Miniature Masonry began as DIY stone masonry kits, every step representative of the real thing. After some time it was realized that the kits were simply too difficult to do. There was immense interest in the finished product, especially the veneer picture frame. Looney decided to complete the projects himself and sell them. Looney quickly decided it was taking too long and instead of using several small rocks, one large stone. Members of his church group told him to sell the frames at the farmer's market. After that the company has continued to grow and expand it's product line.
The first Miniature Masonry projects
What drives Miniature Masonry?
God-given Natural Beauty
The history of the company is a little intense. Sharing it is not particularly easy. If you read the story of the company I believe you will understand what drives the company today, is also what did back then. It is a gift of love, from a friend and from God.
The history makes Miniature Masonry more important than simply making money. Unless some crazy legal trouble makes the business bankrupt, it will never shut down completely. If it did go bankrupt, I would simply start a different company and do miniature masonry products through it.
Money is nice but not what drives the company. Crafting the products and talking to people about them and God is what I value. The people who appreciate it enough to give money so they can take it home, are always a blessing. So thank you if that includes you. If you got it as a gift.... thank you for visiting the site ; )
When people appreciate something you have invested time and care in, more than you do; those are God-given moments that aren't found on the dark side. I have seen what a life of hedonism is, it's hell and it was fun but worthless. I have seen heaven on this earth too, in mine and so many Christian lives. Using hands to love and create, instead of hurt and destroy, is what Miniature Masonry is all about.
Jesus Is My Rock
Jesus is our rock, and we fight the good fight.
Jesus is My Rock apparel is offered as inexpensive as possible to show the world what team you are on.
Jesus allows us to build a house of stone on a foundation of solid rock. Such a place can weather any storm and protect us from the big bad wolf ever getting in..... our hearts.
I hope that anyone who boldly wears one of these shirts, or something similar, knows you have my utmost respect. Some places are particularly difficult (Portland & SLC) for those bold enough to wear one. Keep fighting the good fight if that is you. You have grit that is needed more than any of us know.
Good Fight Tactics
Using secular logic to justify our belief
Using secular logic to ask questions and explain your faith in a manner a non-believer can understand easily... but lead to Jesus is not simple or easily done. We have done our best to communicate how these work and why they make sense. We do not want to write a book so are trying to keep it as simple as possible. It needs work but will hopefully get there in time.
Can you pretend God doesn't exist? Can you predict all the implications that would have on your life? We hope you can't. Honestly doing so kind of sucks, but is necessary when effectively speaking to some non-believers. You live in a reality where Jesus is everything, they see a bunch of people with big imaginations. Some of us where them not long ago and recognize the flaws in their understanding.
We offer these tactics not to replace your own but to facilitate your own testimony being better received. Good fight tactics are used to disarm someone's bias and appreciate your audiences' perspective.
We believe it is not how smart you are, but how you are smart. Trevor Looney and Conor Jacobs, MBA and PhD respectively, believe no matter how you are smart, it is stupid NOT to believe in God.
It is hard to love genuinely if you don't know the person.
It is hard to love others if you don't love yourself.
Know thyself so you can love others.
The more you love others, the easier you can love... because loving others is the only way to genuinely love yourself.
- Why love is perfect
The real story behind Miniature Masonry
Your life is a story, are you the hero or the villain?
I apologize to any and all I was a villain to, I was rarely ever the victim. Are bad guys, real good guys?
I graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor's in accounting with high honors. I got a Master's in Business (MBA) after. I learned a ton but it was in 2011 after the financial crash and jobs were slim. My siblings and I have always been risk takers and survivors.
My past is kind of dark before Jesus so I will not go into detail. I believe a human is 50% each parent physically, personality dependent on involved adults, and the remainder is uniquely them. The part that is unique was determined heavily by the physical and social combination over time. If you have children, that child on some level knows it is in fact both parents to some degree. While that kid develops, their identity is being formed and they absorb everything. If chaos is what you show it, chaos is what it will know best. How you treat the partner, is how the child will see themselves.
