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Friday, November 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Collector explores the art of scavenging

Everyday items become handcrafted treasures

Doyle Wheeler holds a display box of pens he created. Wheeler uses spent bullet casings, deer antlers and other materials to create pens and knives. (Christopher Anderson)
Doyle Wheeler holds a display box of pens he created. Wheeler uses spent bullet casings, deer antlers and other materials to create pens and knives. (Christopher Anderson)

Doyle Wheeler considers himself more of a craftsman and a scavenger than an artist. “I combine art and utility,” he said.

He gets his art supplies at White Elephant and from boxes of things he has collected along the way. His media include shredded money, coffee beans, snakeskin, deer antlers, rare woods, crushed stone, parts of wine barrels, and bullets.

Using a wood lathe, a metal lathe, a drill press and a pressure chamber, Wheeler creates stunning and unique pens, knives and accessories including cuff links and pins.

Wheeler, 34, has always collected things: stamps, pop bottles, hat pins, cards, magazines. “I love to collect stuff, like my grandpa and my dad. And, like my grandfather, I enjoy the idea of collecting with the idea that I will use it some day,” he said. 

His grandfather, who Wheeler never knew, was a scavenger who built a house out of scrap lumber that still stands in the Edgecliff neighborhood. “He was a faithful man who supported his family with his creativity,” Wheeler said, “Who I am today is really because of him.”

Wheeler attended Ferris High School and the Spokane Skills Center, where he took auto body classes. He moved forward with a career in the auto collision field at Craig’s Collision Center where he stayed for 15 years. “In that time, I learned the new-school repair, and found that applying old-time technique to a new style of labor twined with a passion was the answer,” he said. He mastered the ability to fabricate and fix solid objects with the notion that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Wheeler began turning wood into pens as a hobby. He purchased the necessary tools and tinkered.

After being hit by a truck in 2008, Wheeler was unable to work. He has made the most of his time. “My wife inspired me to read a stack of magazines she picked up at the library to keep me entertained,” he said. “I was reading Guns and Ammo, pen catalogs, and Field and Stream, and got the idea to make a writing pen out of a spent brass shell casing.” He added a deer antler from his collection of stuff, and he was hooked. Similar to auto body work, the process is long and complicated but the final product elicits a, “No way! You built that?”

Since then, Wheeler has been getting requests and commissions. He has also begun a small business called Ammo-Head Designs. His work is displayed at Devtan Trading Co. in NorthTown Mall, the Cowgirl Co-op in Green Bluff, Latah Creek Winery and Townshend Cellars.

On the first Wednesday in June, he will be showing his pieces at Mirabeau Park Hotel during its monthly “First Wednesday” art event.

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