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Jewel of a Gallery 

Inspirations are not fleeting matters for Mary Viola Walker. She captures them in her mind's eye, then turns them into unique works of art in the form of jewelry, home decorating ideas and even photographs.

Proprietor of Mary Viola Walker Gallery (834 Julia St., 558-9688; www.mwvgallery.com), the artist offers some of all those things at her Warehouse/Arts District shop. Interestingly, items that she's made for herself or a specific event catch on and become staples at the gallery. That is what happened when she exhibited color photographs of cemetery details that she shot for Art for Art's Sake. It also was the genesis of her jewelry lines that feature pearls and semi-precious stones.

"I've always loved jewelry," says Walker, who started her art career as a decorative painter. "I started making jewelry for myself, and people were buying it off my neck. My husband said, 'I think you've got something here,' and I started making jewelry to sell."

Jewelry now is a major focus for Walker, who has expanded her display area to accommodate her new ideas for a bridal collection and her new resort-wear jewelry line. An added plus for customers is that except for her playful Cocktail Collection, none of the pieces are duplicated and all are handcrafted.

"Everything we sell in the shop, we make here," says Walker. Almost everything is one-of-a-kind, except the Cocktail Collection, which we do make copies of." Otherwise, some items may be similar but not identical. "I don't want my customers to see their jewelry on someone else."

Walker also custom-designs pieces for customers, for instance creating a pair of earrings to match a necklace they bought at the gallery or one they already have. She also will rework customers' own stones or jewelry pieces to make them more contemporary.

"We're very flexible," she says. "People bring in or send us jewelry they have and we can intersperse (items from that piece) with stone and pearls. Others will buy a necklace and later want earrings to match or a bracelet. We do all those things." To make matching items easier, Walker keeps scans of jewelry each customer has bought and a card file that contains their preferences.

"Guys love it," Walker says. "It's an easy way to shop and get (the women) what they like. One man bought a necklace for his wife, and later had me make earrings to match and a bracelet for her birthday." To add to the fun, Walker giftwraps every item sold. "I think life is short and every day is special. Why not have it giftwrapped, even if it's just for yourself."

Bridal customers can bring in their wedding colors or bridesmaids dresses and have jewelry made for the attendants, using the same color scheme or jewels for all, but giving each piece a slightly different, one-of-a-kind, design.

The Resort Collection will be introduced sometime after Easter with a special opening event. That line features lots of colored stones and more bulky, playful designs that can make the fashion transition from casual to dressy, Walker says.

She also designs jewelry, particularly necklaces, that can be worn several ways, including long strands that can stand alone, wrapped around the neck a few times for a choker or even wrapped into a bracelet. "I like things that have a lot of flexibility, that goes with different necklines and different body sizes. I want to make things people will pass on (to a loved one)."

Because most of her jewelry is one-of-a-kind, Walker keeps an ever-changing "digital catalog" on CD so it can be updated as new pieces are created.

Although jewelry is her main passion, lampshades and wastebaskets collaged with old engravings and other things Walker collected while traveling also are in demand by both customers and out-of-town shops. In addition to collaging designs she has found, Walker also will custom-design those items using a customer's old photographs, letters or something else they treasure.

click to enlarge Artist Mary Viola Walker (left) and Maria Cicio show off pearls and jewelry made with other semi-precious stones at Mary Viola Walker Gallery in the Warehouse/Arts District.
  • Artist Mary Viola Walker (left) and Maria Cicio show off pearls and jewelry made with other semi-precious stones at Mary Viola Walker Gallery in the Warehouse/Arts District.
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