OLAH offers new lapidary club

EVART — Raw stones of all sizes, shapes and colors are becoming beautiful works of art at the Osceola League for Arts and Humanities studio, as grinding and polishing takes place while friendships develop.

OLAH members Jim Pylman, Paul Maitre, Pat Ermatinger, Sue Edwards and Dave Ladd are members of a group who enjoy and want to promote the art of lapidary. For $4 per day, interested parties can learn the craft and use the studio from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The studio, located at 207 N Main St. in Evart, has stone grinders with different grit finishing grades, a stone cutter, and polisher machine available for use.

"You're basically taking a slab of raw stone and creating something beautiful," Pylman said. "We have a large variety of raw stones here to give and to sell."

Once a lapidarist selects a stone and determines a shape, he or she cuts the stone to that shape and secures it to a stick with dob wax, which is strong enough to keep the stone in place while grinding. Grinding begins at an 80-grit grinder to define the shape desired, then the lapidarist progresses to grinders with a higher grit scale until 3,000 grit, which takes out any surface scratches and imperfections in the piece. Once the desired look is achieved, the stone is polished with cerium oxide. Depending on the project, a lapidarist can finish a stone in as quickly as 30 minutes.

"I think it's the beauty of lapidary that attracts me," Pylman added. "It's fantastic what you can do in one day. The whole process is pure satisfaction."

The club is the only one within a couple hours travel, according to Maitre. His interest began after a coworker and lapidary enthusiast introduced him to the art, and he founded the club in Evart.

"Through a series of events, I came in contact with OLAH and everyone here was receptive to it," he said. "I offered to show them what I know and they ran with it."

He has about 1,000 pounds of stones, but continues to purchase more as he goes through phases of favorites, including opals, blue crazy lace, obsidian and different types of agate. Stones from around the world can be purchased online and at gem and mineral trade shows.

"Once you start, it's hard to stop," Maitre said with a laugh. "People travel hundreds of miles to buy stones."

Ermatinger agreed.

"No matter where you're at, you're doing this. You're looking for stones in roads, you're looking on land, you're looking on beaches," she said.

Before lapidary, Ermatinger began working with wire in the '70s. By putting both loves together, she created a new hobby. Now, she wraps her cut, polished stones with wire, making intricate designs for necklace pendants, earrings and more. Many of her pieces are inspired by nature, but work from other jewelry designers can also spark a new idea.

The club members hope local residents visit the studio, learn about lapidary and try the craft for themselves. They look forward to networking, sharing their hobby, offering the chance for others to share in it and the social time and friendship that can form as a result.

"You'll get a sense of accomplishment when you leave afterward," Ermatinger added. "You'll come out of here with something you really value."

For more information about the lapidary club or OLAH, call (231) 734-9900 or Jim Pylman (231) 287-7566.