ilan-lael foundation

James and Anne Hubbell

James and Anne Hubbell are the builders of Ilan-Lael and founders of the Ilan-Lael Foundation. James is an artist and architectural designer and owner of Hubbell Studios in Julian, CA.  Anne, his wife, is an educator, musician, and dancer. They married in 1958 and bought 10 acres of property to build a home with their own hands.  That home provided an opportunity for James to develop his architectural and artistic expression, and over 60 years grew into an art compound of 13 structures, gardens, and undisturbed native landscapes that are known as Ilan-Lael.  James and Anne are our artists-in-residence.  James serves as President of the Ilan-Lael Foundation and Anne also serves on the Board.  They have four sons, and sixteen grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are active in the Foundation and its activities. The Hubbell’s inspire and guide the Foundation to carry on the work they began long ago, to value nature and art, and use the process of making art to encourage creative approaches to bettering our world.


Marianne Gerdes
Executive Director

Marianne met James Hubbell when she made a documentary for PBS in 2002 called “Eye of the Beholder.” But it was the Cedar Fire that came the year after that cemented the friendship. “We reached out to Jim to ask if we (husband Michael Gerdes, a photographer) could come and document the destruction. Jim invited us to join the family as they were first seeing the fire’s destruction. It was terrible, but at the same time so moving, because he was already talking of the experience as awe-filled.” Soon after, they became collaborators charting a path for the future of the property using the non-profit Ilan-Lael Foundation. Marianne has been Executive Director of the Ilan-Lael Foundation for 14 years, helping with transition of the private home and art studio into a public resource. She spearheaded the Ilan-Lael Center capital expansion which resulted in a new and uniquely Hubbell-designed space for events, workshops, meetings, and retreats. She also shares the Foundation’s passion for art and nature as expressed by James and Anne Hubbell, and which is made real through programs, workshops, and events that encourage people to explore their own creative inclinations. She’s continued making films too, the latest, “Between Heaven and Earth” about the life and accomplishments of James Hubbell, is showing in film festival across the U.S. and around the world. “I have the most amazing opportunity to work with one of the most creative souls on the planet,” says Marianne. “I learn from him every day, and I feel so fortunate to be able to help Jim realize some of his dreams, too.”


Candace Wright
Office Manager

Candace first met Jim volunteering with her son at Colegio La Esperanza in Tijuana, B.C., Mexico, a long-time project of the Ilan-Lael Foundation spearheaded by James Hubbell. She frequently saw James and Anne at plays put on by the local elementary school, and even won a Hubbell watercolor in a raffle. But it wasn’t until she began working for Ilan-Lael as administrative assistant that she got to really know the artist. “One of the things I’ve learned from working with Jim is trust,” says Candace. “Jim firmly believes that we are all here for a reason and that the right people will show up at just the right time. It’s a little like magic.”

Candace is the first person most people encounter when reaching out to the Foundation. Her clear thinking, cheerful disposition, and helpful demeanor makes her the number one problem solver in the office. She’s also a gifted artist who makes jewelry and nature-infused salves and balms for family and friends. Her skills and sensitivity to art and nature have made her an valuable asset. “Ilan-Lael is filled with really great people,” says Candace. “I’m honored to work with these positive, creative people who accomplish so much. Ilan-Lael is an inspiring place to work and I’m thrilled to be part of the family.”



Laurel Costa
Archivist & Installation Artist

Laurel began working at Ilan-Lael as a mosaic tile artist for Hubbell Studios. But it wasn’t long before her many other talents were put to work by James. You might see Laurel repairing the roof of a building, or waist-high in a hole shoveling dirt, or photographing the art and nature on the property, or helping out in the studio forge or stained glass studio. Her skills are multi-dimensional. But her favorite place is in the art archive where she’s served as the Ilan-Lael Foundation Archivist since 2018. She’s been tasked with organizing, cataloguing, and preserving the vast body of James’ work. Her efforts are vital for the long-term educational mission of the Foundation.

“It is exciting for me to use my background, skills and creativity to build this archive and come up with organizational methods to preserve and catalogue James’ extraordinary creations. I had not expected to fall in love with this type of work but I am so happy to be involved in the preservation of art; it is such a critical feature of the art world. I feel especially lucky to be the archivist for Jim’s stellar body of work “. Laurel’s can-do attitude makes her a valuable team player. “Hubbell Hill is a truly special environment because you have the opportunity to learn everything having to do with art, fabrication and construction. I never thought I would learn how to use as many tools as I have, and at this point it feels like there is nothing I can’t learn, but most of all I have adopted the ‘no fear’ attitude it takes to create and build; that is what I value the most from Jim”

