An early Hidden Leaves meeting takes place in Wayne Donaldson’s office above San Diego Hardware. Wayne shares his office space with Ilan-Lael until 1989.


Jim stands before what will become the tallest structure on their Santa Ysabel property, and his first indoor work space: well suited to everything from glasswork and carving giant blacksmithing.


James’s mastery of curvaceous organic forms (and building techniques) becomes his trademark in many a home and studio.


With a first issue in 1983, editors James Hubbell and Kay Kaiser launch a memorable discourse on San Diego’s built environment and the arts.

AT HOME—1970s

The Hubbells, warmed by both a freeform fireplace and Anne’s harp playing, gather in the family living room.


What happens when local museums and galleries fail to celebrate San Diego sculptors? Ilan-Lael creates a landmark exhibition of our own.


Surprises hide all over the Ilan-Lael property, including this archetypal handprint by one of the boys stating, “I was here.”


Ilan-Lael helps cement a “sister city” relationship between San Diego and Vladivostok. A powerful common language? Children and art.


The famed stained glass work of Hubbell Studios brightens hundreds of windows in the world—but also casts shimmers of colors on floors, steps, the earth itself.


In 1989, James Hubbell is featured in a film by KPBS Television called ‘The Art and Vision of James Hubbell’. This portrait by Kira Corser was used to help promote the film.


The ‘Soil & Soul’ workshop known as ‘Kuchumaa Passage’ at Rancho La Puerta sees Jim pause in reflection (and exhaustion) in this portrait by John Durant.


The famed swimming pool at Ilan-Lael (the name given to the Hubbell homesite in 1978) beckons on hot days with tile-filagreed depths.


James leads building workshops for Ilan-Lael volunteers once a month for over 20 years to create a now-remarkable school in Tijuana (founded by Christine Brady and the Americas Foundation).


Serenely perched above a harbor bristling with gray ships, this “pearl” with its Friendship Gate was completed in only 21 intense days. For materials the team relies on stones hauled up from the sea’s edge.


The team in Tijuana takes a break from work, their pose echoing DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, on another Pacific Rim park: Entre El Corazon y La Mar.


Several chapels have emerged from the hands of James and the Ilan-Lael team of artisans. Here an upright sculpture seems to call down energy from the sky.


“I’ve long been fascinated by the idea that the conscious world is made up of joy and pathos, and that the way we strike a balance between joy and pathos in our everyday lives is through beauty.” —JTH


A sculpture at the Studio Gallery wears a veil of snow on a mountain morning that hopes for a bit of winter sun.


Almost every Hubbell project is physically challenging and demands strength, balance, sensitivity—like life itself.


Photographer Graham Blair and a small dance troupe transform Ilan-Lael into a faerie-scape.


Every Ilan-Lael project takes on a natural élan as different nationalities, ages, and abilities join forces to create things of beauty.


Everything at Ilan-Lael becomes a team effort. Even the wheelbarrows feel a sense of camaraderie after a hard day in the garden.

Hidden Leaves… from where?

In the earliest days of Ilan-Lael, we decided we needed a newsletter. But James Britton, a writer in San Diego who I respected a great deal and hoped would volunteer to help, had recently died.

Kay Kaiser, who I did not yet know, wrote a moving farewell to Jim that was read at the memorial service.

I quickly went to Kay’s office in Lloyd Ruocco’s Design Center and found her watering a cactus. I knew she was a good writer and that we had similar interests, so I asked, “Kay, would you do our newsletter?”

“Sure,” she answered. And Hidden Leaves was born.

Kay and I would choose a subject, then break up the tasks. For me, it was better and more fun than any class I ever attended. We wanted to discover what San Diego was about, where its dreams were, where its vision was. A lot of these issues still remain unanswered.

But because of Hidden Leaves, our membership grew to over 3000 and we became embedded in San Diego and its future. Thanks Kay. I would do it all again.

—James Hubbell

It all began in the fall of 1969, when James and Anne Hubbell, architect Sim Bruce Richards and Janet Richards, architect Ken Kellogg and Marilyn Kellogg, ceramicist Rhoda Lopez, architect Spencer Lake, and I were on a bus together taking an architectural tour in Arizona of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West and Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti.  Only half a lifetime later would I realize the unique seeds planted in that gathering.

This cast of characters became a new family of thinkers, artists, writers, poets, and architects—a cast that wrote its own script by asking questions about nature…and people…and the discovery of beauty.

The quiet one, the show one, —Jim Hubbell—became my mentor for the next ten years or more.  I first lived under an oak tree in my VW bus next to a pear orchard below what was their home…and what would become the birthplace of the Ilan-Lael Foundation.  The magical family life of Jim and Anne and their four boys became a daily dose of wonder for me, a 23-year-old idealist just out of school.

“He has a vision that reaches far beyond art and architecture, ” I thought. “Vision unbridled by any inhibition, and unlimited in scope and possibility.”

I remember him saying, “Every day is a discovery, every mistake an opportunity, and event pulling weeds is a study of nature and beauty.”

The next ten years and more found Jim exploring form and ideas in schools and workshops, restaurants, homes and civic buildings.  The community had grown an dhe, as were many of us, was concerned that San Diego was not developing properly.

Concerns became a collective voice.  Hidden Leaves was that voice—the first full-throated shout of Ilan-Lael and all we stand for.  We wanted to foster discourse that would help shape a community in search of its soul into a great city.  Jim, by then turning 50, met journalist Kay Kaiser, and with them as co-editors the pages you now hold in your hand became reality.  It was a joy.  It still is today.

Robert Thiele (with Kay Kaiser)

Hidden Leaves Anthology