Home & Design September 29, 2011

Craftsmen at Work


Sculptor Mark Stasz said he feels an innate need to create and construct. When he sees objects he finds intriguing, he immediately begins thinking of the things he could make with them.

Stasz recognized his desire to build early in life, and took interest in the world of pottery. But after taking an elective welding class during his time at Alfred University in western New York, he never touched clay again. And although Stasz is happy to be making a living off his art, he insists that it has never been his reason for creating it.

“Building is one of my outlets. Normally if I went more than two weeks without building a piece, I started to twitch. That’s one of the reasons I’ve built so many pieces … I built things because I had to, not because I was trying to make money,” Stasz said.

A quarter century after moving to the Valley in pursuit of a place where he and his art could thrive, Stasz has made a name for himself. With more than 450 sculptures across the country, he has produced more pieces by age 46 than some artists will in their entire lives.

Mark Stasz, Photo: Kirsten Shultz

Photo: Kirsten Shultz

Stasz’s geometric steel and stone sculptures are distinct with their ability to make the mind question concepts of balance, weight and scale. His massive structures nimbly suspend slabs of stone, often weighing upward of a few hundred pounds, high in the air as though they were crafted of Styrofoam instead of granite, travertine or some other rock. His newer pieces tease the imagination with asymmetrical, top-heavy forms that appear as though they should cause each structure to topple over at any moment.

Stasz said he makes sculpture for the sake of art—plain and simple. He said people often ask him what a piece means and that his honest answer is, “I don’t know.”

“My gift is to be able to build what goes on in my head. Now if you ask me what it is that goes on in my head, my answer that I’ve come up with is simply—it’s my experiences in life. I’m not necessarily trying to say anything. It’s not about war. It’s not about peace. I mean maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Subconsciously it could be about the 24-inch rainbow [trout] I caught the other day,” Stasz jokes. “But I build art for art. It’s about lines. It’s about negative forms. It’s about positive forms. It’s about mass, precariousness, balance, and it’s simple.”

One of Stasz’s most recognized local pieces is “Timeless Portal,” a sculpture the City of Hailey commissioned in 2010. The piece is located in Roberta McKercher Park and, like most of his commissioned works, is a site-specific sculpture.

 “I built things because I had to, not because
I was trying to make money.”

Stasz explained that he sees his family in the piece as well as a river, mountains and a blossoming. Despite seeing these concepts when looking at the piece now, he said he wasn’t trying to convey them when he built it.

Despite Stasz’s success in finding the precarious balance in his sculptures, difficulties with the business side of being an artist have brought him to a turning point in his life.

With the economic recession, fewer people have the resources to purchase art, and with two children and his wife, Meagan, all partially reliant on his income, Stasz is struggling with a new kind of balance.
“It’s unfortunate, the economy right now. But I guess it’s also a learning curve. It will provide some very knowledgeable information for the future, right?” Stasz asked, then added with a chuckle, “live and learn.”

Stasz has come close to losing the equilibrium between creating art solely for art’s sake, while still providing for his family. He said he and his family are planning to move to California in hopes of finding a better balance there.

“When I moved in here, it really opened up a lot of avenues,” Stasz said about the studio he has occupied in Bellevue over the last 18 years. “And the next space will open up more avenues as well. You need change and well, maybe I’ve become a little stagnant in here. I think, even though it’s not the most pleasant position I’ve been in, the economy has forced me to see things in a different way, and I think the results are going to be a positive avenue.”

Stasz said where he lives has always influenced his work, so he is excited to see what new inspiration that move will give him. 

Click here for more of Kirsten Shultz's photos of Mark Stasz



Steen Sorenson is a magician.

In his 35-foot-tall warehouse of an office, he works diligently to make things seemingly disappear. Walls, chairs, ceilings or doors. If you can dream it, Sorenson will do his damnedest to make it vanish before your eyes.

Sorenson’s art is transparency, and he is always looking for ways to push the limits on what he can do with his building material of choice—glass.

As the president of Glass Masters, a specialty glasswork shop in Ketchum, Sorenson could not have chosen a more fitting title for his business. He is nothing less than a master of the fragile substance.
With a résumé that showcases a glass staircase, an in-house waterfall, intricate skylights and sinks that hold aquariums, there seems to be little he cannot mold the brittle material into.

Steen Sorenson, Photo: Tim Brown

Photo: Tim Brown

“I think that [the workers at Glass Masters] have such a diverse knowledge of all types of glasses and plastics that there’s not a whole lot that we wouldn’t be able to come up with an answer for,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson started working with glass in his late teens as a temporary job to save some cash while he was trying to find a path he could pursue in college. But after moving to the Valley in 1980 and learning to cut glass, he never went back to school.

Sorenson said the combination of the passion he discovered both for glass and for Ketchum have kept him here ever since.

“When I moved to this community, I found it so inspiring that there were so many other dedicated crafts people in the building industry,” Sorenson said. “It sort of overwhelmed me with interest because of the types of clients and the challenges that we have in this community. It kept it so interesting that I think it kind of made me want to stay.”

Since founding Glass Masters in 1990, Sorenson’s company has employed as many as 35 glaziers at a time, and Sorenson himself has produced so many pieces, he said he lost count years ago.
Over time, Sorenson said he and his co-workers have done their best to build a reputation of quality and creative glasswork.

