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Artist John Bi­gart has a stone-cold pas­sion for cre­at­ing nat­u­ral, func­tional and af­ford­able art.

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Artist John Bi­gart has a stone-cold pas­sion for cre­at­ing nat­u­ral, func­tional and af­ford­able art.

Sev­eral of years ago, John Bi­gart read a quote by Pablo Pi­casso that said: Ev­ery child is an artist, The prob­lem is how to re­main an artist we grow up." For this creative full-time em­ployee of a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, it stuck a chord. Mak­ing func­tional art (like clocks, coast­ers lazy Su­sans and can­dles) with rocks is John's at­tempt at be­ing a grown up artist. And so he started his com­pany, Mon­tana Rock De­sign from his home base of Al­ber­ton, Mon­tana.

"It's not a job, it's an experience. I ex­plore the rocks.up that’s and moun­tains,not Many throwthe peo­ple­case.a do­ing bunchMy thinkmy sonof rocks­best andI just to I in climb­back find the the beau­ti­fulbed, through truck­but the ing shapes hills,for the and metic­u­lous­lyper­fect colors. spec­i­men­sSome scourof themthe — ground­just have the lichen­look-right on out them.in back­pack­sWhen we or find on them, sleds. we It’s carry ac­tu­ally thema won­der­ful work­out,” he says with a chuckle.

John doesn’t al­ter the nat­u­ral shapes of the rocks in any way. He uses them in the state that he finds them, whether the edges are jagged and rough or so straight and clean you’d swear they were cut by a ma­chine.

But to cre­ate his sig­na­ture pieces — his rock can­dles — John can’t leave it all to Mother Na­ture. It does take a skilled hand and some man­power.

In his shop (con­ve­niently lo­cated be­hind his 75-year-old log home), he gen­tly cleans his found trea­sures, tak­ing care not to lose their sin­gu­lar beauty. Then, with a large drill fit­ted with a ma­sonry bit, he bores a small hole (or two or three de­pend­ing on the piece) through the rock. Af­ter spray­ing off the rock dust and let­ting it dry, he af­fixes re­cy­cled ash­trays with con­struc­tion ad­he­sive (a su­per-strong glue) to the base of rock be­neath the holes. The shal­low trays serve as the re­fill­able re­cep­ta­cles for the lamp oil or cit­ronella that fuel the fire, but al­low for a very low pro­file so you don’t see the base. On the vis­i­ble sur­face of the rock, John sprays a coat of polyurethane, which gives it a dewy look. Then to fin­ish it off he in­serts fiber­glass wicks em­bed­ded in cop­per tub­ing into the drilled holes and voila! The re­sult ap­pears as if the rock is on fire.

John’s other pieces are just as creative, like his fun “It’s 5 O’clock Some­where” rock

clock, his hand­made ta­bles con­structed from large slabs and all-nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als or his lazy Su­sans that bring the cool-fac­tor back to this old-fash­ioned gad­get.

But no mat­ter what project John is work­ing on, for him it’s as much about the process as it is the end re­sult. “My of­fice isn’t in a build­ing with flu­o­res­cent lights, a desk or a com­puter; it’s the great out­doors,” he says. “Of­ten, while I’m work­ing, I stop what I’m do­ing, take a deep breath, lis­ten to the sounds and ab­sorb the beauty that sur­rounds me. My de­sire is to share this beauty by cre­at­ing unique func­tional art for friends all over the world.”

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TOP: Hid­den be­neath each stone is a con­cealed, re­fill­able tray that holds the oil. The fiber­glass wick should last a life­time.

RIGHT: The Bi­gart fam­ily lives in a 75-year-old Mon­tana log cabin. His stu­dio is also lo­cated on the prop­erty.

ABOVE: In ad­di­tion to rock can­dles, John makes other stone goods, like ta­bles, coast­ers, lazy Su­sans and clocks. The one pic­tured is his kitschy “It’s 5 O’clock Some­where” time­piece.

LEFT: For out­door en­joy­ment, fill the oil well with cit­ronella to keep the bugs at bay.

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