Mary Ellen Sisulak
Turtle Ridge designs are made in my studio in Ellison Bay, WI. I design the handbags on geometric shapes that still retain function. The surface decoration is an important part of each piece; whether it is a hand-painted carved or tooled image, a stitched pattern, an applique or trapunto design. These techniques are an integral part of the proportion and function of the bag. I love to explore the different properties of the leather and use textures and colors as my paintbox, always learning, always expanding my knowledge of this unique and varied material. It is a very basic material, which has been elemental to mankind from our beginnings. I strive to share this reverence for the material, making objects of lasting character and beauty.
My training as a painter and my 35 years working in many materials gives me great freedom to fulfill myself everyday in the studio. I may paint in gouache from the Nature Conservancy right out my door; or sculpt a design for a cast piece of hardware. I sometimes work in encaustic, an ancient wax and pigment medium that is highly textured and resembles my carved, hand-painted leather images. The most recent work outside my realm as a leatherworker has been the use of my gouache paintings printed on silk and pieced. This work brings me back to my roots as a painter and has led to an entire line of silk garments and silk wall-hangings.
My work is not just self-fullfilling, but a way to reach out to others. I present figurative imagery of natural subjects on everyday objects to enrich the lives of the user. I enjoy legends, stories and reocurring themes and these account for the repeated turtles, animals, plants and flowers. My fanciful geometric textures and free-form shapes have a tactile quality that adds to the visual attention. They are distilled versions of the figurative images I love to portray. Leather and silk share a luscious feel that is universal. I find beauty, humor and wisdom in nature that I share through my work.