“Glass is very, very honest, and I guess the amazing thing
about it is that if I’ve done my job correctly,
you almost don’t even notice that it’s there.”

“We’ve really made an effort here to make this the most well-orchestrated glass shop in Idaho and possibly the Western United States,” Sorenson said.

One of the steps Sorenson took to help guarantee his products would be top-notch was purchasing an Italian Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine to cut glass. One of only a handful in the U.S. used for glasswork, his CNC machine helps cut glass with an accuracy rarely matched by hand.

When a project requires a piece of glass to fit into a space, the importance of the accuracy of a cut becomes apparent with glass’s unforgiving and inflexible nature.

And although Sorenson acknowledges and appreciates the cutting errors the CNC can help to avoid, Sorenson said he still loves to cut glass by hand when he can.

“I like to physically cut glass with a glass cutter,” he said with a smile. “30 years later, I still find it absolutely fascinating. It’s just incomprehensible that a small scoring process on top of a piece of glass, no matter how thick it is, actually will result in the piece breaking where you intended it to.”

Sorenson’s attraction to the basic work of his craft is equally matched by his fascination with the material.

“Glass is very, very honest, and I guess the amazing thing about it is that if I’ve done my job correctly, you almost don’t even notice that it’s there,” Sorenson said.

In his many years of working with glass, Sorenson said he still continues to learn something new every day.

With drawers larger than king-sized mattresses and 50,000-pound boxes filled to the brim with delicate glass surrounding him at work, Sorenson said his craft has taught him patience. Sorenson must give every movement, reach and cut a different level of thought than other crafts require. Unlike more durable materials, bumping a table in Sorenson’s workshop can be the restart button on an entire project.

But the patience and meticulousness are what give Sorenson’s work its magic. The fragility is what makes his pieces seem unfathomable to create, and the seamlessness of the assembly takes them to a level that is nothing short of phenomenal.



Michael Doty is not the average craftsman. His work does not take place in a shop or utilize a hammer, saw or chisel. Doty’s craft demands him to be a master in the practices of drawing, writing, math, design and computer modeling. But more than anything, Doty’s craft requires vision.

Doty is an architect and his ultimate goal is to help people figure out how they live and then translate that into what type of space can complement their lifestyle. Doty’s job is to take a broad idea and bring it to life with details people love but didn’t even know they wanted.

At age 54, Doty has owned his own architecture firm in the Valley for 18 years and worked in the field long before that. In that time, his vision has been a part of the design of more than 200 buildings in the area.

Although Doty’s work does not have a signature style, he puts great emphasis on creating spaces that are meant to emanate a cohesive feeling, whether it be of comfort or of the owner’s personal style.

“Architecture is one of those things that doesn’t go away,” Doty said. “You can’t put a bag on it. You can’t hide it, and so it’s one of those things where you’re trying to do the best you can to keep the thought clear through the entire process so that the whole concept really resonates. In the end, the concept may not be readable to some people, but you want it to be feelable.”

Michael Doty, Photo: Hailey Tucker

Photo: Hailey Tucker

Some of the projects Doty is particularly proud of include The Cornerstone Bar and Grill in Ketchum, the Hailey-branch Marketron building and the remodel of the old Williams grocery store into Roxy’s, which opened in the spring of 2011.

Doty said all three buildings are what he considers examples of effective design and ideas that made a successful leap from imagination to reality.

Successful design in Doty’s mind is not only something people see and like, but something that changes the way they live.

“Unfortunately people know more about their car than they do their own house sometimes … You spend so much of your life inside and indoors, and people don’t think about the design and what that means to them or that good design can make them feel better about life in general or help them have a better day,” Doty said.

The idea that design has an impact is what drives Doty to push his architecture beyond basic walls and windows.

In the Cornerstone, Doty said he wanted customers to have a high level experience from the moment they walked in until the moment they left. To him, this meant no space would be neglected in the design process.

“I think that good design is simple, and when you see
good design and it’s really simple,
it looks effortless but I promise you it’s not.”

“You can go into the bathrooms there and have the same experience entering the bathroom that you did when you walked in the front door,” Doty said.

To try and create design that affects people, whether it’s on a conscious or subconscious level, Doty’s design process requires a great deal of thought. He said the main task for an architect is to be a problem solver. Like doing a puzzle, he considers it his job to figure out how to make an array of often unrelated details and ideas come together into one unified piece.

“You start with infinite possibilities, and you systematically start removing the chaos,” Doty said. “You know, chaos wants to win the day. Simplicity is where you’re trying to get. I think that good design is simple, and when you see good design and it’s really simple, it looks effortless but I promise you it’s not.”

Doty spends much of his time researching to keep up-to-date on the ever-changing variety of materials and technologies he can offer his clients. He said that one of the major challenges of his job is simply filtering through all of the options available.

“In my eyes, for people in this profession, we’re on a fairly steep, continual learning curve. It’s not necessarily about what we do, but how we do it and what we do it with,” he said. “You need to continue to push the envelope, but if you’re out on the bleeding edge, it can be risky and the stakes are high.”

Knowing the endless possibilities and then having the vision to determine which are best suited for the client is what makes Doty a craftsman. Although his hands may not be calloused from hours in the shop, his final products demand the same attention to detail and mastery as any other work of art.














This article appears in the Fall 2011 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.