By Kathleen Ryan
Shirley Wagner, an 84-year-old Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, lives a peaceful life in the small community of Medford, Wisc. Once she steps into her basement workshop, however, Sister Shirley really tears it up—with a scroll saw, that is.
“I use routers, chop saws, radial arm saws, jig saws—whatever gets the job done—but the scroll saw is the most flexible and safest,” she said. Sister Shirley discovered this new hobby in 1993 after a 30-year career as a music teacher. Since then, the scroll saw has become music to her ears. She has produced more than 550 commissioned works of art—everything from fretwork clocks and life-sized crucifixes to commemorative plaques and intarsia art that praises God and celebrates nature.
Completely self-taught, Sister Shirley says no job is too big for her to tackle. One of her pieces, titled The Last Supper, spans 12′ across. Donor trees can be up to 16′ tall and 16′ wide. Her stash of exotic woods includes about 40 species of varying hues. Some are resawn, sanded, and left in their natural tones to accent intarsia works. Others are stained or painted as part of a hand-cut Victorian dollhouse or a fretwork clock tower.
Sister Shirley donates most of her work to help raise funds for various charities. “I love this kind of art,” she said. “For me it’s like praying, because the nature part of it automatically leads me to God.”
Contact Shirley Wagner at email@example.com.