James Miller and H.L. Olson have a friendship that is, quite literally, set in stone.
“I met (James) at the gem and mineral show in Stephenville in 1980,” Olson said.
Olson was attracted to the unique sculptures at Miller’s display table, works of art he had never before seen.
The sculptures, cut from soapstone and porous sandstone, were hand-carved and displayed everything from animals to abstracts.
“James Miller was the most talented man I ever met - he was a mechanic, carpenter and artist,” Olson said.
Miller, who was born in 1921 and grew up in the Hill Country, held several jobs throughout his life. Among his many ventures were home building, crafting kitchen cabinets, owning and operating a concrete business and artistry, which included sculptures and paintings.
As their friendship grew, Miller began showing Olson the ins and outs of sand sculpting.
The sculptures were carved with improvised hand tools and some power tools. After their completion, the sculptures were treated with a penetrating solution of synthetic resin, which filled voids and enhanced the earth-tones in the stone.
Miller taught Olson the process step-by-step.
“He took me under his wing - I am the only person he showed how he had done this,” Olson said. “I asked him one day why I was the only one he ever taught. He said, ‘You are the only one who acted like you were really interested.’”
Before Miller passed away, he shared a final wish with his friend.
“He just asked before he died that I show his work sometime,” Olson said.
Miller died in 1999.
And Olson kept true to his promise, but it wasn’t as easy to fulfill as it was to make.
Olson spent more than 10 years visiting art galleries and seeking directors who would display his friend’s unique artwork.
None seemed interested.
But that changed when Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council Executive Director Julie Crouch came on board.
“Julie Crouch is the only one that took hold and would do something about it,” Olson said.
Now, nearly 11 years after his friend’s death, Olson will see his promise fulfilled.
Miller’s artwork, along with Olson’s and several other local artists, will be displayed at the CTFAC’s River North Gallery from Sept. 2-24. A reception for the exhibit will be held Thursday, Sept. 2, from 5-7 p.m.
“He inspired me,” Olson said. “I’m sure thankful he did.”