by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Greg Gifford became “The Rock Guy” by accident. On a beach vacation in Baja about 10 years ago, he began stacking rocks. When not kayaking or windsurfing, he ventured into the desert and made rock sculptures. “By the time we left the place I had about 50 of them along the road and the guy that ran the place said, “You are the rock guy!”
Gifford took his new moniker back to Bend where he created his first rock sculpture which still stands on the corner of his home on Riverfront Ave. “I thought that was all I was going to do,” he commented, “then someone wanted me to make them one… and I thought maybe I could sell some of these.”
He began experimenting with different shapes and abstract forms; the demand for his sculptures gathering steam when the owners of the former furniture store Rising Star wanted to carry his work. Rising Star proved to be a very popular spot for Gifford’s sculptures and when the store closed down, he moved over to Pine Mountain Sports.
By this time Gifford had a series of sporty sculptures: a kayaker, biker, golfer, fisherman, etc. that were a great match for the sporting goods store. “It has been a win-win for both of us. I do the installation there and take care of them… it gets a lot of people in the door because they are curious about them, so it’s been a good partnership,” he said.
Gifford uses all local rocks and sources them from Shevlin Sand and Gravel. “They are not necessarily pretty rocks, the shapes are interesting, but they are kind of soft and that makes them drillable,” he said. From basalt to cinder rocks, he uses a hammer drill and many, many bits in his work. He inserts metal rods to keep the sculpture together and brass pins to attach the accessories.
“There is nothing more inanimate than a rock…giving them animation and life is fun,” he said. “I often assert my will over [the rocks], if I find a really interesting shape I’ll find a way to use it…A lot of times I don’t know what I’m going to do with them when I get them, I guess in that respect they kind of tell me what I should [make].”
Gifford always has an eye out for objects he can incorporate into his rock sculptures: garage sales are great for kids bikes, old golf clubs and other nick-nacks, he even has plans for a discarded spring he found while on a hike in the woods.
“I have always tinkered around, and reused things,” he explained. Back in the ‘70s, Gifford created driftwood furniture; he would travel to Shasta Lake on the coast to forage for driftwood, selling his creations at art fairs. He sold his rock sculptures at Bend’s Saturday Market for a while and went to one art fair at Eagle Crest a few years ago, but the size and weight of his merchandise created quite a laborious task of moving and setting up his wares. Now he keeps the sculptures close to home, in his front yard…or at Pine Mountain Sports.
“I do not consider myself an artist at all, this affords me to earn some money so I can buy real art,” Gifford laughed. “I just discovered this niche; it took some creativity I suppose and a lot of practice.”
The keen eye will spot Gifford’s rock sculptures all around town, Atelier 6000 usually has one of his pieces in front of the gallery (he rotates them out for First Friday), and he created a special Segway rock sculpture that sits in front of the Bend Tour Company. To see a full range of Gifford’s work, take a walk or bike ride down Riverfront Avenue.