In a cozy barn turned studio behind her home, Sally Dean Mello finds peace and inspiration daily for her projects and artistic creations. Appointed with warm and functional vintage furniture, storage units and eclectic collectibles, the room evokes imagination, originality and a passion for local surroundings.
While ensconced in various tasks Mello reflected on her passion, current endeavors and inspirations.
“I have found that this area is full of subjects to paint, moments to be captured and visions worthy of being painted. What a joyful thing to have this purpose to accomplish something like this every day. Something like flowers is a symbol of creativity and beauty that is fleeting. It is something that should be captured,” she said.
Her artwork is her career, her pastime and her salvation and she spends time each day contributing to her craft with expertise, discipline and zeal.
“I often challenge myself to create something according to a schedule,” she said. “I find it helps me with a rhythm and challenges me to look everywhere for subject matter, causing me to see things that may be small and intricate but very beautiful or fascinating. It is a professional and personal experiment that can be highly rewarding.”
Dean is known locally for creating ornaments portraying area landmarks. This holiday season, she created the annual collectible ornament depicting the historic Winslow House blacksmith’s shop.
Now in its 15th year, the collection had humble beginnings. When Dean’s daughter was in kindergarten the school she attended was searching for a way to raise funds. Dean offered to create an ornament during the holiday season, which mothers then carried in a basket and sold door to door.
“It did surprisingly well,” Dean said. “We were happy with the results and it began my tradition of creating one each year for a charity or nonprofit organization.”
Now residents and collectors anticipate her annual creation from which proceeds are donated to charity. She was scheduled to appear this past Sunday at the Marcia Thomas House to present a lecture about the newest addition to her series.
Previous designs Dean include the Winslow House, Webster Estate, Veterans’ Memorial Park, newly renovated Seth Ventress Building, various area churches, Brant Rock Fish Market and the Marshfield Hills General Store (see page 4 for more information on the Marshfield Hills General Store ornaments). Organizations sell the items and donate the proceeds to a selected charity.
Originally, Dean created each ornament from inspiration to completion, signing and numbering each one. As her collection and reputation expanded, more units were required and a museum art company now manufactures the pieces. Dean designs the original and sends it to be manufactured. The pieces are then returned for her approval after which she adorns each one with sparkles, then signs and numbers them. Ornaments are still limited and collections never exceed 500 items.
“It has become a tradition each year to create one for a Marshfield landmark or organization,” Dean said. “I especially love the first steps which are the most creative part. I am always thinking ahead of what I will do next. I have no desire to mass market these or become a major manufacturer or retailer of these ornaments. I like the idea of keeping the projects philanthropic. To me it represents a way I can use my creativity to give back to the community. That is how I see creativity; as something to be shared for the pleasure and benefit of others in the world.”
Dean was selected in 2008 to create an ornament for the White House Christmas tree by Congressman Bill Delahunt at the request of First Lady Laura Bush. The project initiated by Mrs. Bush compiles a collection to represent each congressional district in the nation. Dean traveled to Washington that year to represent Massachusetts’s 10th district.
In addition to her ornament series, Dean maintains a blog featuring almost daily artwork. “By motivating myself to accomplish certain things, I establish a routine and the blog holds me accountable,” she said.
She has tackled various challenges including a successful attempt to create images of 365 flowers. “It was fun to do,” she said. “In addition to looking for various blossoms, I studied certain patterns and fabrics and found flowers in lots of unexpected places.”
She is active at the North River Arts Association, which she considers a source of inspiration, fun and camaraderie. “It began as a simple community gathering,” she said. “It has grown into a place where there are classes and social events. We also have opportunities for people to explore their creativity. It is not intimidating, but fun and supportive. Anyone interested in trying out various things can have a good time.”
In 2012, Dean said the Association plans to have community dances. “It will be like a wedding but without the ceremony,” she said. “There will be good music, a chance for some great exercise and a good time with friends and neighbors.”
Considering the South Shore and Marshfield a deep-rooted artist’s colony, Dean is grateful for 20 happy years in her North Marshfield home. Growing up in Norwell, she ventured to Boston and then California for a time but eventually returned to her roots in the area. She credits her artistic passion to the generations of artists in her family and is pleased her two grown daughters, Marklin and Madeline also have been blessed with creativity and an affinity for the artistic world.
‘There is something about this area that is inspiring,” she said. “There is so much beauty that surrounds us; it is no wonder artists of all sorts are attracted to live here. It is not necessarily a widely known area for artists but that keeps it natural, quiet and authentic. Even if I don’t see a real picture or subject I can imagine it.”
To illustrate her technique of interpreting thoughts and scenes Dean pointed to paintings on the barn wall of deer and birds in the woods, a series she had completed recently.
“Some things are so beautiful and fleeting it is almost as though you have imagined them anyway,” she said. “Appreciating and capturing small and intricate images or sights that people might relate to, but not have realized how rare and lovely they are, is something I love to do and share with others.”