As many of us lament the lack of emphasis on craftsmanship in the stone industry, I would like to report on some very cool collaborations between stoneworking professionals and architects that I have witnessed over the past few months, many of which appear in this E-Newsletter. To start with, I once again took part in the Marmomacc Stone Academy now in its 14th edition, which takes place in conjunction with the Marmomacc trade fair in Verona, Italy. The event brings in an average of 30 architects from the U.S. and other nations, and it is an intensive week-long program that includes visits to stone quarries, gangsawing facilities, slab-processing plants and artisan stone workshops.

Since Stone World is a sponsor of the course, I have been fortunate to attend many of these excursions, and there is one common thread each time -- the architects LOVE learning about stone. They are incredibly curious about the entire process, and they want to learn as much as they can about every step of the process -- from material selection at the quarry to block processing to the type of technology used to create various finished products. The architects on this trip are not there to tour Italy and sample the wine -- although, admittedly, I may have seen a bottle or two being enjoyed. They are there to learn about the possibilities in natural stone.

Marmomacc does a great job keeping in touch with the architects who take part in the program, establishing their own "Alumni Association" with reunions at events like the AIA Expo and StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas. I have worked with several of the alums on project articles over the years, and these folks do some amazing work in natural stone. I have no doubt that the program has influenced and enhanced their work. Also in this E-Newsletter, we cover two other programs that Marmomacc has implemented to bridge stone producers and the architecture and design community. One is their "Marmomacc Meets Design" program, where an architect is paired with a stone supplier to created a themed trade show exhibit at the event. This year's theme was sustainability, and the resulting designs are inspiring to say the least.

Finally, we are covering the "Best Communicator Awards" at Marmomacc, which honor booth designs that reveal and convey the constructive, communicative and decorative potential of materials. Not surprisingly, many of these award winners were the result of collaboration between design professionals and stone suppliers. When I first started working at Stone World, I used to think that architects had a certain air of detachment to them -- as if they didn't want to be bothered by industry members, and certainly not by my trade magazine. I quickly learned that this is not the case at all.

For the most part, the architects I know are eager to learn and expand their craft, and their thirst for knowledge remains with them no matter how long they have been in the trade. This is an edge that stoneworking professionals need be aware of and to take advantage of, because with all due respect to other materials (ok, not really), there really is nothing like the craftsmanship of natural stone. As a trade, we need to promote that more.