Donellen Designs

fused and cast art glass

Art Glass


Jewelry & Accessories

Wearable Art

Artists' Statements

Wearable Art

Always passionate about color and texture, as a child Ellen longed to design clothing but lacked sewing skills. She picked the pattern design and fabric for her prom dresses and her trousseau for someone else to sew. When she married a poor graduate student, though, her mother, who couldn't even sew on a button, gave her a sewing machine, telling her she'd need to teach herself to sew. That was the turning point for her: when the first dress she tried to sew turned out well, she was off and running!

In the early years of her marriage, Ellen was self-taught, making all of her clothing and many items for her children and for their home. She began embellishing the clothing she made with embroidery and paint, and designed and made many of the gifts they gave to others.

A nearly three-decade long career as an educator limited Ellen's work in textiles, so one of her first moves in retirement was to study sewing and felting and experiment with new techniques. Classes at The Fine Line, Bead and Button, and Creative Sewing Center gave her new skills and the chance to work with new textiles, like wool roving. Her original Singer died after 28 years of good use, but she now has three machines and her serger and embellisher create new options.

Ellen collects textiles with an eye on their transformation. The vintage obis she has found become one-of-a-kind jackets and evening bags. She makes scarves out of handmade felt and Nuno felt, and her felt pins are often in organic shapes like pods, which she then beads. Ellen also collects old wool sweaters and fulls them [turning the fabric into a kind of felt], creating purses and joining them to form patchwork vests and jackets. As a glass artists, she creates necklaces using her fused glass pieces in combination with silk and felt to form unique accessories. She is now developing a line of garments made of Nuno felt.

Ellen's work is available at a variety of stores and galleries throughout Illinois, including the Dempsey Gallery at Fine Line, Illinois Artisans' Program galleries in Chicago and Rend Lake. She also has garments on the runway at Uncommon Threads each fall.

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