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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Neal Bilbao engraves a rock inside an engraving machine.

OREM — The surfaces may be hard as rocks or as delicate as glass, but every stone or piece of glassware Neal and Arlene Bilbao engrave is special.

The pair began their business of custom engraving as a hobby four years ago, but then last December Neal Bilbao, a former computer programmer, and his wife launched Remember Rocks & Glass as a business.

"We were at a beach house on the coast of Oregon and loved all of the pretty little rocks," Arlene Bilbao said. "We started thinking about all the things you could do with rocks. We started out with little thoughts for little rocks and then things just started to get bigger and bigger."

The effort has evolved into the business of remembering, hence the name.

"Whether it is recognition for something (someone has) done, a memorial of a pet, a motivational thought or something else, it is a memory and we thought the name fit the company well," she said.

Engraved rocks measure from an inch to 15 inches in size. Engravings could be a single word, such as "remember" or a person's name, or a phrase or quotation. Many of the rocks they use, including shell rock, come from the Duchesne and Kamas areas.

Glass etching includes awards and ornaments. Their Web site, www.rememberrocks.com, shows an array of examples.

An unusual assignment was to etch the name in stone of pioneers buried in the Freedom cemetery just outside Moroni. Two other times they engraved names, birth and death dates in stone for children who died and were buried in rural cemeteries.

"Most of our work costs less than $50," Neal Bilbao said.

About a quarter of their work comes from outside Utah, while the rest is from repeat local customers, he added. Sometimes the couple takes their craft to shows, but have learned that all they need to bring are a few samples. Most of their orders are for customized items, Arlene Bilbao said.

She also likes to hold house parties, because the brainstorming that goes on among the guests is valuable.

The trade requires learning a few tricks.

"You can get a pile of shame pretty fast," Neal Bilbao said.

The process starts with an idea that's transferred to a computer, then printed on clear plastic sheets. From there the creative process involves setting up the rocks or glassware for sandblasting. The etchings are then finished off with paint to make them stand out, then cleaned.

Once at a Wyoming show their product evoked laughter.

"Who would want a rock? We have plenty of rocks," one old cowboy said.

"But do you have one that says 'believe'?" Arlene Bilbao returned.


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com