Mati Moon
Ilan-Lael Gardener

Mati Moon, Ilan-Lael’s gardener for the past two years, is not formally schooled in art, or gardening for that matter.  But she was raised by creative parents who encouraged her to express herself by using her hands.  “I do ceramics and photography, and I paint.  I’ve been working with India Ink which is an interesting challenge.”  She also leads Ilan-Lael’s garden work days and dry wreath workshops.  “ I find it a meditative practice to find something natural and sit with it.  It’s a quiet time often and I’m always surprised with what comes out.”  Her interest in James Hubbell go back 2002 to when she moved from Oregon to Julian into Camp Stevens, the Episcopal Church Camp which has several Hubbell art installations on its campus.   “I got to see Ilan-Lael before the Cedar fire with a group from Camp Stevens.  Jim gave us a tour and was talking about life and beauty and it immediately resonated with me.”  Her place at Camp Stevens put here in a key spot to help the Hubbell’s with the evacuation for the Cedar Fire, and then to help break ground on a new garden one year later.  “The Hubbell garden, I feel pretty fortunate to be here.  I’m given creative leeway with it and I work with a supportive community of artists.  Working with plants, being handed this opportunity to be creative with nature and to witness it, the garden does amazing things on its own.  I water it and shape it and stand back and watch it grow.  There’s a lot of symbolism in Jim’s work in nature.  The cycle of life and birth and death and the things we don’t really control.  Things are blooming right next to what’s dying.  The garden is symbolic in that way.”


Joel Masters
Construction Manager for the Caretaker’s Cottage project

Joel Masters was studying architecture at the University of Cincinnati when he went looking for a design-build opportunity that would give him hands on building experience and get him out from behind a CAD computer “I went searching on the internet and found Hubbell and Hubbell.  Then to my great surprise I found out school had an intern program with them.”  Joel arrived the year after the Cedar Fire. There wasn’t a lot of money to pay interns and he was expecting to work for free.  “On the first day Jim gave me a project to build, like a test, to build a shelf in a closet.  At the end of the day, he looked at me sternly and said ‘I think I’m going to have to pay you.’  “Working at ilan-Lael was an important influence on me.  Architecture school deosn’t really teach you how to build.  I gained a lot of experience at Ilan-Lael.  Things that are very organized and precise in architecture, coming here, where we embrace and indulge in the imperfections, this was an important counterpoint for me.”  After college, Joel worked as construction manager at Arcosanti, leading construction workshops at the renowned architecture and ecology enclave in central Arizona.  The built environment, the human experience, and nature were important elements in Soleri design.  “Connectedness with nature, materialized in different ways, Soleri and Hubbell shared some common ideas.” Joel paid came back to Ilan-Lael for a visit in 2018 at the time Ilan-Lael was looking for a Construction Manager to take on the Caretaker’s Cottage project.  He began his tenure in July.  “ Some of the materials being used are fire resistant and require more precision, which seems to contradict what I thought I knew about Jim embracing imperfection, not worrying about lining things up perfectly.  The base structure is taking some time, and I am looking forward to the artistic part.”  “Getting to work at Ilan-Lael is a really amazing example that you can do anything you really set your mind to.  I hope to be able to take with me that sort of inspiration and courage toward pursing your bliss.  I think that’s the key to happiness, doing what you love so much that you get so good at it that it becomes what people will pay you for, not what you do just to make money.”

Dan Thoner
Ilan-Lael Maintenance Manager

Dan Thoner has always had an eye for design.  “I was first inspired by Jim’s art in 1979 when I went to the Triton restaurant on College Avenue.  I was working as a carpenter because my father told me I could never make a living as an artist.” With all due respect, Dad was wrong.  Dan Thoner IS a fine artist and craftsman and graphic artist whose skills are now being employed for the care and maintenance of the Ilan-Lael’s buildings.  “The job here is a lot of woodwork maintenance, windows and doors need constant care and polishing.  And general maintenance and repairs on buildings that have been built over the past 60 years.  Jim is a great resource, having him around to ask questions of.”  Dan first met Jim in 2007 when he moved to Julian.  He brought some doors to show him, and Jim immediately asked if he would work for Hubbell Studios.  Dan’s first project was the chapel at Camp Stevens.  And it grew from there.  Dan worked on several doors over the years.  He built all the custom cabinetry and many of the doors in the Ilan-Lael Center.  He also maintains his own studio in Julian where he makes custom doors for clients.  Just this year, his design earned 2nd prize at the Design Wood Exhibit at the San Diego County Fair.  Dan turns 65 next year but has no plans to slow down.  “I’m not going to retire ever.  I will always keep my hands in making things, working with wood and glass.  Working at Ilan-Lael is my way of giving back by helping preserve the creative voice that spoke to me years ago when I first encountered Jim’s work.  It opened up a new world for me and rekindled the artistic curiosity to keep following my own creative path.”

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