From draft defier to burial artist

David Hopper

Photo by Pam Figge

David Hopper keeps both the creative and technical sides of his brain busy. He’s a creative artist sculpting with diverse materials from glass to metal while also being a successful, analytical businessman. You also might call him a rebel. After graduating from San Jose State with a bachelor’s degree in art history and a master’s in glass sculpture in 1968, Hopper applied to the Peace Corps, hoping to receive a deferment during the Vietnam War. He twice refused to step forward for induction, resulting in the FBI opening a case against him. Seven years later, it was dismissed. These days, most folks know Hopper as former owner of Orient & Flume Art Glass, which he founded in 1972 with classmate Doug Boyd, who invited him “to blow some glass” in Chico. But over the past 26 years, he’s been focused on Paradise Pictures, which fuses photographs of deceased loved ones onto headstones. In the late 1980s, Hopper met Mike Sandquist, who helped him to develop the process to put photo images in glass sculpture. Shortly thereafter, they formed Paradise Pictures, which uses a similar process to affix photos to headstones. For more information, call 800-960-8040 or visit

What initially interested you in the process of placing a photo onto a surface that is not light-sensitive?

I became very interested in glass paperweights with photographic images when traveling in Europe during the ’70s. I wanted to know everything about all glass processes and started collecting information, going factory to factory for a year.

Why images of the dead for headstones?

Creating likenesses of the dead for their burial is engrained in human history. Egyptian artists painted the faces of the departed on their mummies. In Europe, there was a tradition of placing porcelain black-and-white portraits on grave markers.

How did Paradise Pictures come to be?

I sold my interest in Orient & Flume in 1982. I built my home studio and made glass figurine sculptures for about 10 years. And Mike was working with different ways to place images on a variety of materials including metal. We collaborated on technique and material using a Chromaline process and eventually showed our product to monument makers. Twenty-six years later, with a narrow product line, Paradise Pictures is the only company using this process, and we’re still in the wholesale business. I’d say that’s a success story.

Do you define yourself as an artist first or businessman first?

Not many artists are business-oriented. I support artists and making art 100 percent. I am on the board of Monca [Museum of Northern California Art] and stay involved with the university [Chico State]. I’m very practical. I didn’t want to be old and poor. I’d say I’m a better businessman than artist.