Welcome to my Wild Gatherings. I create metal art & jewelry; Kiln- and torch-fired vitreous enamel on copper & silver; 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
Born and raised in Reseda in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, I've called the beautiful Pacific Northwest my home 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 prosy banter. I won't tell you that I am "nature inspired" because, well, everybody says that.
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 - of course - fringe on top made out of twisted wire. My father, 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 to make whatever it was I wanted to make. 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. Occasionally I would ask.
At age 15 I stepped into the welding shop at my Junior High School - I wanted to build a metal wire birdcage to house my finches. After taking and passing a safety test, the teacher showed me how to use a spot welder. I designed and planned out the cage, and proceeded to spot weld every single wire at each junction. Hundreds of wires because finches are small and can squeeze through wires that are not close together. It stood about three feet tall, 18" wide. It was a work of love.
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 copper trinket boxes and tiny copper enamel trinket bowls 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 painted miniature watercolors, the smaller the better. Long time ago....
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 my own 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], 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 have been fascinated by copper and it's many uses. About 35 years ago my stepmom gifted me a small copper-enameling kiln along with some copper blanks and a few samplings of enamels. I've 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. 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 from higher-education math textbooks for college students who are blind. I 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 the 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 terms "I am enough" and "Be about it" are particularly appropriate.
Just for the fun of it: 12 years ago I attended a one-night class at a local community college to learn what voice-overs were. The next day I walked down the hall from the Braille business where I worked (there happened to be a radio station in the building), and offered to do voice overs for free, just for the experience. I've been working at AM 1490 KBZY in Salem, Oregon ever since, doing copywriting and voice overs for ads and such. I have an evening show M-F, 6pm - 9pm. I also participate in their on-air morning huddles at 6:20 am and 7:50 am. Just something different. Listen live - KBZY.com
I love opposites. As with the color wheel - Orange & Blue; Yellow & Violet; and my favorite, Turquoise & Purple (well, not exactly opposite...). And, opposing concepts: Elegant rusticity. Refined crudeness. Flamboyant simplicity. Fine Silver encompassing a rough pebble found on the beach. Sweet Tarts!
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 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 articrafts I create are rustic, organic, occasionally crusty, and sometimes portray an aged quality. I love wild things like lichens, 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.