, shape smaller raw pieces on a converted diamond-cutter’s bench, grinding and shaping the crystals using a diamond-lap wheel made of steel and tiny impregnated diamonds.
“It’s all done by hand and takes big chunks of time and a high degree of skill,” he said. “We go through a very extensive, seven or eight-step process to get the finished result, from initial selection to sawing, shaping and final polish.”
Stoller has identified four fields of interest that draw people to crystals and he finds himself immersed in each of them: mineralogy, technology, art and metaphysics. His 2007 coffee table book, “Frozen Light: The Eternal Beauty Of Crystals” is a glimpse into the dazzling spectrum of crystals and contains kaleidoscopic galleries of both polished crystals and natural, sculpted pieces.
“Working in this medium blends the physical and the metaphysical. The natural physics of quartz leads to the discovery and understanding of their mysterious properties. They’re inherently beautiful, often breathtakingly so. You could say being with crystals is the original way of getting stoned.”
Stoller’s Crystalworks showroom is open to the public by appointment only. For more about Stoller visit him at www.crystalworks.com.