by Laurel Costa

Julian local, Bill Porter, has been visiting Ilan-Lael recently to contribute to the Hubbell Archive project. On a recent visit he brought friend and bronze expert, Pete Mitten to recollect their adventures working with James Hubbell in the late 1970’s.

Bill Porter and Pete Mitten being recorded in the archive talking their experiences in the art of bronze casting. PHOTO: Laurel Costa

As we looked at black-and-white photographs of flaming crucibles, we talked about their experiences, Bill as the Hubbell studio blacksmith, and Pete working summers at Hubbell studio building the foundry and casting bronze. Bill spent 12 years in the studio working with James and other craftspeople on some of the most iconic artworks and commissions of James’s career. With help from Peter Mitten, a fellow artist and teacher, they cast the first large James Hubbell bronze Opus.

Upper left: Bill and Pete working on mold for bronze sculpture, Upper Right: Opus, 1980 by James Hubbell, Lower: Bill and Pete at Ilan-Lael 2022

Bill also engineered and built the famous diesel-powered kiln you see outside the big studio. Since the purpose of the archive project is to record the history of Hubbell art it also includes recording the culture and craftsperson experiences. This year Bill will be recording a series of audio and video interviews in which he talks about his work building the kiln and working on various projects throughout his years. The archive project is so fortunate to have a friend like Bill, who is so willing to share his vast memories about the projects made during these pivotal years in the studio’s existence.

Bill and Pete opening the diesel powered kiln at Ilan-Lael PHOTO: Laurel Costa and Emilie Ledieu

Reflecting on Ilan-Lael, Bill shared this story:

“Ilan-Lael is an overwhelmingly magical place filled with so many details. I spent many hours, days, and years in the studio working on countless projects. I came to know the place well and felt comfortable there.”

“I used to fill my quench bucket [a bucket of water used to cool hot metal] just outside the big studio bathroom. Filling it there was a little awkward because the bucket didn’t fit quite right under the spigot. I also spilled some of the water while dragging the heavy bucket back to the studio”

“Almost a decade into working with Jim, I read Otto Rigan’s book “From the Earth Up. I noticed his photograph of the forge — the very one I was so familiar with — and right under it I could see a spigot for filling a quench bucket. In almost a decade, I never noticed that conveniently placed spigot! It’s amazing what we can overlook in life. Sometimes the thing you need is right in front of you and it takes looking through a different perspective to see it.”

Thank you Bill for sharing your knowledge and experience. We appreciate everything you have contributed over the years and the love and enthusiasm you continue to bring to the community.

The Archive Project depends on support from people like you. We  rely on stories, photos, newspaper clippings and communication from our wonderful community. Thank you to all those who have contributed to this project!

Here are ways you can support the Hubbell Archive Project:

  • Additional donations are needed to fully match the generous Szekely Archive Grant. Donate!
  • Do you own an artwork by James Hubbell? Please let me know so that we can add its photo and title to the record of James Hubbell’s life’s work.
  • Volunteer in the archive! We have a lot of fun and work ahead of us, and it’s always a glorious day here at Ilan-Lael! Fill out our Volunteer Form and make sure to specify “archives” we will give you a call!
TOP PHOTO: Bill Porter during the building of the Doors of Abu Dhabi. PHOTO: Otto Rigan
About the Author

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.  In 2022 Laurel became the Ilan-Lael Operations Manager, helping to run programs and working with the Ilan-Lael team to serve the mission of the foundation. 

A message from Ilan-Lael Archivist Laurel Costa

Seeking Carmel Repp: we need help from the Ilan-Lael Community

In 1983 James Hubbell illustrated a book named “Environmental Design for Children” written by interior designer Carmel Repp, ASID. A very small number of copies were printed and the Hubbell Archive holds a single copy of this incredible publication. The archive is now trying to locate the author Carmel Repp in hopes of utilizing this historical treasure for Ilan-lael’s bright future in education. Do you know Carmel or her family? If so, please help us connect to her at

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