News and updates from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Partners with The Opportunity Tree to Construct Desert Masonry Candle Blocks

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Jan 4, 2019

The Opportunity Tree members—adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities—worked with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to build and sell desert masonry candle blocks.

The Opportunity Tree—formerly known as the Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped— is “committed to promoting the development of a society that fully embraces individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through inclusion, advocacy and opportunities.” Together, The Opportunity Tree and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, inspired by the desert environment and Taliesin West’s rich history, partnered to produce a product that allows individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to share their creativity with the community. This partnership builds on the Taliesin legacy of inclusion established by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wright’s Taliesin West was built using desert masonry, a technique that involves sourcing sand and stones from the surrounding desert. Inspired by this technique, a former student in the School of Architecture at Taliesin’s Immersion Program created the angled candle blocks. After continued experimentation with size, angles, and mixtures, the molds for the candle blocks were perfected, allowing production on a larger scale.

Left: Patty measures sand for the candle blocks at The Opportunity Tree Campus in Phoenix.

Right: Calvin layers rocks and the cement mixture in the candle block mold at The Opportunity Tree Campus in Phoenix.

“Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio has always been a place of inclusion—a place where people could explore their talents and creativity regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, faith, or otherwise,” said Stuart Graff, president & CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “Through this partnership with The Opportunity Tree, we’re able to advance our mission of enabling everyone to contribute to our community by realizing their potential.”

In September, Opportunity Tree members were invited to Taliesin West to explore the site, learn about the desert masonry, and explore the materials in the environment.

Then, members spent time on The Opportunity Tree campus in Phoenix learning how to make the desert masonry candle blocks, finding which stones worked best with the molds, and seeing how the molds were filled. Once the members had learned the history and the process, they then collected stones from Taliesin West and built the candle blocks at their campus.

See how the candle blocks are made:


“Many employment opportunities that have previously been available to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have not been in the creative field and have focused more on repetitive tasks, such as sorting and stocking,” said Taylor Buttrey, The Opportunity Tree’s creative arts program manager. “To be able to offer our members the unique opportunity to express more of their creativity, especially with such an iconic organization is really exciting.”


Desert masonry candle blocks handmade by The Opportunity Tree can be purchased online through the Frank Lloyd Wright Store. Shop online to purchase or call 480.627.5398 to place your order. Limited quantities are available.


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