Mary Ellen Sisulak is an artist/craftsperson known for working in diverse materials through her long career in the arts. Her training was at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she earned a BFA in painting with high honors in 1974. The professors who had the most impact upon her were, Thomas Uttech and John Colt. Yearning to live closer to nature, she moved to rural Door County, WI. Her work is influenced by living next to a unique habitat, the Mink River Nature Conservancy.
She has maintained a studio/gallery in Door County for 43 years, designing and producing wearable art in leather and fiber. Her leather work is well known for exploring the mechanics of functional handbags and stretching the boundaries of surface design. More recent work focuses on other natural materials: wool and silk. Collections of dyed and felted wool accessories and digitally printed and pieced silk wall hangings complement more commercial work in the studio/gallery.
Mary Ellen has exhibited at numerous juried shows for 40 years: The Smithsonian Craft Show, The Philadelphia Museum Craft Show, American Craft Exposition, The Sausalito Arts Festival, American Craft Council Shows in Baltimore, St.Paul, Atlanta, Chicago and SanFrancisco. Best of Show awards for both leather and fiber were received at The Madison Art Fair on the Square – 1998, The Edina Art Festival – 2011, 2012 and The Oconomowoc Festival of Arts – 2009. Work was selected for Standard Oil of Indiana Collection and Harley-Davidson Collection. Leather bags have been marketed in galleries and shops from the East to the West Coast. Custom products were developed for The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the iconic Harley Davidson brand.
In 2002 she received a Grant from the WI Arts Board/WI Arts Assn. to journal and paint her beloved Mink River habitat. This led to a one woman show at the Link Gallery in Fish Creek, WI. The Grant fueled more explorations in digital printing and pieced 2-D silk wall art. Single image, diptych and triptych pieces have been commissioned by interior designers and individuals for homes and offices both regional and national; notably the UW Health Clinics in Madison, WI.
Marketing art is an important part of her involvement in the community. She established Ellison Bay Arts in 2004; an association of local artists and schools to collectively market through ads, brochures and events. From 1993-1998 she owned and operated Turtle Island Gallery in Egg Harbor, WI. Reaching a new audience, Art Camps are now offered in her studio so that other craftspeople can share her knowledge, space and equipment.
Published work: The Geology of Door County: A Self-Guided Tour 1978 Bill Skadden, Mary Ellen Sisulak. Reflections in a Tarnished Mirror, The Use and Abuse of the Great Lakes 1978, Tom Kuchenberg, Jim Legualt, Mary Ellen Sisulak. Self-published picture book: Pinklieee!, written and illustrated by Mary Ellen Sisulak 2015. Featured articles appeared in Door County Advocate Sept. 4, 2003. Door County Living, Fall 2005. Luxury Homes, Fall 2006. Peninsula Pulse, Issue 11, 2008. Peninsula Pulse, March 2015.
In 2017 Mary Ellen received a commission to incorporate leather into a large wall piece. The 4’ x 6’ piece led to a new mixed media collection which combines her skills as a painter with the techniques of a crafts person. Pairing stones and leather, she found a voice that she had been searching for. As enthusiastic now as at the beginning of her career, her interpretations of environment are strong reminders of the vulnerability of nature and man’s relationship to it.