Roger Wilbur > Artists > Roger Wilbur

My introduction to jewelry making came at an early age. I remember my grandfather’s workbench. He was a New York jeweler, watch maker and engraver. His workbench was covered with colorful wonderment; gold and silver watch parts, precious stones and shiny hand tools. Soon, I was given my own cigar box of parts and stones to fuel my young creative ideas.

My formal education took place in Minnesota, an environment of Scandinavian design and expression. After receiving a fine arts degree from Minnesota State University Mankato, I moved to northern New Mexico. I lived with the Jicarilla Apache Indians and became captivated by colored stones, basketry and bead work.

Channel Inlay is the ancient jewelry technique that precedes the introduction of precious metals to the world. The first known inlayers were Arizona’s Hohokam people (1500 B.C. to 1000 A.D.). They used shells, jet, turquoise and semi-precious stones of the area adhered together with pine sap to create their jewelry. Today, we use modern glues, diamond lapidary equipment and the world’s selection of gem stones. Essentially the technique remains unchanged; a channel of negative space is created in silver, gold or stone. I then inlay this form with gem stones chosen for size, color and statement.

Channel inlay is demanding and precise, but offers limitless variables of color, form, value and texture. Once I have completed an inlay piece it cannot be altered to fit “everyone” without damage. When a piece fits, it’s a “Cinderella’s slipper”, truly custom made for its wearer.

I benchmark many of my jewelry pieces with a butterfly: a universal symbol of many cultures past and present. This symbol depicts change, emergence, beauty, freedom and evolution. I build in concepts to each piece without being self-limiting. Wearability, balance and modernistic sensibility are factors that “allow the stones to speak” in my jewelry. I enjoy the elegance of a limited statement to form and the inspirations in complex stone, patterns and color.

Today, my family and I live in Santa Fe. Northern New Mexico is a timeless and ever changing landscape. In this “Georgia O’Keeffe country” is found a continual source of inspirational energy, for me and countless artists come and gone.

Find Roger’s work here.