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Happy to Be Here: Finding the beauty in stone


Justin Anchinsko grew up at Cedar Maze, the magical sculpture garden Steven Snyder created in a wooded area on Cafferty Road north of Point Pleasant. It was a wonderland of stone figures, fountains and flowers with a fascinating goldfish pond outside the home where Steven and Pinky Snyder raised their blended family.

Working as a stone mason, restoring stone houses like the 17th-century Burgess Lea in Centre Bridge, Steven developed a reverence for stone more than 40 years ago. He starting saving pieces he saw as organic forms of birds and people, bird baths and fountains and all kinds of creatures.

“Like people who see shapes in clouds, I see objects in rock,” he once told Stacy Briggs, writing for the Courier Times. “With hammer and chisel, he releases the imprisoned shapes creating birds, frogs and even stone flowers, often reflecting a sense of whimsy. Love and family are also prevalent themes found in the sculpture garden as angels, hearts, mother and child or couple in love.”

Justin, Steven and Pinky’s son, attended Tinicum Elementary School and Palisades High School while living at Cedar Maze, where, by the way, there was space to ride a dirt bike. After high school graduation, Justin worked in construction jobs, as a carpenter and stone mason with Steven. They built barns and walls and restored stone houses.

Justin has had almost a lifetime relationship with stone but only recently has he picked up the tools for sculpture. Since Steven retired following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Justin inherited Steven’s stone carving and polishing tools. One day, he polished a stone bowl that Steven had begun and that changed everything.

In the days that followed, Justin discovered that polishing stone could bring a hidden beauty, sometimes surprising colors, and like Steven, he’s inspired by the shapes of stones he comes across. He’s turned them into benches and sculpture in his own style. The discovery has opened up a new world of possibilities for him.

He’s started his own company, Boulder Benches, and created a website where he states his philosophy: “Art and design are not just about aesthetics, but also about function and purpose. Designs for stone benches are not only beautiful, but also practical and comfortable. Stone benches and stone sculpture fit beautifully into natural landscapes.”

Today, Justin, father of a 10-year-old and three grown children, who have lived at Cedar Maze, lives in Coopersburg, just north of Bucks County.

“Art Shows at Cedar Maze were definitely a family affair,” said Pinky, speaking about the family’s home. “Justin’s children would greet people, hand out information, and even give private tours to anyone who was interested.”

Cedar Maze has been dismantled and the Snyders have moved to Frenchtown, N.J. Most of Steven’s sculpture is stored at landscape designer Paul Steinbeiser’s farm nearby. The farm is the site for the annual fall Hobart art show, which highlights artists and artisans from Bucks and Hunterdon counties. Works by both Steven and Justin were included in this year’s HobART “Art in the Natural Landscape” exhibition.

If all goes well, the Snyders and Justin will create a new Cedar Maze or a similar venue, possibly with a different name, in the area of Flemington, N.J. Justin and his family are moving next year to his partner, Julia Zanetti’s, family home.

They plan to move all of the stone sculpture next year, and produce a joint show with both Justin’s and Steven’s art.

The move will take some doing – tons of stone and hundreds of pieces are involved are involved. But Pinky said they have the lifting and carrying equipment they need. They also have the right tools to delivery to buyers.

Then there’s sorting and assembling – not simple tasks, but worthwhile goals for 2024.

And eventually, a new sculpture garden should be open for business.

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