April 28, 2015 I was arrested for taking money from casinos they did not want to give. My max sentence was 450 years, $1,500,000 in fines. Below is an excerpt from my paperwork.
When I was first arrested, I slept for almost two weeks, getting up for meals and yard/library once or twice. When I was around 9 years old my Grandma sent me a book called "God's promises." I had never opened that book, it just sat on my bookshelf for years. I did not want to read scripture, justifying myself by saying it had been translated so many times there cannot be anything divine in there. My senior quote was actually "It is better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven."
After sleeping for so long I couldn't sleep anymore and was forced to face what my life had become. It was a TERRIBLE feeling, I believe that must be what hell feels like, complete despair and hopelessness, like God was gone and the weight of everything I had done is crushing me. I did so many wicked things, the casinos are what landed me in jail but the worst things I was never caught for.
Your soul gets calloused after doing enough bad things and after a while it is as if you have no soul left, no sense of right and wrong. The only thing stopping you from doing something are the odds of getting away with it and how badly you want to do it. Even today I sometimes feel the weight of things I did back then, lines crossed you never come back from entirely.
That life leaves scars on your body, your heart, and your soul, but Jesus gives such memories purpose. Sure drugs were a factor, but I cannot blame them for what I have done. I slept and ate regularly, used enough drugs to maintain, and know the evil within was ultimately why I made such decisions. In jail that crushing weight made suicide a gentle, comfortable thought, like a Siren's beautiful voice.
At my lowest point I finally opened that book Grandma wanted me to have years and years ago, and in it was a scripture that changed everything. 2 Corinthians 4:9 "Cast down, but not destroyed" and it felt as if God was telling me I am cast down and have fallen so far, but I am not destroyed and can come back from it. The specific thought was to rise like a phoenix, and I had this image of a burning bird soaring high into the sky. I did not share that with anyone, it still sounds corny to me, until years later. I did not know the story of the phoenix, to be honest I thought he was on fire because he got too close to the sun, but the image put in my head meant something else. I also did not share that scripture with anyone, other than my Grandma through a letter from jail. I did not want anyone's judgment or opinion to dilute this experience between me and God because I know it would not mean to them what it meant to me.
I began working out regularly, (as much as you can in a maximum-security county jail) and started going to church. The pastors in Ravalli County are Cory Gusaas and Nate Luibrand and are a powerful team. They do not separate themselves from us inmates, instead treat us as fellow sinners and give guidance in how to build a relationship with Jesus from love and understanding.
With so much free time I was able to read the bible, build a strong relationship with God, and ask myself some deep questions. Challenge God with some tough questions. After receiving answers, I began asking my captive audience of fellow inmates the same ones. These questions have been improved over the years and are the good fight tactics today. It is an attempt that appreciates the other perspective instead of discrediting it. Using secular logic to explain to non-believers why we believe, is and will be, a powerful tool.
What is crazy is that God WANTS you to have a choice. You will never prove without any doubt he doesn't exist. I will never be able to prove without any doubt he does exist, but I choose to err on the side of caution He does.
After six months a man named Mason Skerbeck was arrested with $250,000 of meth and heroin, and soon became one of my best friends. Mason was gay but did not admit it, ultimately it was tough to say he was for sure. We spent all day every day watching TV and playing poker, so you could tell after enough time. My ex had not written or visited me once, which did spades for my self-esteem after nine years together. She does swear she did, and they do filter mail, but I never saw them. It was ultimately easier accepting I was dead to her. My head was shaved, and I had a massive beard when Mason first got there. Eventually he convinced me to change my hairstyle to the way I have it now, and through his genuine compliments and critiques helped me begin loving myself.
I was in county for a total of 13 months, 389 days. During that time my grandma (not the one that got me the book) passed away, and my aunt, uncle, and cousin were murdered in Spokane. Not being able to attend the funerals of these loved ones was a brutal reality and powerless feeling. I was not there for my family, but praise God I have good relationships with everyone now. Sometimes you don’t appreciate things until they are taken away.
