Owen Walker Biography

owen working1 I was not encouraged as a child in my artistic endeavors so as a consequence I did not realize I am an artist until I was an adult. It was a great leap for me to say “I am an artist.” I always enjoyed working with my hands, carving, polishing, building, braiding, most anything you could think. I was not encouraged to draw even though I enjoyed trying to put on paper what I saw in my mind. I could not see well so it was never about what I saw in the world around me it was always what I could see in my mind. I could not see well is an understatement, I was drafted in 1968 and the Army did not want me, I was too blind to go to war! I am very grateful.
My journey to becoming an artist got a jolt when my family moved to Palmer, Alaska as I was about to enter the 11th grade. This was way back in olden times when there was no TSA screening going on at airports just flying! I flew out of SeaTac to Anchorage. The plane landed about 100 yards from the terminal and you were required to shlepp you own baggage to the terminal from the plane. As I entered the new terminal at Anchorage I was confronted by a Kaigani Haida house post whose main character was a Beaver. I felt I had been struck by lightning. I just stood and stared, I could not move. I stood there until my Dad came to find me. My world had been changed!
I lived in Palmer for the next two years and learned to be a gillnet fisherman and to trap foxes. I had many Arctic adventures and made some very good friends. I then moved to Bellingham,Washington to attend what is now WWU with the idea of becoming a marine biologist or chemist. I changed my major a lot until I discovered Anthropology and devoured it! When I graduated in 1971 I had more undergraduate credits in Anthropology than any other student to graduate from Western to that date!
When you graduate you are supposed to get a job and earn a living but I found very few opportunities for someone with a BA in Anthropology. I worked as a chainman on a survey crew as I had done with my Dad but I never enjoyed it. I then met a Woman who was about to open a craft shop, I asked myself what I could make that could be sold and I became a jeweler. Just like that, almost over night! I did have some skills, loved working with my hands, and as a kid I had read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, so I knew how to find out what I didn’t already know. Janet and I were married in 1975 and started our family right away, so I had to get serious real fast. I took whatever work I could find and kept making jewelry in every moment I could find. My main desire was to make carved (engraved) bracelets like the Tlingit and Haida made in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. My first task was to learn to engrave. It took a long time of trial and error mostly error.
I sold my first carved bracelet in 1977 and I have been carving them ever since. I am known up and down the coast as “the bracelet guy”. I fished in summer and carved in winter until 1981 when we moved to Utah where I apprenticed to Brian Patch of Goldsmith Company Jewelers in Provo to learn all the tricks that I could not get from books. In 1983 we moved to Boise, Idaho and opened our own wholesale trade shop, Walker Goldsmiths, doing repair and custom work for Zales and many local jewelry stores. We returned to Bellingham area in 1986, and have been here ever since. I make many different kinds and styles of jewelry sometimes on my own, sometimes in collaboration with Janet, but my favorite work is still carving bracelets