- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Teacher, jeweler, engineering draftsman, Colorado hotel owner - Michael Dubber has applied himself to a variety of jobs through the years but a common thread pulled them all together.

In its own way, each job drew on Dubber’s fine arts background, artistic talent and eye for precision detail, attributes that provide the foundation for what Dubber sees as his true calling, engraving.

“During all this time engraving was my true avocation, my artistic interest,” he said.

A master engraver, Dubber turns firearms into intricate artworks. His works grace collections around the world. In fact, Dubber has created firearms or jewelry engraving for notable individuals such as Norman Schwartzkopf, Juan Carlos King of Spain, Pope John Paul II and actress Bo Derek.

The 74-year-old Evansville native recently received a Sagamore of the Wabash honorary award, signed by former Gov. Mike Pence shortly before leaving office to become vice president.

The award, which has been given out by Indiana governors since the 1940s, puts Dubber in the company of notable recipients as Ryan White, David Letterman, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and many others.

In 2012, Dubber spent two months as an artist in residence at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis. He has also presented guest classes on engraving at the prestigious Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Indiana.

“At this point in my career I don’t have to seek commissions,” he said.

Dubber said he especially enjoys embellishing firearms, which accounts for most of how he spends his time now.

“The work is the ultimate challenge because of the hardness of the metals,” he said.

Each line in his engravings is painstakingly hand chiseled one hammer tap at a time using precisely angled and sharpened chisels, following the lines of patterns he draws by hand on the piece he is engraving.

“A bracelet might take an hour whereas a pair of Colts might take 300 hours,” he said.

Although he once maintained studio space at Brinker’s Jewelers, Dubber now works from the comfort of his home, among his tools, memorabilia and his dog.

After graduating from Reitz High School, Dubber earned a degree in fine arts from Indiana State University. In 1966, he began an 11-year education career at the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, teaching art and then mechanical and architectural drawing at Harrison and Bosse high schools.

It was there, in the teacher lounges, that he became interested in engraving firearms through discussions with other teachers.

Eventually, Dubber left his teaching job to learn about engraving and jewelry making by working at a Downtown Evansville jewelry store. Then, in 1982 he went to work as an engineering draftsman at Black Beauty Coal before making another change and moving to Colorado where he and his wife Janet owned and operated a hotel.

In 1999, Dubber returned to Evansville and began working for Brinker’s Jewelers, until he retired six years ago to concentrate on firearms engraving full time. That is where Southern Illinois resident Dennis Swager saw Dubber’s work on display.

Swager commissioned Dubber to create a Colt Model 1911 .45 automatic honoring his grandfather’s lengthy World War II service in both Europe and the Pacific.

“He did a tremendous job on the engraving on that pistol. It’s world class,” Swager said.

The project soon grew into an award-winning project, titled “The Greatest Generation,” complete with scrimshawed ivory grips, an accompanying knife and a custom-made case. Several other artists contributed to the project, to which Dubber contributed the engraving.

Dubber used the project as an opportunity to honor the Tri-State’s unique contributions to the World War II effort by incorporating images of an Evansville-made LST (Landing Ship Tank) and a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane, also made in Evansville.

“He has a tremendous amount of experience. He can put so much stuff on a piece like that and it doesn’t seem crowd. It’s just the artistic ability Mike has got, in his ability to do that. As far as his design work, he is amazing,” Swager said. “As a craftsman he is remarkable. He is basically self-taught on engraving. It’s amazing to me.”

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Source: Evansville Courier and Press, https://bit.ly/2roWClz

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, https://www.courierpress.com

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