Mary Ellen Sisulak is known for her beautifully embellished, light and longwearing leather bags and accessories. At her Turtle Ridge Studio in Ellison Bay, WI, the artist is inspired by her Door County surroundings, especially the neighboring Nature Conservancy preserve. Trained as a painter, Mary Ellen recently received a grant to work along the Mink River Estuary, creating in-depth paintings and prints that have had an impact on her fiber art.
Outlining her technique with leather, Mary Ellen states, “I start with a drawing or idea for surface design, then stylize and simplify until it translates as an embossed design into the leather. The drawing is etched into a plate, then pressed into vegetable-tanned leather. The impressed leather is then left as is, or is painted to give definition to the design. I sometimes work in a vignette, sometimes an overall design. The bag is designed around the artwork, with function in mind. I use a variety of leathers to get the effect I want, all domestic, including cow, pig, goat, and sheep. The inside of the bag is designed with leather and fabric pockets. Hardware is kept minimal and functional, all topped off with my signature turtle charm.”
Mary Ellen’s impeccably crafted pieces are an attractive and useful choice in wearable art.