Welcome to my Wild Gatherings. I create metal art & jewelry using "old school" techniques; kiln- and torch-fired vitreous enamel on copper & silver; and gemstone jewelry & adornments. I enjoy re-purposing metals into items for decor or dress. I value integrity, transparency, & honesty. Be curious, ask questions. Think kind thoughts, take care, & fare well.
Shirley Walle ~ Torchsmith • Enamelist • Arcadian • Wonderer
Learn more about my story below the video ↓.
Continuing the Journey
I've lived in the beautiful Pacific Northwest since 1974. I love Oregon's high desert; the humbling Badlands of ancient Juniper Trees; Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja), Woolly Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and willow-saturated marshlands created by the ever-eager beaver. I also appreciate and become recharged within the dark and damp secrecy of Oregon's rain forests. Alright, enough with the poetic stuff. I won't tell you that I am "nature inspired" because, well, aren't we all? I like to fix things. I enjoy creating something out of very little. I thrive on being resourceful, inventive, innovative, and original.
My first soldering experience was for a school project at age 13 - a very intricate miniature three-wheeled surrey with moving wheels, a steering rod, and twisted-wire fringe on top. My dad, Willard, was very supportive of my "playing" in the garage. He would set me up with a soldering gun, a lathe, a saw, hammer and nails, or whatever I needed. I learned at an early age, by example, that I could do anything. If I didn't quite know how, I would figure it out.
My love for small things: For several years when I was little, we would visit my grandma and grandpa. The first thing I would do after arriving at their home was go into the kitchen to a special place on the counter to see if Grandma had saved any tiny bottles for me. The smaller the better, and they were like treasures to me. I still love tiny things and my little enameled copper bowls and tiny copper trinket boxes reflect this. I also still love tiny bottles ~ I used a tiny gem-filled bottle as the object chamber for one of my handmade kaleidoscopes. I also enjoyed painting miniature watercolors, the smaller the better.
WILD GATHERINGS ~ How Wild Gatherings came about: In 1993 I was preparing to engage in my very first craft booth at the local year-round Public Market in Salem, Oregon. I was creating lists of items that I could make to sell. On one of the lists were items I could collect in the wild such as seeds, sage, wildflower bouquets, etc. At the top of this particular list I entered the title, "Wild Gatherings". The name stuck and became all-encompassing for the many aspects of my craft. For the next ten years or so, I maintained an art & craft booth and participated in local Saturday Markets as well as art and craft shows in the Pacific Northwest and Southern-to-Northern California ~ offering a myriad of handmade creations: kaleidoscopes (copper or stained glass), obsidian needle chimes (I dug the obsidian needles myself at Davis Creek, CA), perfumes and soaps, copper olive oil lamps, geode aromatherapy diffusers, bud vases made out of old silverware, handmade cone incense [yes, I formed each cone, one at a time, by hand], beeswax & soy wax candles, and many other articrafts. My Wild Gatherings booth won the "Most Excellent Merchant's Display Of The Faire" at the 1997 Valhalla Renaissance Festival at Lake Tahoe. I was proud to be featured in local newspapers, as well.
I've been fascinated by copper and it's many uses. Back in the '80's my stepmom gifted me a small copper-enameling kiln along with some copper blanks and a few samplings of enamels. I kept it all, just in case I might want to do something with it some day.
Fast forward to 2014. I offered myself the choice to either part with my stash, or build a space where I could be creative with the materials that I had hoarded for so long. Thus, I built my atelier ~ complete with hot & cold running water, two skylights, a vaulted ceiling, and a crystal chandelier.
FORMAL TRAINING: I was an art major in school. For two years in the early nineties I trained with an old master Silversmith in the art of sterling silver lost wax casting and sterling fabrication. Through experimentation, detail observation, reading, successes, and many ah-hah! moments, I am primarily self taught with more than a half-century of experience.
FOR THE BLIND and/or VISUALLY IMPAIRED: For fourteen years I was a computer graphic artist, creating tactile graphics for higher education math textbooks for college students who are blind. I have read, cover to cover, dozens of calculus, algebra, physics, chemistry, and statistics textbooks, and created - on a computer - a tactile representation of every diagram in each book, complete with braille labels. The diagrams were embossed on a special braille printer and inserted into a [huge] braille rendition of the textbook. I incorporate Braille into some of my jewelry. The term "I am enough" is particularly appropriate.
I compose my one-of-a-kind jewelry from raw, reclaimed, or recycled copper; .999 fine silver; .935 Argentium Silver; .925 Sterling Silver; sterling findings; vitreous lead-free enamel powders and frit; re-claimed metals and materials; and, last but not least, 1500º-2000ºf of heat. I love fire ~ The power of a flaming torch ~ Liquefied glass & molten metals ~ Melding color-rich enamel to various substrates ~ Welding copper, casting silver, coating steel ~ Harnessing the power of the flame to create decor and wearable art of simplicity, rusticity, and flamboyance [I just had to get prosy, again...] I am not, necessarily, into perfection and refinement. Some of the jewelry and art pieces I create are rustic, organic, occasionally crusty, and sometimes portray an aged quality. I love wild things like lichen, moss, rough tree bark, insects, and flowing streams. I aspire for these rhythms and textural elements to be reflected in my work. Coarse, never boring, and ever-evolving. Thank you for supporting an independent artist, and for taking the time to learn what "handmade" truly means. Shop local. Buy from the people in your community. Support independent artists and businesses. Be kind, take care, and fare well.