Glass art unites father, daughter in Oak Harbor

Father and daughter artist duo Clark and Kelsea Donnell are the November featured artists at Garry Oak Gallery. Clark will bring his blown glass, like the sea-inspired pieces in the background, and Kelsea will bring her fused glass pendants.  - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Father and daughter artist duo Clark and Kelsea Donnell are the November featured artists at Garry Oak Gallery. Clark will bring his blown glass, like the sea-inspired pieces in the background, and Kelsea will bring her fused glass pendants.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

The light shifting over Clark Donnell’s wavy-edged blown glass vases and bowls seems to transform the pieces into slices of the sea that inspired them. But one person is happy to see such a creation break before completion: Clark Donnell’s daughter, Kelsea Donnell.

Kelsea uses the broken glass for her own profitable art, fused glass jewelry. She’s made hundreds of brightly colored pendants of every hue and design, from whimsical flower shapes to modern silver geometrics to classy red stripes. She sells necklaces, earrings, bracelets, custom-order keychains and more via Kelsea’s Creations by the Sea.

Together, Clark and Kelsea will be the featured artists at Garry Oak Gallery for November. They’ll host the gallery’s First Friday event on Nov. 4 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Clark has been creating blown glass pieces for seven years, after spending 23 years in the banking industry. Kelsea started fusing glass a year or two after that and has become one of the best sellers at Garry Oak Gallery. Her jewelry is also sold in California, Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan and Hawaii.

Sitting at a table layered with inspiration, broken glass of every color and plenty of creativity, Kelsea enjoys a view of Oak Harbor’s water out the window.

To create fused glass pendants, Kelsea vertically stacks rough-edged chunks of broken glass and stringers, which are long, thin rods of glass, with clear glass to form a design. Then she places them in a kiln and the rough edges melt away, forming a smooth pendant.

Clark and others at his workshop give Kelsea their scrap glass.

“I like it when they break pieces,” Kelsea said, smiling.

“Somebody’s always happy one way or another,” Clark said.

Since broken glass has little use, Kelsea found a way to be creative inexpensively.

“She’s found a way to recycle. Otherwise, they would be hauling it to the dump and she’s found how to make it beautiful,” said Kelsea’s mom, Joan.

A friend convinced Clark to start glass blowing because he’d taught himself how to make stained glass windows for their previous house.

“It’s a long learning curve on blown glass,” Clark said, noting the physical work of holding up more than 100 pounds of glass on the end of a steel pipe. Glass blowing is a two- or three-person job, especially with the larger-sized pieces Clark makes.

To begin, Clark blows into a pipe to shape molten clear glass on the end. Although the glass is clear, it’s so hot that it glows orange.

“I have to keep spinning it so it doesn’t just drip off like honey on the floor -- which is does sometimes,” Clark said with a laugh.

He shapes, cools and blows the initial bubble. Dealing with an oven at 2,500 degrees is sweat-inducing work.

To add color, Clark can roll the glass in frit, finely crushed glass, or drip molten colored glass over the top of the clear glass. He has achieved blues and teals that gleam like the ocean, mottled reds and golds, stripes and anything his creativity can imagine.

Symmetry is difficult so Clark often makes wavy-edged designs and vases with uneven edges.

“I really like the random nature of something that’s more natural,” Clark said.

Clark has donated numerous pieces to local groups for auctions, including the Rotary Club, Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor, the Boys and Girls Club and the Oak Harbor Christian School. He also does commissioned pieces and has many clients outside of Washington.

Kelsea holds jewelry parties and she does custom orders. To set one up, contact her at 675-3041 or

At the gallery, they’ll display their latest experiments alongside many other pieces. Kelsea has recently been experimenting with making cuff links.

“I think more and more guys want something so I’m starting to do things for guys -- I didn’t think I’d ever do that,” Kelsea said.

Clark’s latest experiment has been creating wine aerators because he wanted to make something more affordable than his larger pieces. Shaped with a smaller sphere on top of a larger sphere, they fit into the tops of carafes and decanters to expose wine to more oxygen while pouring.

Visit the Donnells at the Garry Oak Gallery, located at 830 SE Pioneer Way, Oak Harbor. For gallery information call 240-0222.


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