Greg Wilbur is an Oregon born metal smith/ artist / teacher. He has practiced the art of the raising of metal for 40 years. He is especially known for hammering (raising) single flat sheets of copper, brass, pewter or silver into closed sculptural form.
Born and educated in Oregon, Greg finished formal schooling at the University of Oregon in 1978, with degrees in Fine Art and Art Education. He is a Viet Nam veteran. He is known for hammering/raising metal into sculptural and vessel forms, and has done so for 40 years. He is and has been an active supporter of the Creative Metal Art Guild, Sitka Center of Art and Ecology, Seattle Metal Guild, Society of North American Goldsmiths; and was a founder of Art in the Pearl. He has taught his art form all over America, and internationally in Canada, New Zealand and France. He has participated in 100 + Art and Craft shows all over America including the Smithsonian Craft Fair and Philadelphia Crafts Show.
20 years ago he experienced his first collaborative event (Emma Lake Collaborations) near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This particular event (the grand daddy of them all) featured 100 makers in many diverse mediums making together for one week. The experience transformed him and his art making. For him it is all about JOY . He has since participated in 22 such events sited in Oregon, Canada, New Zealand and France. He is often honored to serve as a mentor.
6 years ago he joined some Portland makers to help make a collaborative event called Frogwood. The event has grown each year, drawing makers from all over the United States (mostly), Canada and even a couple of stars from New Zealand and Ghana.
To help support the costs of such events, all the artwork made is auctioned off, benefiting the Collab and it's sponsor, the PNW Woodturning Guild. This year's event will be held at the White Stag Building in downtown Portland on August 18th.
Website link with auction and participation info at the left.
Raising / Hammered Metal
I raise - hammer - forge - squish metal into sculptural objects. A major theme of my work is that of “one piece” of metal – it is seamless. I do no soldering or welding. I make my art by hammering.
If you have made (squished) a simple pinch pot from clay with your thumb and fingers you are following the process. The difference is that use non-ferrous metals and I “pinch” with a silversmithing hammer on a metal anvil-like tool called a stake. My work also takes longer.
I begin with a flat sheet of metal (non-ferrous: copper, brass, silver ) often cut into a circular shape. By holding this metal disk over and in contact with a stake, I strike with my hammer on the outside of the metal and just ahead of where I’m holding the metal on the stake. That little “dead air area” smack it down turn the metal disk a little and smack it again (repeat many, many, many times), and slowly “raise” the piece in the direction desired. I start from the center area of the of the metal sheet and work out towards the edge in concentric circles.
As I strike the metal, I compress, crush, stretch and put much tension on the millions of crystals that the metal sheet is made up of. These crystals slide on each other but hold together because of tensile strength. But this tensile strength is limited and if not relieved will cause a rip, crack or tear.
A wonderful property of non-ferrous metal is that this tension can be relieved by a process called annealing. Annealing is the heating of metal to a point ( this varies, but about 1,000 degrees F.) where the tension is relieved.
The crystals get heat active, expand everything slightly and push themselves apart; thus, the relief of tension.
Then I cool the metal back to room temperature; usually quenching it in water.
I alternately heat, cool and hammer / heat, cool and hammer until the desired form is obtained. Some small pieces take only an hour or so to make, others take many hours. I haven’t counted the hammer blows, but I once read that a 6” x 6” x 6” open bowl takes 50,000 hammer blows to complete. That would probably be about 6 annealings.
I have done large pieces that took over 200 annealings and over a month to complete.
This is a rare and unique art form and beautifully durable.