Mary-Melinda Wellsandt, at work in her Seattle studio. PHOTO CREDIT ALL IMAGES: ALEC MILLER ARTS
When your most formative years are spent on an island only 1.25 miles long and half a mile wide, nature becomes your most constant companion and its beauty embeds itself in your soul. For functional glass designer Mary-Melinda Wellsandt, who grew up on Herron Island in the southern part of Washington’s Puget Sound, that was certainly true.
Wellsandt roamed freely, soaking up the woods, beaches, storms, tides, rain, wind and sun. “It was so amazing,” she recalls. “I could carry a sleeping bag down to the beach and camp there alone without fear, build a fire, swim, cook mussels. I used to swear I could hear the trees grow.”
Today nature remains Wellsandt’s strongest inspirational source for her glassware motifs. In addition to a glorious array of etched bottles and stemware, she designs five additional lines: “Sunset,” “Delicate,” “Dream,” “PhotoTint” and “Vetri.” Meticulously crafted, each piece is worked on multiple times using techniques ranging from hand-cut resist patterns combined with sandblasting to painstaking carving and multiple layers of subtly applied archival paints.
“My palette is also informed by nature, where I see variations that thrill me,” she says. “One of my favorites is how the color of leaves alters beneath a darkening sky. The leaves just glow.”
Wellsandt credits her production success to the support she receives from her small staff, especially her studio manager, award-winning poet T. Clear. For “Vetri,” her limited-edition line, her designs are hand blown by Seattle artists Boyd Sugiki and Lisa Zerkowitz. Wellsandt’s work may be seen at the January 2015 American Made Show, in select galleries, and in museum gift shops nationwide.
Cynthia Sears, founder of the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in Washington, speaks highly of Wellsandt’s work: “The etched designs on her vases and bottles are so evocative they can be displayed on their own simply as a piece of art, but they also make wonderful containers for flowers, leaves or even bare branches. Our museum shop can hardly keep them in stock!”