art ... It’s just a step away:
the “stepping stone” path to Rainbow Acres
& Photos by
Michael L. Mayhew
pieces of colored glass spread out before Susan Welch reflect
the bright twinkle of her eyes. She carefully positions them
to fit within the pattern traced on the contact paper in front
of her. She is completely focused on her task, placing each
piece with loving care - for the stepping stone she’s making
is a circular ambassador destined to show the world what a
special place Rainbow Acres, her home, truly is. A smile stretches
across her face as the design comes to life at her fingertips.
This is going to be a good one!
But then all of the stepping stones created at Rainbow
Acres in Camp Verde are “good ones.”
As a Christian-based
residential community for developmentally disabled adults,
Rainbow Acres encourages its Ranchers (residents) to participate
in a variety of activities and programs, including the creation
of stepping stones. (The residents are referred to as Ranchers
to denote that they are individuals of worth and should be
treated with dignity and respect.)
“Each stone is made with tender, loving care,” explains
staff member Shannon Wiens, who along with staff member Harvey
Schultheis, supervises the production process. “Ranchers like
Susan put in a tremendous amount of effort and heart to make
sure each stone is as good as it possibly can be.
“We started making stepping stones about two years ago,”
continued Shannon. “They’ve been tremendously popular almost
from the very beginning. We’re still able to keep up with
the demand, but it can be a real strain at times.”
There are currently nine Ranchers involved in the creation
of the stepping stones on a regular basis, but almost every
Rancher has lent a hand at one time or another.
“The stepping stones are a great source of pride,” said
Harvey. “The Ranchers see the joy the stones bring people
who buy them, and they want to be a part of that.”
Rainbow Acres stepping
stones come in a variety of shapes and designs. Full-size
circular stones are around 14 inches in diameter and 1-1/2
inches thick. Medium-size stones are approximately 11-1/2
inches in diameter and the same thickness as the full-size
stones. (Thickness can be customized to a certain extent.)
Besides the ever popular circle, stones can be cast in the
shape of squares, hearts, octagons, and hexagons. There are
more than 20 designs currently available, with more being
added all the time. Artwork ranges from cacti to angels. New
to the roster are miniature stepping stones, which are around
eight inches across and approximately 1/4 of an inch thick.
“The small stones have really proven to be a huge success,”
said Shannon. “People use them as hot plates, paper weights,
or just as decorative accents for shelves, counters, tables,
or desks. Like all of our stones, each is a one-of-a-kind
The larger stones have a myriad of applications as well,
and are used in gardens and yards as colorful landscaping
accents, to create distinctive paths, and to compliment secret
Regardless of the final use, all Rainbow Acres stepping
stones start life the same way - as bits of disconnected colored
glass and powdered cement. The Ranchers sort the scrap glass
(donated by glass studios in Sun City West, Glendale, and
Sedona) and organize it by color. The artwork is traced on
contact paper, and Ranchers place appropriate colored glass
on the adhesive side of the paper to fill in the design.
The paper is then
carefully placed face down in the center of a mold. A special
mixture of gravel, sand, cement, and "Sedona Red"
powder is poured into the mold and allowed to set for several
days. (Much of this material is also donated.) After they’re
taken from the molds, a slurry is poured over the face of
the stone and rubbed in to fill any small holes or gaps and
to polish the glass. Although Sedona Red is the most popular
color, stones are also available in slate gray. Regardless
of the color, customer satisfaction is a high priority.
“We do custom designs for people, as long as the artwork
isn’t too complicated,” said Shannon. “We’ve done special
stones with a person’s name in them, and we’ve even done a
few corporate logos.”
Any way you look at it, these are special pieces of
art. They conform to very high standards of quality and represent
a unique blending of artistic skills and creative expression.
Like any true art form, they embody more than just the sum
of the physical parts - each Rainbow Acres stepping stone
also carries the hopes and aspirations of its creators - a
desire for self-sufficiency, for understanding, for acceptance,
and for love. As a result, the true value of each stone greatly
exceeds just its pragmatic functionality. Each stone that’s
sold is a step on the path to the better world envisioned
by the Ranchers.
With stepping stones from Rainbow Acres, great art is
just a step away. And with the sale of every stone, a Rancher’s
dream comes one step closer!
Please contact Rainbow Acres at (928) 567-5231 for additional
information about stepping stones availability and pricing.