This Company Is Bringing Back Marble Statues
Victoria and Vasili Karpos are the owners of statues.com, a world-renowned website that exhibits and sells custom-made sculptures from their studio in downtown Salt Lake City. But they got their start importing souvenirs and gifts from Greece to populate Greek festivals across the country. Their most popular article was the classic, white marble statuary.
“In 1995, we began researching the idea of how we could produce this same type of statues ourselves, rather than importing them, allowing us higher profit margins,” says Victoria. “With some trial and error in our home garage, we developed our signature casting material, White Bonded Marble, or Marblecast Material.”
By 1997, the couple had observed the cultural shift towards personal computer use, widespread internet access, and the budding desire to purchase items online. “Our single retail customer began [to make] custom-made orders,” Victoria says. “[This] included wholesale buyers and other companies looking to buy several copies of one article for an event.”
After carefully observing the ways their consumers were operating, the Karposes decided to expand their business by offering the first-ever direct-to-consumer sculpture business. Victoria remarks: “My husband turned to me while browsing the internet and said, ‘Vicky, the name statues.com is available and it’s only $10, should we buy it?’ My response was, and I confess this every time I tell this story, ‘Why, what will we do with that? What is it exactly? Sure, okay, for $10 a year, buy it.’”
“We never sat around a table and created a business plan or set a course to build this business. It just kept on evolving and we grew alongside it.” During many late nights in front of a desktop computer powered by low-speed internet, the couple taught themselves how to build a website, create shopping carts, and construct an e-commerce platform.
Sales came pouring in, and the business quickly outgrew their garage. “It’s important to mention here that Vasili and I are not sculptors,” Victoria clarifies, “Nor did we start this business because we are sculptors. As the World Wide Web was gaining momentum… [we changed] what we were doing and how we did it.”
This method of paying meticulous attention to changes in the consumer experience and how individuals were interacting with the internet led to a huge payoff for statues.com: “Just before the millennium arrived, we had our first large, multi-piece, wholesale order from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Although exciting, it was a great challenge because honestly, we did not have any of those items even close to being produced.
“We had some prototypes, stock that you can count on your fingers. We put all our energy in creating rubber molds, then racing against the clock to fulfill the orders. Twenty years later… we are still fulfilling orders for the Caesar’s Palace property!”
What sets statues.com apart is the Karpos’ belief that the consumer can be involved in the creative process and heavily influence the end product: “I believe it’s our clients who have inspired us and the work we do for them,” Victoria states. “We are inspired by their desires to create that special memento, whether it’s a seven-foot-tall Nikola Tesla statue for their fan community, or a statue of a little eight-year-old with his two dogs who passed away from an illness. Such treasures are priceless; one becomes humbled and grateful. This is way beyond what we started with.
“We always involve our customers during this process; [it’s] very important that they can see the work… and approve it. Modern technology allows us [to] communicate [with the consumer] in real-time. Each statue is carefully hand cast, [and] once fully cured, [the] statues are… removed of their seam lines or minor imperfections by our in-house artisans. Each statue is perfected and then prepared for packing or delivery. The work we do is art, not cookie-cutter, assembly-line mass production.”
Currently, statues.com is breaking the mold once again by initiating the Where Are the Women? campaign, a movement that strives to correct the underrepresentation of historical female figures in public statue displays. Clearly, there is no end to the Karpos’s inspiration, nor how they can use art to make true change.
As to how one can make a living off of art, Victoria tells me, “We call it the art of being an entrepreneur. There are always struggles and challenges, particularly when the nature of our business is working for clientele from around the world. [It’s] always a learning process, and we never use the word impossible. When the end result means that we have made that single client, that family, the organization, or that special group happy, it supersedes any challenge we had to face to get it done.”