Al came into our life about 10 years ago… He was just eighteen and pumping gas at the local station. He had been looking for something a little more fulfilling and challenging to take on and came into the shop one day. We talked and I noticed his intellect right away. He had the ability to carry on and keep up with interesting conversations on complicated subjects; a skill not all teenagers possess. At the time I wasn’t hiring, but I asked him to check back with me. A few weeks later he did and I offered him a job.
I told him he’d have to start from the bottom of the ladder in the studio and he accepted that. So, I put him to work, grinding and polishing, packing and sweeping up. I noticed how attentively he watched the work in the hotshop and after a while I gave him a try at the beginner things. He put loops on ornaments and brought bits and got used to the environment of a working hotshop. One of the things that caught my eye was how good he was with his hands. He learned quickly and was able to coordinate himself and the glass. That is a hard thing to do when you begin and are also adjusting the danger and the heat.
After a few months in the hotshop Al came and asked me for time in the hotshop to practice making his own designs. He worked on vases and ornaments and new techniques every day that he could and often gave these pieces as gifts to family and friends.
Here we tend to take on big, seemingly impossible jobs. Sometimes we have to scramble pretty hard to come up with a solution to a problem and really think outside the box. Once we took an order for an 8′ tall sculpture of a fire in a fire pit. The glass was alright, we can do that. But we couldn’t find a container to be the fire bowl anywhere. No one could get us one big enough that was light enough to actually move into position…
Al came up with an idea to glue up some hi-density foam-board that we had laying around from another job and the turn it into a bowl on a lathe. We both had an interest in bowl turning and carving. I had some books on it and we had chatted about it while in the hotshop. Unfortunately, while I have a lathe, there is no way it would have ever fit that giant block. Al, however, had an idea. So, I let him have at it. Armed with my pattern for the profile of the bowl, he built a lathe to run off one of the wheels of the backhoe!
That was just one of the ways that Al was so invaluable to us here. He was fascinated by the world and ready to turn his hand to whatever needed doing. He was kind, even when things were stressful and everyone was exhausted. And he was always ready to make a joke or be silly to lighten the mood.
Alex Stevens passed away recently in the mountains. He was 28 years old. He will be sorely missed.
Donations can be made in his name to:
Newcomb Fire Department
PO Box 98
Newcomb, NY 12852