Byron August Wilson – Mid-century American Artist and Educator

This is a biography website offering an example of artistic growth and development in the modern jewelry movement.

byron wilson portraitByron Wilson was a mid-century American artist and educator, known for his jewelry design.

Wilson was born in 1918, Alameda, California. Self-taught, he quickly developed his own unique style of art, while improving his techniques and advancing designs in mid-century modern jewelry. Wilson also experimented in the mediums of etching, painting and sculpture.

In 1956, the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) – California College of the Arts, asked him to teach in their metal arts department, where he perfected casting techniques and created their first metal foundry. While teaching part-time at CCAC, Wilson also worked as a claims inspector for Southern Pacific Railroad for 47 years. He would find time to create his artwork in the off-hours between his two jobs.  He eventually retired after 26 years of teaching at the CCAC.

byron wilson necklace, silver, ebony, walrus ivory, 1956

Necklace – silver, ebony, walrus ivory, 1956

Wilson was a founding member of the Metal Arts Guild of San Francisco alongside other jewelry artists such as Bob Winston, Florence Resnikoff, Margaret de Patta, and Irena Brynner. He was an important figure in the California studio jewelry movement in the mid-twentieth century, and he incorporated the prevailing modernist philosophy into his designs. Margaret de Patta, was also a founding member of MAG and a friend. She was a great influence in his work.

Byron Wilson’s art often incorporated organic shapes and color contrasts formed through the utilization of natural materials like ebony wood and walrus ivory. The use of strong geometric elements, made from precious metal, helped to frame non-reflective components. He also made use of innovative casting methods to create forms in silver that were difficult to achieve through hand fabrication.

In 1981, Byron Wilson received a patent for an improved type of flap sander (pat. no. 4,365,448). The tool consisted of a slotted cylinder and cover plate which held replaceable strips of sandpaper.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has an extensive collection of Byron Wilson’s pieces.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MFA) has one example of Wilson’s work in their collection.

Byron Wilson died in 1992.

Byron Wilson's hallmark
Byron Wilson’s Hallmark