Picture a a 1,000-year-old slab of stone. Now imagine it’s sourced from an old courthouse. This rock has a history all it’s own, one of a kind. Now imagine it’s 10-feet tall, and you have to work it down to make it look like two lions. That’s what Mike Boich does.
Stoneworking is a laborious task disguised as art. Stoneworkers like Mike can create seemingly soft, flowing, beautiful sculptures from something humanity relies on to be hard and permanent. Sculptures are almost eternal and you really only get one try.
Stone sculpting is one of those things that makes you think “Oh! People do that?” Mike is indeed part of a dying branch of artistry. Stoneworking is not as enduring as the art created by masons like Mike.
“There are only a few people in the world that are still doing what I do,” Mike says.
Stonework and masons are disappearing. The rarity of the work is only matched by the dangers involved in crafting a piece. Inhaling the particles created during the process will definitely shorten your lifespan. Mike has faced these particles, the enormous weight of these rocks, and other perils for years.
The heart of danger for Mike is located in the famous Screw Factory in Lakewood. That’s where his creativity makes its home—the second-floor studio where his giant rocks are shipped. It’s also where he stores his work. Mike is operating out of a studio space that he’s about to outgrow. Luckily, he’s currently sold out of all his inventory.
Like any creative, Mike struggles to find time to create work he’s able to call his own. Successful artists rarely have time to create what they define as their art. Often they’re too busy creating commissioned work. However, being busy as a stoneworker isn’t a bad problem to have.
You’ve likely figured out sculptures aren’t cheap. The average for something like what Mike can create starts at $2,500 and, based on the scale of the project, the price increases. Mike’s headfirst dive into lucrative and valuable art makes sense given his background. He sees the value in what he creates, partially because his formal education was as a finance major at Kent State University. As finance majors often do, Mike went to Columbus and got a job at a bank. He toiled away at this vocation for years.
As Mike tired of the rat race, a friend told him about an opportunity at the Columbus College of Art and Design. Mike’s friend told him that if he traded in his white-collar gig for a position at the school, he could get free tuition. Mike applied and was hired as a maintenance man, so he waved goodbye to the white-collar life. A finance major went back to school to become a functional artist. However, Mike did not initially plan to be a mason.
“I initially set out to get another degree in a creative field that was practical,” Mike says. “Something that could make me easy to hire.”
With that goal in mind, he also wanted to have a little fun so Mike signed up for a sculpture class. “On the first day, I knew I’d found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Mike adds. “I took one class and never looked back.”
Mike found something that was the answer to the monotony of finance. Really, Mike’s professional career has had many identities. He started selling pieces while still in school. Mike went from white collar, to blue collar, to black tie.
Creating new, vibrant art in a dying art form really is a terrifying prospect. You run the risk of your next project being the statue of David of the future. Mike is ready for the rare chance that happens. He knows the limited number of people in his profession leaves an opportunity for people still in the field to leave a lasting mark.
Mike Boich is a creative and rare talent who is not afraid to take that opportunity and run with it—even though he might not have time to create his own statement piece. The work he has created leaves an impression on those who see it, which really is a statement on it’s own.
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James Earl Brassfield or simply JEB is a writer, podcast host, humorist, actor and “Black Hunter Thompson” type madman of no ill repute. Language has yet to evolve fully to describe his unique view of Northeast Ohio and the world. JEB produces work across all media with his original and clearly stated voice. @Jearlbrass