The first plea offered was 16 felonies with a 40 year sentence, 20 suspended, so 20 years in prison. Months later the second plea was a 20 year sentence, 10 suspended, so 10 years in prison. There was no way I would agree to that. If I took it to trial, I would likely have won all but one county's charges. Powell county, the city of Deer Lodge, they had me dead to rights. The law of large numbers states they would get lucky eventually. My attorney said the trial would be weeks long and afterward the court would not go easy on me for any charges I was found guilty of. I had been praying for a deferred sentence (if I complete probation without infractions it is removed from my record) and was hopeful God would come through. I took a risk and signed an open plea for the 8 felonies, saying "I am guilty, do with me as you will."
Ultimately at sentencing they said a deferred sentence is for a crime, not a crime spree, and by the grace of God I got five years of probation. It was certainly better than the 450 max I was initially facing! I was released from jail to the streets, after over a year not seeing trees or grass, focusing on anything more than 30 feet away, wearing anything other than orange, turning a door handle or flipping a light switch. It was an intense experience, overwhelming for sure.
The minister from jail Cory Gusaas owns a high-end stone masonry company and put me to work right after I got out. I didn't know what the choke was on a saw, had to sit down one scaffold frame high due to fear of heights, and often laid down from physical exhaustion during the day. It was not easy work, but I learned how to work and how to craft stone. My Grandma and I grew close during and after jail, I went to Wenatchee, WA where she lived and was baptized by her church in the Columbia River. I felt that being baptized with her was right since it was her spark that lit my fire.
I reopened my facebook after about a year to connect with guys I did time with to see how they are and have someone to hang out with. I found Mason on there and he sent me a number to call him at. He had just gotten out of pre-release and I was leaving Costco about to dial his number when no joke he smacks me on the back and says he recognized me from behind because of my "funny ears." I didn't even realize I had "funny ears," but a crazy way to link up after around 10 months apart!
Me and Mace hung out a lot, he was such an amazing friend. He taught me how to dress, look good, and feel confident about who I am. We had fun doing anything from walking to the gas station and having a foot race, to eating at fancy restaurants looking sharp, like a couple of high-class guys hanging out. He always got a kick out of girls that would check him out more than me. His intelligence and social awareness made sure conversation was never dull. We had gotten permission from probation to hang out together, he was all about following the rules and living right, and not letting our past define us. He was happy and full of love, anyone that knew him got to experience that. Being his best friend, I was truly blessed to spend as much time with him as I did.
One night I told Mason I had been doing some self-destructive stuff since I got out. Mason DUG IN, this was a major issue we needed to get to the bottom off. He had come from brokenness and addiction, yet able to be happy, sober, and loving life. He wanted to help his best friend get there too. It was a five plus hour conversation on his porch, with too many cigarettes smoked. Ultimately Mason said there was some deeper underlying issue that lead to my destructive ways.
We had deep conversations about my past, loneliness, and even our friendship. He told me how much I meant to him and how much it would hurt him if I got locked up again. In my arrogance I never thought that I could lose him, he was living right and nothing could make him waver from his path. By the end of the conversation he got me to realize the reason I was so discontent is that I have a Master's degree and I am doing stone masonry. I needed to do something of my own, for fun at least. As a challenge that would likely end in failure. I remember feeling a weight lifted off my shoulders as I drove home, I now knew the problem that needed to be solved and felt hope.
The next morning, I was driving to a job 40 minutes from my place and prayed to God for an idea that was simple, would not take a lot of money to start, and something I could sell online. God gave me Miniature Masonry, which was little do-it-yourself stone masonry kits. A lot of people had immense interest in stone masonry but no means to experience it, so a kit with miniature trowel, mortar, rock chips, and a chiseling system would give them the ability to do so. I thought it was great, Mason thought it was great and loved the name, we even began a little rock wall together a couple weeks later. We had a lot of fun and I thought about how much fun other people would have. Mason and I had fun doing anything, even in jail, so really what we found entertaining together was not a good indicator of what others would.
