James Hubbell’s studio is located in the mountains near Julian, CA and has been producing work since the early 60’s. It has produced thousands of works of art including hand crafted doors, windows, gates, sculpture in almost every material such as wood, stone, metal, glass, clay, and plastics. James Hubbell is widely known for his organic style buildings which are complete works-of-art. He sculpts one-of-a-kind living
environments from natural materials that provide shelter and inspiration for those who wish to live in harmony with nature. His art and architecture has been embodied in homes, schools, gardens, pavillions, nature centers, monasteries, museums, and peace parks around the world. His is the founder and guiding light of the Ilan-Lael Foundation
The Art Studio usually has between three to six craftsmen and apprentices working various types of materials. Occasionally calling upon skilled craftsmen and friends from the San Diego area to work on special projects. This place where Hubbell lives is simultaneously a nurturer, a resource, a reference, a shelter, a launch pad, and a retreat. It’s also a pedestal on which, and around which, the artist continues his personal affirmation.
Hubbell’s formal education was at Cranbrook Art Academy in 1955-56 where he studied Eli Saarinen’s accommodation to nature and applied it to his own work.
Travel inspired his work, including tours of Europe where he encountered the work of Gaudi; Africa and its rich sculptural traditions; and Asia, where he painted murals for the Army while serving in the Korean War.
1958 – Many Beginnings:
A pivotal time for the 27-year-old artist, James Hubbell: he married Anne Stewart; began building his home on a mountain site in Santa Ysabel, California; and started working with Sim Bruce Richards on most of his buildings in a rare art-and-architecture partnership which lasted until Richards’ death in 1984.
Anne Hubbell describes this time in “Building from the Earth Up”:
The echo of wedding bells was still in the air when James and I acquired this land in 1958. Our intent was to create a home that appeared to grow out of the landscape and blend naturally with the gifts of nature. After fashioning a road that curved through the silvery sage and chaparral and digging a deep well through the granite, we started to build.
No bulldozers were used and footings were hand-dug. Wildflowers and brush were kept and appreciated for their beauty without irrigation. Weekends were involved with picnic work parties as friends helped us mix cement and gather rocks in a little red wagon. And so with the stone from this land, adobe bricks, and cedar from a sawmill in Julian, the first structure was accomplished.
Our family was able to stretch out and enjoy more spacious quarters in 1962 when we moved into the living, dining and kitchen dwelling.
1981 – Doors of Abu Dhabi:
The doors of Abu Dhabi connect the small mountain studio in Southern California all the way across oceans, cultures, worlds, to a United Arab Emirates sheik palace. This connection came about by the architect Victor Bisharat picking up a book in 1984, and being inspired by the work within, was moved to seek out and commission the artist to construct the 18 interior and exterior doors of his palace design.
To find the artist, Victor had to go to the Triton restaurant featured in the book and ask the staff who had done the artwork. Only then did Victor discover the mountain studio and artist.
Bisharat wanted the doors to be like Arabic coffee, rich and lavish. He also suggesting not trying to incorporate religion into the doors, because it would be too much and too complicated. To understand better the distant world these doors would serve, poetry was read. Knowledge of the rich Eastern culture and history was amassed through verse. This knowledge was then incorporated into the design of the doors. Legends and traditions pertaining to the space and function beyond the door was considered and incorporated to try and establish a universal understanding and appreciation of beauty. Nature and animals were a common theme in the poetry and culture, and served well in forming this universal connection.
To design the doors took six months, to construct them another six. Over a dozen craftsmen converged on the studio, combining their knowledge of wood, glass, and metal to bring these physical and spiritual connections to life. The result is a collection of pieces that work to transcend the distinctions of distance and background, and work instead to connect us through beauty.
Nov. 1995 – Hubbell & Hubbell is Formed:
James Son Drew decided to put his skills and knowledge to work in tandem with his father’s, and set up Hubbell & Hubbell Architects as a small architecture firm specializing in green building processes and materials. Although geographically located in different parts of San Diego County–Drew worked from his North Park 2 on 1 Craftsman fixer-upper and James worked out of his Santa Ysabel art studio, their collaborations were close. Many early projects were residential remodels with an early focus on green building materials and techniques.
Oct. 2003 – Ilan-Lael Damaged by Cedar Fire:
Four of the eight buildings on the Hubbell home and studio site were destroyed by wildfire. Over a period of three years, donations from friends and members of the Ilan-Lael Foundation helped restore the damaged buildings. Drew worked with the building department to obtain permits for rebuilding the damaged structures using green, fire-resistive, and energy-efficient strategies.
Hubbell has received numerous awards, honors, and lifetime achievement recognition from such varied organizations as Rotary International, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Institute of Architects, the United Nations Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, and the Pacific Coast Builders Conference.
Both nature and landscape play a central role in what James Hubbell creates, but there is a different way of looking at his aesthetic. With little exception his is an art not so much about landscape, but as landscape. Rather than illustrating or shaping the landscape, the majority of his work embodies or emulates nature.
James Hubbell’s public art is available to visit in many areas throughout San Diego County, Baja Mexico, and the West Coast.
It is impossible to imagine Hubbell’s body of work as separate from the place in which it is rooted, which is Ilan-Lael, the place. The architectural vocabularies of Gaudi and Hubbell, for example, are no more obvious than the form and texture that the indigenous manzanita shares with his iron work, or the native flora shares with his delicate line drawings or the leaded lines in his stained glass pieces.
James Hubbell’s buildings, artwork, and public park projects have garnered international interest and recognition. His work has been featured in numerous articles and books, television programs on the Travel Channel and Home and Garden TV, and a number documentaries produced by KPBS.