As clear as glass

Mary Johannessen of Studio 200 holding a newly-fired architectural panel.  Image (c) JMcCT, 2013
Mary Johannessen of Studio 200 holding a newly-fired architectural panel. Image (c) JMcCT, 2013

By Julie McCay Turner

Mary Johannessen of Studio 200 Glass wasn’t supposed to be an artist: Her parents were concerned that she be able to support herself, and encouraged her to pursue a practical field. As a student at UMass Amherst she studied Plant and Soil Science and also worked as a teaching assistant in an Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering class, teaching lab sections in iron-forging and flame-worked glass.

Eventually Johannessen returned to the arts and earned her BFA in Graphic Design from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. After graduation, she continued to experiment with other mediums, taking classes in printmaking processes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the DeCordova Museum School in Lincoln.

Eight years ago, after a successful career as a freelance graphic designer specializing in branding for start-ups and small businesses, Mary fell in love with a new medium—glass.  Her first projects in glass were in the form of mosaics: stepping stones, table tops, gazing balls, and other sculptures. It was only a short journey to kiln-formed glass, replacing mortar and grout with 1500 degree heat to fuse multiple pieces of glass into functional objects and fine art.

A member of the Glass Art Society and the American Craft Council, Johannessen’s formal introduction to kiln-formed glass was at the Diablo Glass School in Boston. Exploring the technique further, she also studied at the Bullseye Glass Company in Portland, OR; the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY; the Worcester Center for Crafts in Worcester, MA; and Oatka Glass School in Batavia, NY.

Studio 200's largest kiln fills a small room
The largest kiln fills a small room

Studio 200 Glass’s name references the fact that Mary has lived in the same house at 200 Old Billerica Road for 30 years. Truly following the advice to “bloom where you are planted,”  she draws inspiration from her backyard perennial, vegetable and herb gardens. Her kiln-formed art glass creations include colorful, one-of-a-kind wall décor and limited edition tableware, along with custom art installations for both public and residential spaces.

The studio is home to three professional kilns, and hundreds of pounds of glass stock in all colors and sizes. The kilns range in size from a table top model  to one that dominates a small room and can accommodate panels up to 24” x 38” for architectural installations.

There is a rack of molds for ”slumping” double-fired plates and bowls that are first decorated as flat squares or rounds and then re-fired (“slumped”) into their final shape. The rainbow of wavy glass rods that stand on a shelf in a colorful display are created in the studio, along with small glass beads. The multicolored beads begin as glass rods that are fired together in different color combinations to make “cigars” that Johannessen “whacks” between a pair of steel blocks. The resulting segments are then put back into the kiln where they form multi-colored, flat-bottomed beads.

Where to find Studio 200 objects

Johannessen’s work can be found visually anchoring reception areas in corporate offices, lighting up waiting rooms in regional medical clinics, and hanging in prominent Newbury Street galleries.

Retail outlets carrying work from Studio 200 Glass can be found from Boston to Hawaii including the Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery in Colorado; the Crafts People gallery in West Hurley, NY; Brockton’s Fuller Craft Museum Gift Shop; the Ki`i Galleries in Wailea, Hawaii; L’Attitude Gallery of Boston; the Mackerel Sky Gallery of Contemporary Craft in East Lansing, MI; Worcester’s Prints and the Potter Gallery; and at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in West Boylston, MA.

You will also find Johannessen’s work at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton on Columbus Day weekend, at Emerson Umbrella’s WinterMarket in Concord the first weekend in December, and at the CraftBoston Holiday show at the Hynes Auditorium, also in December.

Johannessen’s large glass panels, along with art quilts by Cambridge artist Sandra Gregg, will be shown in the Atrium Gallery at the Bedford Free Public Library from January until March 2014.

The exigencies of wholesale production work don’t appeal to Johannessen: “The consistency that a store needs, dozens of identical pieces, is not for me,” she said. “I prefer creating one-of-a-kind pieces and very limited edition series.” Nevertheless, Studio 200 glass will return to the American Crafts Council’s prestigious Baltimore wholesale market and retail show in February.

Classes at Studio 200

Curious about the process? Johannessen hosts workshops for ages 10 and up.

Participants learn the techniques for cutting glass (“…hold the tool so that it is perpendicular to the surface”), the recipe for heating the kiln, and methods of using the kiln (for example, many creations are fired twice, once to set the pattern and colors and a second time on a mold to form the piece into a bowl, plate or other object). At a recent workshop, three women worked enthusiastically, creating unique coasters. Johannessen loves the interaction of the students in her classes as they encourage each other to take chances with their designs. “I love working in a studio atmosphere,” claimed one participant.

For more information on current offerings, visit Custom workshops for small groups are also available. Contact Mary for descriptions and rates.

From the Studio 200 web site

Inspired by nature: foliage and flowers, fruits and veggies, fish and feathered friends; I sketch, think and procrastinate for weeks before diving into a new work.

In the studio, the process begins by creating glass parts and pieces; stenciled powders on glass, skinny glass rods molded into rhythmic waves, enamel doodles on glass; glass cast into relief molds, and fused glass murrine rods.

When my work bench is covered with this amazing assortment of shapes, colors and textures, I begin moving them around. The clear glass base is my canvas and as I work, the theme emerges. Themes I’ve explored recently include life “inside the box,,  connections, and signs and symbols.

Mary  Johannessen

Johannessen has created strips of glass that will eventually be incorporated into other work
Johannessen has created strips of glass that will eventually be incorporated into other work



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