In 2018, I was brought on as Ilan Lael’s Archivist to continue the project—organizing thousands of James Hubbell’s artworks—that Jeanie Radakovich so diligently began in 2010. Thanks to the efforts of Jeanie, Ed Shatz, Mary Ann Prue, and many others throughout the years we have  a great many photographs and records of James Hubbell’s work. We conserve, organize and digitally catalog James’ art these materials and the history of Ilan-Lael, so that it all can be “put to work”  in future exhibitions and art education. 

Hubbell Archive consists of sculptures, paintings, public and private commissions, photographs, publications, journals, exhibitions, historical documents, and more. My job consists of creating a digital record for every piece in the collection. I take professional photographs and collect data on each piece for cataloging. I am absolutely in love with this work, and it is the proudest moment in my career to date  to care for such a beautiful legacy. One of my favorite tasks  is learning about these pieces through conversations with James, his friends, clients and collaborators. James’ experiences and the relationships he forged while creating his art are as much a part of the art as paint or bronze

Featured Archive Treasure

The Beginning of James Hubbell Stained Glass

James tasked me to organize the Kiva Gallery to catalog his oldest work: paintings from his travels to Africa, illustrations from his tour in Korea, and hundreds of early designs on matte board from the 1950s and 60s. During one of my sorting sessions I found the design (left). I recognized it from a photograph that I had seen recently, (right). I showed these items to James and he recalled that it was his first piece of stained glass and that it was installed in his mother’s home in Rancho Santa Fe (the window has been either lost or destroyed).

Around a similar time my colleague Sarah Jamieson was reading and transcribing Jim’s early Journals for a different project: his new biography  “Seeking Beauty — Jim’s Gift”. While doing this, she found an excerpt in one journal that referenced his first piece of stained glass. She read it to me, and I instantly recognized the design in the small sketch.

Records like these tell the story of James’ early journey of learning how to cut and assemble stained glass. I personally find reading this note very  powerful because as a young artist I often wonder if my struggles to learn something new are  an indicator that I should give up and move on to the next medium— one that will hopefully come easier. When I read Jim’s  words, I am forever grateful that he did not give up. 

In addition, it is still possible this asrtwork is still somewhere in San Diego and may one day be rediscovered. I happen to know someone who recently found a James Hubbell piece of art in a thrift store. Keep your eyes open! There are no mistakes in life!

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!

PHOTO: Ilan-Lael archivist, Laurel Costa working with James Hubbell on the archives. Photo by Marianne Gerdes
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. 

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