Sculptor Russ Kaufman was first introduced to stone when he started working for Marathon Motor Coach of Oregon, installing marble floors in million dollar motor coaches. The variety and colors were amazing to someone who grew up in the small town of Alpine, Oregon. Because of the curves and exacting tolerances required for the job, he soon realized he could do inlays. The possibilities were endless. Full of the optimism of youth Russ moved to Florida to become a full time artist.
His first professional work, an abstract panther was nearly complete when it made the sound of a sixty pound piece of china as it shattered on the driveway.
Remembering the wise words of a glass man at Marathon when he broke a particularly expensive piece of glass, he said “I work with glass for a living, these things are going to happen.”
Un-discouraged Russ went on to create an even more ambitious piece called “Lonely“, and then taking the craft to the extreme, the back-lit and precise work “Leaving Rome” there are 37 pieces of stone in the chair alone.
Knowing nothing about art and even less about marketing, reality started catching up, and a job became necessary. Custom Craft Marble & Stone of Orlando, turned out to be a wealth of stone working knowledge and experience. Absorbing everything available Russ was soon getting all the interesting projects and difficult repairs that came in.
Then along came the pretty girl visiting from Vermont. Marred in 1996 Russ & Sharyn moved to Vermont. Using his “marble guitar” as a resume’ Russ found work at a sculpture studio. This was trial by fire because even though everything has to be learned, at a professional level you either can or you can’t. One mistake can destroy a sculpture worth more than a years pay, whereas timid moves in stone are terribly time consuming and produce weak results. Russ spent the first year cutting giant teddy bears and doing rough-out work. His first real carving job was Italian Renaissance capitals on a statue base.
“It was the dead of winter, I had no money, no work, and the bills were piling up. I got a call from a stone broker asking if I could carve capitals. I said "yes", with as much confidence as I could manage and gave him a price. Taking a substantial deposit on the job, I went to the local bank and took it all home in cash. I walked in the house and surprised my wife, handing her the stack. She looked at it for a few seconds yelled ‘yaaaaa’ and threw it up in the air. ~~~~ Then I had to figure out how to carve capitals.”
Russ & Sharyn kept the Vermont house they built together and moved to Maine in 2006