Color and Light
Mary Lou Powers is a beachcomber and mosaic artist from Bear, Delaware. She lives with her husband, John, and has a daughter and three grandchildren. Though Mary Lou has traveled all over the world as a beachcomber and is now a prolific sea glass multimedia artist, she had very humble beginnings.
“I was born in the poor coal-mining town of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. My father worked the mines starting at the age of 13, and this dangerous job took his life at age 42,” Mary Lou says. “We were a poor struggling family, living above a garage with little to our names.”
As a child, Mary Lou would comb the dirt streets, looking for discarded colorful soda bottles. Once home, she would take a hammer, smash them, and put the glass in mason jars. “I would set them on my bedside table where I could look at the beautiful reflections of colors, like a kaleidoscope, whenever I wanted to.”
When she was 16 years old, Mary Lou saw the ocean for the first time. “We lived far from the ocean and I never got to see it until I spent my summer vacation at my Aunt’s home in Haworth, New Jersey,” says Mary Lou.
“I was mesmerized, along with being very frightened by its power, but loved hearing the waves smashing and my feet squishing in the sand. That is where I found my first piece of sea glass and so began my renewed obsession with glass, reliving my childhood quest in pursuit of it.”
In 2009, Mary Lou had the tremendous opportunity to travel around the world on the Queen Mary 2 cruise liner for free, thanks to a friend with an extra ticket. During their trip, she visited 27 beaches in the ports where they stopped, always collecting sea glass to add to her collection.
Mary Lou was a medical secretary and an accredited staging professional, preparing homes for sale. Though she’s never been formally trained in art, she has been artistic her whole life. Mary Lou became a professional artist in 2015 after she retired from the medical field and realized she had far too many sea treasures and too much time to stay idle. She decided to start “painting with glass,” and has worked ever since, learning and improving with each subsequent piece.
“I include genuine sea glass, stained glass, art resin, leather, feathers, antique glass, beads, glues, buttons, fabrics, found objects, metal bits, fibers, and other things from nature in my work. The physicality of the medium is significant—each piece is meticulously combined like colorful brushstrokes, resulting in art works full of tone and detail,” explains Mary Lou. “They are added and subtracted, often in a trial and error method, which can be compared to putting together a puzzle.”
In the beginning years of creating her art, Mary Lou used only sea glass, but as her art became more detailed and complicated, she began to incorporate stained glass and shape and carve some of the sea glass to create her intricate designs. Each piece is glued in place before applying art resin to the finished artwork to protect the piece from yellowing
Mary Lou has traveled all around the world to search for materials for her art. Her favorite locations to beachcomb are Bermuda, Nassau, Grand Turk, Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, Maryland, and of course, her home state of Delaware. She likes to find stoppers and marbles, and anything bursting with color. Her favorite treasure is a piece of pottery made the same year she was born.
When she’s not beachcombing or creating art, Mary Lou stays active. She walks, sews, bikes, travels, gardens, and goes camping. At the beaches and rivers near her home in Delaware, Mary Lou finds sea glass, beach and river glass, marbles, bottle stoppers, pottery, little bottles, beach stones, driftwood, shells, beach gravel, and sea sponges.
When asked what inspires her, Mary Lou says, “I learn something new with each creation. The richness of our world is defined by the art we create. I wish for my history to be filled with color and light.”
See more of Mary Lou’s art at seaglassartbymaryloupowers.com, or follow her on Facebook at seaglassartbymaryloupowers and on Instagram @seaglassartmlp.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine November/December 2019 issue.