"Off the Grid" a fused glass installation by Mary Johannessen  Image (c) JMcCT 2014

“Off the Grid” a fused glass installation by Mary Johannessen Image (c) JMcCT 2014

By Dot Bergin

If winter gray is pulling your spirits down, come to the Bedford Library for a glorious explosion of color in the new exhibit of glass art pieces by Bedford’s Mary Johannessen and fabric art by Sandy Gregg, Cambridge.  The show, “Traditional and Experimental Printmaking on Fiber and Glass” will be in the gallery until March 6.

One visitor to the show wrote “How wonderful to come into the Library on a winter day and soak in all the color.”  That neatly sums up Johannessen’s approach to her art:  “I love color,” she told a visitor to her studio recently. Right now I am in an orange phase.”  And indeed her work table was covered with orange and yellow glass in various stages of completion; pieces were carefully arranged in the pattern the artist desired.  Then, on to the large kiln for firing and later, into a smaller kiln for the final “slump.” (That’s the stage in which a flat piece turns into a curved shape.)  Johannessen makes both decorative and functional pieces, such as large sushi dishes, platters, and smaller dishes in varying sizes.  On display in the Library is a stunning series of wall-hung pieces, “Glass Blankets,” that would be an outstanding focal point for any home or public space.

Johannessen is very active in the craft world. Currently, she’s preparing a number of pieces for an upcoming American Craft Council show in Baltimore, opening on February 19.  She and her husband, Erik, will pack up a van and drive down to Maryland for the juried show. Mary exhibited in the December Craftboston Holiday show at the Hynes Convention Center and she particularly enjoys the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton, MA, which takes place in October and May.  She often partners with other artists in Bedford, for studio shows.

Before getting into glass art, Mary was a graphic designer and this background is evident in some of her architectural pieces.  As an artist, she is constantly taking workshops to expand her vision and to develop new techniques.  She started her glass work by making mosaic tiles; from this she progressed into fused glass.  Residential glass is another specialty. Mary takes commissions for custom residential glass and has designed glass panels for front doors, as shown on her web site.

Mary’s enthusiasm for her work is evident in the generous way she took time from preparing for a show to give The Citizen a tour of her workshop and a primer in glass art.  She is eager to share her knowledge, not only with visitors but with other artists.  Here’s a brief description of her process: she buys her glass in half sheets from a noted Portland, OR, supplier, Bulls Eye Glass, whose color palette is enormous. Once she selects her colors, Mary lays out the pieces in the design she has created in her mind’s eye.  She says much of her inspiration comes from plants; she’s an avid gardener.  Her preference is for vivid color; rich blues and greens, yellows and oranges. “I don’t work with browns,” she laughed.  For a detailed look at her work process, visit her web site and blog – http://studio200glass.com. There you can see the diversity of her work and stay informed about upcoming shows.

Mary grew up in Burlington and moved to Bedford in 1981.  She received a BFA in graphic design from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and studied printmaking at DeCordova Museum and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  She’s also an exhibited photographer but now concentrates on fused glass art.

Co-exhibiting with Mary in the Library show is Sandy Gregg, fabric artist, who says, “As a fiber artist, cloth is my medium.  Before I begin to compose a piece, I dye, paint, bleach and alter fabric to make it my own.  Once I have created my palette, I can begin the creative process.”  Read more on her web site: http://www.sandygregg.com/.

Mary and Sandy met at a paper cutting and stencil making workshop at MassArt last year and immediately realized that their work complimented each other very neatly.  Although working in completely different mediums, both saw similarities in their styles. Mary suggested a joint show to the Bedford Library Arts Steering Committee, who agreed.  The show will be on display until March 11 – don’t miss it!

Three works by Sandy Gregg

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