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Sun, Nov. 17

When art meets stone

<br>Photo/Autumn Tax<br>
Efrain Tax sits at one of his tables to paint a memorial stone in the Arizona Flagstone Creations home office.

<br>Photo/Autumn Tax<br> Efrain Tax sits at one of his tables to paint a memorial stone in the Arizona Flagstone Creations home office.

WILLLIAMS - Efrain and Mario Tax are a local team of brothers who have progressed from the backbreaking effort of splitting flagstone, to digging it out of the ground, to carving and shaping it into a new kind of art that has never been seen before in flagstone, according to the team of artisans. Their passion has changed and grown in the last year into an artistic and elegant business that is starting to cause a buzz on Grant Avenue in Williams.

Walking amongst the Tax's art, smoothed oaken and champagne stone gleam in the sun. Black lines swirl through the rose-colored stone of one table, and the mind wanders to hundreds of years ago, when this stone was sand and these black patterns were just another mineral flowing through the tiny grains of sand and water. Speeding forward in time, the brothers found the pattern in the form of a slab of flagstone and man met stone to make something graceful, natural and alive in a world of art.

"I started working at a mine in Ash Fork 10 years ago and just never wanted to leave the business," explains Efrain Tax as he sits down on one of his new benches, an oak colored slab that's top is shaped in the likeness of mountain-peaks, and scoots around to check the stability of the piece. "Mario and I realized that flagstone is so complementary to the Southwest and Southwestern art just by coming in its natural variety of colors. All the stone needs is someone who knows its strengths to shape it into something beautiful."

Mario Tax, Efrain's brother said they decided a year ago to start making designs and experimenting with flagstone to see what the stone can and can't do. After cutting, sanding, painting and sealing, the brothers gradually progressed from making straight cuts to curved lines and sharp edges to soft and rounded corners that will not cut arms or snag clothing like many pieces found today.

"Through working with flagstone we realize that we can make beautiful art and furniture that will be organic in the home - something that people can customize and that we can make come to life to fit their individual style," said Mario Tax. "We had a customer who wanted more of a contemporary-corner piece for his entertainment center, for example. So we took the measurements and made something specifically for him," explains the artist. "We also make our own designs and love our art - it takes a lot of time and commitment to do what we do."

More than anything, the brothers agree that, to work with flagstone, they had to have patience and knowledge of the stone more than anything. "First we find the right stone and make sure it is not cracked and is strong enough to make a table or bench. It is important to us to find the best stones that are unique and durable at the same time," said Efrain. "For cutting we need to have the right design and then cut the pieces with a special saw that weighs about 35 to 40-pounds. Sometimes just lifting the pieces is hard because they can slip and break, or fall on one of us and break a foot or hand. Mario just recently broke his thumb into four pieces because he missed with his hammer while splitting a stone. This work is not for the careless," Efrain stated while he walked through tables, benches, and stacked patio stones cut into squares, triangles and rectangles. "After cutting out our specific pieces, like this small votive table for example, we grind the stone with different grinders depending on the smoothness we want...and then finally we sand the piece with sand paper after we've ground the slab."

The brothers say that their goal is for their art to translate their creativity and how much work goes into it. "I'm constantly trying to find new ideas and new designs," says Efrain. "Each day, I'm just looking to make the ideal table, the perfect bench and beautiful art."

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