Shimmering Success | Kelsea Donnell turns glass castoffs into colorful creations

For one 24-year-old Oak Harbor native, life is lived at hundreds of degrees. Her eyes sparkle like glass. Her future is boundless and her spirits high.

It’s no surprise that Kelsea Donnell has found success with her business and Web site of the same name, Kelsea’s Creations by the Sea. Her fused glass pins and necklaces are completely delectable to the eyes and glass bead earrings addictively wearable. It could just be that a passion for glass is in her genes.

Her father, Clark Donnell, began blowing glass a few years ago and has been basking in the glow of fire ever since.

Walk into the Donnell home on the shore of Oak Harbor Bay and be transported into the city’s own little glass museum. Every shelf, table, nook and cranny proudly display Clark Donnell’s fragile art. Vases, bowls, floats and paperweights in every shape, color and inspiration are represented.

“That one there is actually a big mistake, but you’d never tell by looking at it,” Kelsea shares.

Physician Gary Berner invited Kelsea’s dad to the shop a few years back and the former banker has been addicted to the craft ever since.

“He actually found out Dr. Berner blew glass because he noticed burns on his hands and asked how he got them,” Joan Donnell said.

Not detered by the good doctor’s run ins with embers run amok, the two men have been blowing glass together ever since. Donnell can be found in the heat of T.C. Roberts’ glass shop off Goldie Road atleast one day a week.

“Each time he goes he breaks atleast one piece,” said Joan Donnell, Kelsea’s mom. “When we went to watch him we started picking up the shards and soon wondered if we could do something with them.”

The artists of the shop welcome Kelsea to their scraps since it would cost them otherwise to dispose of the glass odds and ends.

“It’s great that Kelsea has found her own way to be creative,” Joan Donnell said. “It’s also a way of recycling that supports herself and the environment.”

Everyday is an experimental artistic adventure for Kelsea. She sits for hours at her kitchen table overlooking the waterfront. Her father Clark sometimes sidles up next to her to join in piecing together the tiny stacks of glass that are then fired to new life.

“I’ve cut my hands so many times,” she said. “But it’s so much fun.”

A kiln no bigger than two feet wide and tall, and hundreds of degrees of heat transform trash into treasure. She assembles the pieces, places them in the kiln over night and when she wakes in the morning she rushes to see how they evolved.

“There’s never a bad piece,” Kelsea said. “You just break it and start over.”

To promote her jewelry business, Kelsea hosts parties at her house at which people come, mingle, enjoy the company and peruse a private boutique of Kelsea’s handcrafted jewelry. She’s taken her jewelry on the road to the Thursday Oak Harbor Farmers’ Market, as well as the Coupeville Farmers’ Market. She created a series of fused glass crosses that can be found at Solid Ground Coffee Shop and His Place Christian Bookstore.

Her Web site was a Skagit Valley College assignment that has grown into a permanent avenue for her jewelry sales.

She already has a solid base of customers and word of mouth is fast moving about this young woman’s talented pension for creating one-of-a-kind gems.

“It’s fun to know that my jewelry is all over the country and even in other countries,” Kelsea said.

Joan’s mother, Joyce Beeksma, is a fan of Kelsea’s jewelry line.

“I think she has more pieces than anyone else,” Joan said.

Kelsea’s creations are truly treasures from this remarkable young woman who has already overcome so much, having been born with spinabifida, a birth defect that causes an opening in the spine.

On Donnell’s site, she explains that her spinabifida keeps her from driving a car, running a race, or even standing for more than a few seconds.

“I can, however, swim like a fish, ski (with the right equipment) and make beautiful hand-made glass jewelry,” she writes. “I decided years ago to focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t.”

I want to do this for a long time,” Kelsea said. “It’d be nice to make a living off of it, who knows.”

Her modest success has paid off, as she was able to pay a year’s worth of college tuition with jewelry profits.

Kelsea’s newest aspiration? She hopes to head to next year’s Country Music Festival (formerly known as FanFare) in Nashville, Tenn., and take some of her jewelry with her.

Watch out Oak Harbor, this artist and her trendy art jewelry have gone country. Better claim her as our’s while we can.

Find Kelsea’s Creations by the Sea at