By Diana Colson
Ellen R. Solomons is a remarkable Sarasota artist. For the past two decades, she has explored a wide range of media, including sculpture, design, off-loom bead weaving, doll making, and jewelry fabrication. From those explorations, a distinctive style has emerged, one that combines wit and humor with lyrical designs and brilliant colors.
Ellen’s work is best described as unique and captivating. The definitive book— 500 Handmade Dolls: Modern Explorations of the Human Form written by Lark Books —includes photographs of Ellen’s elaborately beaded art dolls. Photographs of her artworks have also been published in Beadwork Magazine, Beadwork 2011 Calendar, and Bead and Button Magazine. A Sarasota resident for over 20 years, Ellen is much in demand as a teacher and has taught workshops at jewelry schools and bead shops all over Florida.
In 2010, she won “Best of Show” for her intricately constructed and beaded art dolls at the prestigious “Bead and Button” international show held annually in June at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. This highly competitive show is prominent in the field, and has been described as the “biggest consumer bead show in the world.”
In Ellen Solomons own words: “I have dabbled in almost every art medium and have sat in more classrooms than I care to remember. After my first beading class I couldn’t stop beading. The sparkling array of magnificent colorful beads was better than a candy store. I have never seen a bead I didn’t covet, and I admit to having an extensive collection.”
Ellen utilizes unusual materials in her distinctive art dolls: polymer clay, carved bone, decoupage, assorted found objects, peyote stitched seed beads, Swarovski crystals, etc. Dozens of marvelous one-of-a-kind beaded art dolls are displayed on Ellen’s web site: www.designsbyERachel.com. (Don’t let the site name confuse you: Rachel is Ellen’s maiden name and she’s married to Walter Solomons. They live on a lovely boat docked in Sarasota. When not traveling around in their motor home, they can often be seen zooming around town on Walter’s motorcycle.)
Ellen R. Solomons shares her unique skills with others by giving classes at local bead shops, including BEADS, F.O.B. at 2312 Gulf Gate Drive in Sarasota. (www.beadsfob.com – 941.921.0871) Besides working with students in the classroom, Ellen has made a 75-minute DVD which provides viewers with all skills necessary to create their own beaded dolls. This instructional video moves through creating the doll face to building an armature, beading the costume, and—ultimately—to even naming the doll! A meticulous craftsman, Ellen instructs viewers with simple, easy-to-understand demonstrations of techniques suitable for persons of all skill levels. The DVD is available for purchase on Ellen’s web site, and all materials used are inexpensive and easy to find.
This amazing lady not only creates stunning art dolls, she also fabricates beautiful jewelry. For these glamorous pieces, she works in a variety of materials including fine metals, beads, enamels and polymer clay. Endlessly curious, the vivacious Ellen loves to challenge herself first by exploring new techniques and methods, then by finding fresh ways to incorporate these skills into various pieces. If you wish to learn some of her jewelry techniques, she holds weekly workshops at the Jewelry Design Center at 4225 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Check out their web site: www.jewelrydesigncenter.biz. 941.925.3335
Ellen has also been the creator of several striking needlepoint designs. For those readers interested in needlepoint, her canvases are carried by the Bristly Thistle located on Amelia Island in Florida near Jacksonville. For custom canvases, e-mail Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellen R. Solomons studied at the University of Georgia, the University of Connecticut, and Massachusetts College of Art. She began her career as an apprentice to the famous illustrator, David Stone Martin, and found working with him to be a life-shaping experience. In Ellen’s own words: “He really gave the foundation of basic illustration, line and form.” As a young art student, she took this solid beginning and flew away with it like a bird, creating work of her own that is both delightful and unique.