BOZEMAN – Most artists will tell you they have that one thing that inspires them to create. They call it their muse.

In this week’s Montana Made, we visited a Gallatin Valley jewelry maker whose muse is 120 miles long – with roots deep in Yellowstone National Park.

The Gallatin River flows through every piece of jewelry that comes from a converted shipping container on the bank of the river, west of Bozeman.

Story continues below

“I recycle everything,” said Cynthia Wadeley, the artist behind Cynthia Out West. “So I find old sterling and cut it up and re-use it, transforming it into something you’d never recognize what it was to begin with. Yesterday, I cut a piece of this, took it down to the river and hammered out a little bit of a river rock texture for the inside.

“I could do inside or outside but being on the river is really a big thing to me, it’s really important,” she said.

That’s just the beginning for a salvaged serving tray on its way to becoming a work of art. Using heat and a hammer, while maintaining an intimate relationship with the silver, the transformation continues.

“It kind of carries the spirit of the river with it too,” said Wadeley. “I believe that. I think the things that you make carry with them the place where they’re made and kind of the spirit of the area that you’re in and the things that you do to them.”

Manipulating the metal is an imperfect science – pounding, punching – and most importantly pausing, to listen to the silver speak.

“I think imperfection is way more interesting than anything perfect,” said Wadeley.

Yet Wadeley’s art becomes perfectly unique – no two pieces are alike. Again, the influence of the river always driving the creation.

“Wintertime, it’s so cold out here and there’s so much snow and it is so beautiful and things are really sparkly,” said Wadeley. “So in the winter time, I’ll tend to maybe use a little bit more of my gemstones than I do in the summertime.”

“Although in the summertime the color is what inspires me,” she said. “There from all the flowers and the things there. But the water, the rocks, that is really my driving passion I would say.”

That driving passion transformed a slice of a silver plate into a metallic work of art.

“When you’ve made something and it’s personal to them or meaningful to them or they just like it, it’s just something they enjoy wearing, that’s the reward,” said Wadeley, of her customers.

With her shipping container studio on the banks of the river and her winter home high in the trees above, the Gallatin River will continue to flow through her life, her art, and keep Cynthia Out West.

Wadeley’s jewelry can be found in galleries in the Gallatin Valley and as far away as Park City, Utah.

And yes, during the winter she and her husband do live in a tree house, by the river.

Reporting by Chet Layman for MTN News