Walt Hekala came to metalsmithing after careers in Federal law enforcement and then in international development projects focused on trade facilitation for less developed countries. After retirement from both these careers, he took his first formal training in metalsmithing at the Bellingham Metal Arts Guild (BMAG). As a student, he has participated in nearly all course offerings at BMAG to learn multiple techniques for metalsmithing and jewelry making. Since joining BMAG, he has been an active volunteer in duties ranging from studio maintenance to serving two terms on the board of directors. He served two terms as President of BMAG.
His jewelry making interests are eclectic in methodology, metal selection, and theme. Walt takes inspiration particularly from stones he incorporates in many pieces. He teams with Elizabeth Rhyneer to create unique finished pieces where they each incorporate their individual specific interests and talents.
As an example, Walt may cut and polish a stone he or Elizabeth will incorporate into a pendant, and then Elizabeth will finish the design incorporating the pendant into a necklace. In addition to making jewelry and metal art objects, Walt has written stories originally intended to accompany gifts he made for his granddaughters. He has now made multiples of these store themed pieces to accompany copies of these stories. These story themed pieces and the stories are now publicly offered by Walt and Elizabeth thorough their endeavor: WE Talking Stones.