Walt Doran grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and among his family friends were legendary Indian traders. He spent a great deal of time in their galleries, admiring the painstaking workmanship in the old pawn jewelry. His youthful curiousity about the jewelry led him to Frank Turley's blacksmithing school with the express purpose of learning to make silversmithing tools. Turley taught him to manufacture repousse dies, chasing tools and relief stamps, all with traditional, old-style blacksmithing techniques.
Upon graduating, Doran moved north to the village of Santa Cruz and opened his own forge with the intention of doing "art" ironwork. However, the first day he opened his doors he found a line of farmers waiting, with plowshares, spud bars and other implements in need of repair. It had been thirty-five years since there had been a blacksmith in the community. This surprised Doran, but it wound up being relevant to what he eventually did, make silversmithing tools.
In 1974, after moving back to Santa Fe, he and some friends set up a forge and silversmithing shop. Doran began to take up silversmithing as well. He then moved to Pecos, New Mexico, and continued smithing, working on ranches in the summer months and making jewelry in the winter.
With his groundwork firmly established, he left for Europe in 1978. It was there that he created what is perhaps the most important feature of his design sensibility, which was to add finesse and high polish to the honest style he had forged at home.
Walt Doran's silverwork has been shown in galleries nationwide since the early 1980's. Most of his designs are heavily influenced by traditional Hopi, Navajo, Northern Plains and Spanish Colonial design.
Doran feels that the most important trend in modern silverwork must be that it has returned to a basic ancient purpose; it must be significant, deeply personal and a totally solemn outward mark of an interior intention.