Ellen Roberts is a mixed media artist who lives and works in Farmington, Maine. Roberts was born and raised in Rhode Island. From a very young age Ellen enjoyed making things with paper, fabric, string, yarn and clay. She was inspired by the landscape and began to make drawings from her life and natural environment.
When Roberts was a teenager she wore a Milwaukee brace, (a steel and plastic corset that was strapped to her body for four years of her life from her neck to her pelvis). Swimming and showering were the only times she could remove the brace. Water brought fluidity to her life without the constraint of the brace and helped take the pressure of gravity off her spine.
During this time Roberts became more serious about her art. She decided to study art in college and began at the Rhode Island School of Design studying in Ceramics. Roberts had a fascination with color and found ceramic glazes were not a direct route for exploring color. She switched her focus to textiles focusing on weaving where she loved the complexity and textures of the materials. She studied at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, PA where she to learned how to weave structures and work with dye techniques such as ikat (a resist dye technique). After she received her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
As her life progressed she had a family and found working with fibers extremely labor intensive. For a while she made mixed media wall constructions out of fiber, paper, wood, and paint. Then she began making artist books. She thought she would like to learn to make editions through the process of printmaking. This was when her work started to take off.
“Printmaking has a pulse that is similar to the ever changing visual structure in nature”, said Roberts. There is immediacy and spontaneity within the process that stimulates Roberts to respond to the changing pace of the medium. Her work is rhythmic. She sees abstraction as a way to communicate intangible emotional states much like music can. Her prints are created on an etching press. This is a playful activity which lends itself to a sequence of decisions made through observations as Ellen works. Later she draws back into the printed grounds with machine stitching.
The environment presents a fascinating modulation of color, light, and rhythm. She is deeply inspired by the immensity and fluid rhythms of nature. Living in Maine nature and everyday events are influential to Ellen Roberts’ work. Water has been one of the themes that ebbs and flows in Roberts’ work and life. When Roberts is near the water it transcends her into a space of contemplation and centering she enjoyed as a young girl.
Roberts has explored color extensively using different materials including inks, threads, paints, dyes, and ceramic glazes. Her current work is a culmination of many mediums bringing together her backgrounds in weaving, stitching, and dying fibers. The presence of the hand and sensitivity to the materials results into a visual energy. Ellen recognizes some themes of what she is creating but the outcome is often unknown. Her works stem from memory, discovery, chance, and experimentation.
Since 2007, Ellen Roberts has been a member of Circling the Square Fine Art Press in Gardiner, Maine. The exchange of ideas and support within a community of artists has been an integral part of the development of her recent work.