That following week I wrote the guide that was going to be included, so Mason could review it that weekend. He originally suggested youtube videos where I would be in my underwear explaining how to do the kit. It was actually genius marketing, and showed me some other people that had done it successfully. I wasn’t after bored housewives though, I was after men and boys that had an interest in stone masonry.
After the how-to guide was done, I was lying in bed when my friend Tony called me and said Mason had been killed. I thought it was a joke because we played some stupid jokes on each other feeding off how much we meant to each other, like ignoring calls and texts for a day or two, or saying we are getting arrested, stupid stuff assholes do sometimes. I looked on facebook and saw a bunch of people had messaged me because no one had my phone number, I called all of them and no one answered. I started to unravel but kept it together, decided to drive to his house to punch him in the stomach for going so far. As I was driving, I got a call through messenger from him and answered it saying he was in deep shit, but it was his sister Mallory in tears. They were close so she accessed his account to get a hold of me. Then things got fuzzy, I did not fully comprehend he was gone and still drove to his house, hoping to punch him in the stomach. Part of me knew that he was really gone. Even now it still doesn't fully reconcile, I don't know if it ever will.
I do know Mason is in heaven, probably playing cards with Grandma. He turned to drugs because he hated being gay, and after he accepted who he was, could love himself and others easily. God wants us to love ourselves so we can adequately love other people.
As a Christian I know this is a fiercely unpopular opinion, but I have to share it. Mason was born gay. He would have pretended to be straight if he was capable. God would not want anyone to shamefully hate themselves for the way they were born so...... Mason being able to love himself allowed Jesus to use him to change the trajectory of my life, and ultimately lead to this company. As a Christian I can never understand how people judge others without invitation and without an attempt to understand the other side. "Seek first to understand, then be understood." We should be terrified of diminishing Jesus' loving image by acting without love and self-sacrifice.
I built him a cross of stone as a memorial where he was killed. He was walking home from work and hit by a man running late to work, and it was ruled a total accident.
I did a memorial for him here and brought his stuff to his family in Port Angeles, WA. We had gotten permission from probation to take a trip together to see his family, we were to leave a week after he died. I went on the trip in honor of him, brought his family his stuff and got to spend time with them. It was nice to grieve with them and spend time with people feeling the same loss. After I began the drive home, I tried to break down the wall and really cry but it did not come. It did not really hit me until weeks later, after I went back to work and tried to return to normal. It was at that time the significance he had held in my life was fully realized, and his loss fully felt. It was rough. Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate things until they are gone forever.
The stud picture used to illustrate how frames hang and include hardware, was taken on a hike near Port Angeles, WA at this time.
I had signed up for a small group through my church but never attended it, I just constantly got emails about it. I had originally signed up in hopes of meeting a girl. The church has several services and a large auditorium, assessing a potential mate’s consistency is difficult. The vacuum Mason had left was tearing me apart, having someone that loves you despite your uglier moments and barbaric social conduct, was a true blessing. A friend that you can be completely honest with is powerful, and so painful to be robbed of. I know I meant just as much. Sometimes Mason would give TMI on some relationships, but I only drew the line when he got a video message I didn’t want to see. I saw him like a best friend that only gets involved with really ugly women.
In a moment of frustration and despair I joined a group of strangers and was able to talk about Mason. After several gatherings I finally told them of my past, which made them think no less of me and lead to some powerful relationships. I regard them now as "my church family."
As time went on, I pursued miniature masonry again, using Mason’s memory to latch onto it like a dog with a bone. I gave kits away to friends and family. One of the kits was a veneer picture frame that everyone loved, but no one wanted to do the work to make. I made no sales online and no one actually completed a kit. It was a failure but I wouldn’t let it die. I decided I would make the kits and sell the finished product. I thought if I sold enough it would build some interest in the kits, but after attempting to make one decided it was simply taking too long for what I could sell it for.
