Melissa Enloe Walter is a 4th generation artist; painter, jewelry designer, and fabricator. She had been creating art her entire life and professionally for over 30 years. Jewelry design and fabrication is her latest adventure. She creates Cherokee-culture and nature-inspired jewelry using semi-precious stones, translucent beads, sturdy leather, reflective copper, shimmering brass and other durable metals to create stunning "Art to Wear".
Melissa has explored many ways to innovatively showcase the natural beauty of these materials while incorporating culturally rich, nature-inspired themes into her jewelry designs. A native of our North Carolina Smoky Mountains and inspired by her Cherokee roots, Melissa is a naturally gifted artist. She is both a talented painter and jewelry artisan. Gallery Zella is proud to welcome as one of our important artists.
Melissa's signature pendant designs incorporate her extraordinary
paintings. She embellishes her tiny masterpieces with silver and
gold then frames them with brass or copper for a family heirloom
quality "art to wear piece" that will be enjoyed for generations
As I grew up in the forested mountains of North Carolina and roamed in the heart of these ancient lands, I became imbued with the mystical nature of this place. Like the ancestral native Cherokee people, I resonated and harmonized with this quality. My Father’s people came from the lush banks of the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee and my interest in the native natural world was ignited at a young age.
This interest combined with God-given artistic talent propelled me to let the instinctual intelligence of nature’s arrangement to speak to me clearly. I have been an artist since I hit the planet and I come from a long line of artists. I am a 4th generation artist through my Mother, Joan; my Grandmother, Gertrude; and my Great Grandmother, Lily May. I am an unconventionally educated artist, that is, mostly self-taught by communing with nature and animals.
The nature images and animals often find their way into my artwork. I distil elemental atmospheric qualities into my work by literally painting outside. Often, I let the canvas enjoy a summer shower to soften and slow-drying, or let the sun enliven the paint to dry quickly with defined edges. The elements encourage the paint to bead and run at its own will. Sometimes the backgrounds provide a perfect habitat for a fox or an owl or perhaps one of our native species of Luna moth.
Usually, I can see the creature reveal itself in the painting
before my mind tries to impose an image of what I think I am
supposed to be painting. Other times, the simplicity of just
the atmospheric qualities of the day create an uncomplicated
and transparent image from my insight, resulting in a
contemporary abstract work of art.
I discovered through gilding (applying gold and silver metal leaf
to canvas) that I could create a burnished sheet of reflective light
as the base of the painting. The gold of the sunlight and the
silver of the moonlight was intoxicating to me -almost magical
- and I desired to shape it. The leafing technique is done in the
traditional way: applying size (a special kind of glue) to canvas and affixing thin sheets of hammered gold and silver metal. Then I paint on as many as a dozen layers of acrylic glaze. Finally, I learned how to finesse the technique to attain the beautiful light quality I desired. The light provides a fit backdrop for all the beauty of the sky, earth, water, and plants and especially the creatures that share this realm with us.
My newest venture is fabricating jewelry from my original artwork and hand enhancing each piece with gold and silver leaf. By mixing copper, silver and gold components, I create easy to wear pendants with a unique slip on bail that allows a fit on most necklaces. Of course, the foxes, bears, and owls wend their way into the pieces to be worn close to your heart. Maybe a miniature version of your totem animal can accompany you on your daily journeys out in the world, and enhance your sense of style too!