A Biography of Mell Prescott

Born and raised in the west, Mell Prescott found this to be no deterrent to her love affair with New England.  She adapted quickly and combined her artistic ability, intelligence, and determination with an initial focus on collecting antiques.  Working with a limited budget in the depression years, she understandably focused on those pieces needing repair or refinishing. She and her husband, Blake D. Prescott, Sr., M.D., spent much of their “leisure” time restoring these fine pieces of furniture.

This served her very well in future years when she made her own miniature reproductions of antiques.

Mell was able to select those pieces which were exceptional. She was intuitively able to distinguish good and faulty design. Moreover, she was able to envision how pieces would complement one another. She combined this with her knowledge of craftsmanship, beautiful woods, and college education in art. Thus, she was able to combine pieces and accessories into rooms which were never frozen in time or confined by artificial barriers, but were representative of an art form. Even then, doing the unexpected became an extension of her personality, resulting in a unique and natural looking product – something envied by others.

At a time when few women attended college, Mell entered college before completing high school, and she naturally selected Utah State where her father, a geologist, was president for a number of years.  It was there that she studied art, and it was there that she met a young man working his way through college by selling books.  When he asked her where the office of the president was, she told him that she didn't think that the president would see him.  This was illustrative of her wonderful sense of humor.  The president was her father, and the young man was Blake Prescott who subsequently married Mell and went on to get a Master's degree at Columbia prior to completing his education in medicine and then in psychiatry.

Mell continued her education throughout her life.  She was an avid reader and much of that which she acquired was self-taught.  In her early years in Connecticut, the early 1940's, she took courses under Esther S. Brazier in antique decorating.  Mell became a consummate artist: eventually not only producing her own beautiful works but also sharing her talent with others through teaching and lecturing throughout many states, with emphasis on illustrating the creative interfaces between such art forms as antiques, flower arrangements, antique reproductions and the fine arts.  Here it was that her diverse abilities were reflected in a variety of methods such as reverse painting on glass, painting on velvet, tole painting, stenciling, and, of course, painting with brush.  She had hundreds of students. and even with her teaching over many years and receiving a variety of awards, little did she realize how this would facilitate her later work with miniatures.  One of her dicta to students was, “Don't copy anyone else's mistakes.”  This illustrated her dedication to the art and to excellence rather than to a frozen reproduction – no matter how accurate.

Mell had a great interest in flowers and was able to use this to enhance her decorating.  Indeed, she did this so well that she soon found herself in great demand to lecture throughout New England (and later, to many states beyond) on decorating with flowers and antiques, showing the native New Englanders how to enjoy their heritage to a greater degree.

With an ever broadening interest, she started collecting dolls, and, soon thereafter, miniatures. She never stalled, and was rarely slowed by adversity, even in her advanced years.  She noted a cradle that she wished to purchase; but the owner refused to sell that particular piece.  Undaunted, this led to Mell's returning home, and fulfilling her determination by making just such a piece herself.  In turn, this burgeoned into Mell's making many different pieces, combining them into rooms, and complementing them with carefully selected pieces of others.  The oriental rugs and samplers furnishing these rooms were generally made by her daughter, Elaine Nondia Prescott Wonsavage.  She acquired a table saw, jig saw, jeweler's lathe, dental drills, and whatever else was necessary in order to make her beautiful pieces.  She would buy old combs to make piano keys. old cloth for her upholstered pieces, and even cut up old jewelry to complete her unique furniture.  Just as her products resulted in the amazement of others, so she would quickly recognize talent in those about her.  She encouraged others to pursue their interests and excellence, and she promoted this through using their pieces in her rooms.  Starting with miniature reproductions of antiques in the one-inch scale, she was in her seventies when she went further with -inch scale.  Such was the quality of her work that her pieces now are housed in a variety of museums.

Sundays were generally reserved not to fulfill orders but to create.  It was then that she would try something new, making a few different examples of that which she chose to make, but discarding all but one at the end of the day. That one would go on to be perfected and to join her other creations.

She had been an officer of a number of different organizations affiliated with the arts.  She was recognized as uniquely adept in decorating with such a mix of art forms just as she was recognized as not only being gifted in her own creations by in her ability to teach others to make the most of their abilities.  Mell Prescott died in her early eighties. She was indomitable up to the end, looking for new avenues. and creating new masterpieces. She set an example for us all; and just as we thoroughly enjoyed Mell as a unique individual, so we shall treasure and enjoy those creations that she left behind.

Editor's note:  Mell lives on today through her unique miniature creations, some of which her children are so generously donating for charitable fund raisers, and always through the Mell Prescott Award.

Reprinted from "A Reference Guide to Miniature Makers Marks" ISBN: 0-9644481-0-6

 

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Last modified on August 30, 2001 @ 14:16