Out of frustration I decided to go make one out of a single rock for fun. I made two and brought them to show off to my church family. They told me to sell them at the farmer's market in Missoula. I made more than just the frames and decided to price everything as low as I could. As sales increased, if they increased, I would increase the price. That was May 2018, and after more and more interest my time and table space could only be allocated to what was selling.
After a month my side hustle income started to compete with my hourly income, and I began trying to get days off to spend on Miniature Masonry instead of stone masonry. After a few more weeks I talked to my boss about switching to part time and he ultimately said I should go after Miniature Masonry full time. He is a great man that put me to work right out of jail, taught me how to craft stone, and has continued to help Miniature Masonry when he can. My Grandma was an unwavering champion for the new Trevor during that time. No one has made me feel prouder of the man I have become despite all I had overcome, than her. May she rest in peace by God's side.
God has certainly been blessing the company. I get a ton of joy from creating the products. Some of it certainly sucks, but eventually you get to see God's majesty in the beauty of the stone. To have people love them as much as I do or more is an amazing feeling. The company slogan is "God-given natural beauty" because God made the rocks beautiful and if you know my story.... by some perfect storm my Grandma helped me be born-again, Cory trained me how to craft stone, Mason helped me battle myself and win, then God gave me the idea that began Miniature Masonry.
At craft shows I refuse to shy away from being a Christian and it is difficult sometimes. My Grandma got me to buy some shirts that say "Jesus is my rock" to wear at shows. I have rocks with crosses cut into them saying the same thing, so it is very fitting. There is certainly a stigma attached to Jesus and it is tough not knowing if it will cost me sales. Sometimes it is disheartening to get that judgmental look from people. Ultimately I owe all my success to God, and if they had any idea what I have been through, who I used to be, what I have done, and what He pulled me from, I don't think they would judge so easily.
People loving the work and fellow Christians complimenting me on my boldness are always a blessing. Even on the days where sales are mediocre, awesome interactions with people make the day worthwhile.
As a small business it is not easy and scary at times, but with God on my side I can handle whatever comes. There is peace in knowing if I do my best, the outcome is ultimately in His hands. Failure has not happened yet. I am off probation as of 4-28-2020 and am truly free again, I even got my gun rights back. I have bought a larger vehicle with cash, tools to make things easier, have awesome credit, and am saving for a house. Money is not my primary motivation but certainly amazing reinforcement.
Seeing that God is there and has been there through all of my wickedness, made me realize that those mistakes can have purpose. Everything can be for our good, and part of a plan. Even if it is just having to learn something the hard way, it’s still learning.
I have seen the hell from living a life driven by a dark sinful nature. Living life as a Christian is far less entertaining, but so much more rewarding and abundant. Realizing that your nature and narrow understanding has made the internal struggle between good and bad an unfair fight, is powerful. Future decisions can be made where good and bad have equal power. With Jesus the fight becomes unfair again, but darkness rarely wins. Maybe they call it the good fight, because good usually wins the fight? : )
If you or a loved one is struggling with self-destructive choices, I hope my story has given you something of worth. My advice is do not expect the path of redemption to be rainbows and puppy dogs at first. You reap what you sow. If you plant good seed now it will take time to see the harvest. In the meantime, you are reaping the bad. Do not lose heart, God made you strong and capable.
Jesus is by your side even when you fail, and you will get through it. The only fatal error you can make is pushing Jesus out of your life. He wants to be by your side, no matter how messy you get. I have not seen the end of all the bad seed I have sown, neither have you. I have lasted long enough to see some amazing harvests of the good and thank God so very much. In time so will you. I have received more than I deserve already, so am excited to see what God has planned next. Even if it is death, I shall greet it with a smile as I head home to finally rest.
If you failed to find something positive from this know it wasn't meant for you. I hope you gained something about God or life, or hope that people can change..... I am betting my life Jesus is real and death is inevitable so always remember...
We are given a lifetime to die, not facing that is a coward's lie.