My artistry claimed me at a very young age, quite possible the idea of becoming an artist, being one for the rest of my life, occurred in a my kindergarten class in a simple tissue scrunching project. The transformation of of colorful squares of tissue into a highly textured butterfly must have cemented the alchemy of creativity into my heart forever. The idea of 'starting with this', and ending up with so much more, that it came from my own hands, might have ignited the flame for that experience of transformation to be implemented as a 'constant' in my lifestyle forever.

My understanding of myself as an artist is complex. For years at a time I have been satisfied with developing a medium, immersed in a learning curve propelled by two somewhat oppositional forces. One would be to create an income, the other was the need to self express authentically. The complexity of my creativity was wrapped up in this duality as all life truly is. Integrity seems to overcome duality, and in accepting both of these needs as reality, I found ways to give each of them 'their turn' in my life. Balance has been the key, both ideologies enhance and give meaning to the other. There are still other complex factors in the many dynamics of creativity, and how they interplay within the context of my life, psychologically and  socially.

Research has given to me a bounty of understanding and insight into my lifetime of artwork, and more recently has been helping me to define it with more clarity for the sake of giving me purpose and further direction. By studying the inherent nature of artistry, the therapeutic qualities that creativity supplies for humanity, I came to a series of difficult but transformational self discoveries.

Creativity and it's linkage to mental illness is one of those stereo-types that can really hit a nerve!Whether I've read a book or seen a movie portraying the life of an artist, I can honestly say that the connection is there. Always, did the artist pursue creativity to soothe the illness, or did the art create the mental illness? In this lies my application of creativity into my life, and my understanding of how and why I have cultivated it.In this area gave me a plethora of insight to draw from, and replaced those stereotypes with a greater sense of appreciation for the placement and value of creat-
ivity in my own life.

​Psychology explains that creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from their surrounding environment that non-creative brains who might shut out this information in an uncon-scious effort to ignore stimuli that is irrelevant to its needs. It is the inability to screen out excess stimuli, brain overload, that leads to psychosis. In my own life this dynamic is present to some extent, but I find great humor in the way I learned to deal with it.For me, its what has enabled me to pursue a very simple life in the material world. Its a sensory source that satiates me in my own world, but can make my outer world feel oppressive. For me, humanity's senses seem subjugated by ego. It might be the concept of 'self actualization' that that has made the desire and ability to success-
fully 'sense more' ("artists are so sensitive") work effectively in my 
life. The idea of realizing my full potential, to be able to express in full capacity, is a driving force for me. Spiritual faith and practice are where I have gained additional skills to cope with sensory overload and the oppression I can experience socially.

My visual art has been a direct response to the events of my life, in depth interpretations of my inner experiences as a result. These self expressions would 'pop' out of me through the course of my life, with little or no training. No pre-sketches, no study, no intention of selling. In this I had a legacy of visual art that lacked congruency in style visually, and when creating my first website in 2010, I designed a painstakingly complicated site as I could not bear to see my history, through  artwork, on the same page! Each piece pf art was packed with self disclosure, it was quite an experience to revisit my life through these potent self revealing images. I decided to take some time in my life and write essays prompted by the content of the art, as a way to investigate my own experiences on why we create.

Biographically, I had lived quite a bit of my artistic life before the world created its giant web of social interaction through technology.
I rejected the first waves of computerized living, became interested, then absolutely compelled as it became clear to me that you could only progress as an artist in these days, with a virtual portfolio and a means to network. The digital camera came into my life with a bang, as it made the archiving and presentation of my work something I could do myself, and incredible means of liberation in its ability to share my work universally through a website and social networks.

​There has been very deliberate effort in my life to challenge myself in different styles. To work out of a tight held hand in graphic illustration, into a loose brushstroke on canvas. The time that I spent in furniture painting was an intense kind of control where in using the oil based enamels the process was very slow and precise. Each medium has offered me a type of expression that was necessary at the time. Much of my artwork evolved through a some-what spiritual metamorphosis. Eastern philosophies were inspiring me, and the visionary part was also coming forward. It became clear to me that the slow painting of images retaining the energetic essence of philosophies I wanted to learn, caused me to internalize their concepts in a deeper level of my being.

On an intrinsic level, I became enamored with tribal cultures at a very early age. The sanctity of culture, the ritual used to integrate the inner world with the outer world, was extremely appealing to me. In the aspect of 'sensing more'would come the opportunity to integrate that information and utilize it, which to me is a way of relieving its ability to add up and overwhelm. In the process of using the energetic information of our surroundings, we have an activity that can sort of burn its caloric build-up. As in eating food, activity, movement, exercise, all allow it to be assimilated. In modern day living the absence of ritual and creative expression around our emotional, soulful lives, seems to rob people of the opportunity to internalize the events of their lives. Creativity allows for the stimuli of the environment to be utilized, exercised and 'worked through' versus building up into an over weighted paradigm of excess emotion. I exercise it! Creativity allows me to deal with that 'extra information' my artistic sensitivity may slam me with, so I can handle an overload of it.

~written September of 2012

My millinery work began with a sun bonnet I made for my daughter. The shape allowed me to use a multitude of fabrics and trims, the bonnet evolved into a domed cap, then onto a decade of expansive hat making. The pillbox had come back into fashion with a number of other ethnic influences flavoring its return. The mad hatter resurfaced, the beret, and the art of millinery progressed, making its way back into the world of fashion, claiming a well deserved place in the world of art as well.

The making of hats for me, fit int a safe creative place. It was an art form that deeply challenged me to evolve, but was without the personal attachment that is fundamentally involved in my visual artwork. A single mom during those years, I can attribute the revelry of hat making during those times as an amazing, uplifting job to have during the first decade of my daughter's life!

Hats made their way onto headdresses, and then peaked in their ornamentation and sheer impracticality. The headdress itself carries such a rich cultural heritage it its legacy of symbolism and ritual for mankind, and in this I am forever charmed by my time in that art form.

The decision to end one medium and to begin another, is one of the most difficult decisions to make. A brand new learning curve is timely, expensive, and takes a lot of courage to both implement and and carry through. I had carried a burning desire for fashion far before the hats, dresses and coats became my next ambition.


In the dress I have found an art form that is both expansive and utterly challenging. In my work as an artist, the core element of my artwork has been feminine empowerment. The exploration of the inner world through art. Processing, storytelling, and ultimately healing. This constant movement allows me to regenerate and maintain connection to an unending source of inspiration.

When I began the development of dress making, I was well aware of the negative aspects of placing too much of anything into our outer images. Social pressure to over indulge in materialism, and the effort to disguise our true selves through outer appearance.
Certainly the fashion industry can exude in the superficial with such exploitation of feminine beauty, and misrepresentation of what true beauty is. These are all a very real part of the dress and its legacy in our world as we know it.

​In my experiences of sewing up a dress, I have found a medium that has fully captured my heart by allowing me to mirror the inner self of a woman. In the idea of feminine empowerment, comes the opportunity to creatively express ourselves through our clothing. As in anything, intention is the deciding factor in all that we bring into our lives. The hand made dress can be an incredible way for a woman to express her soulful self, adorning her body with the value and love that the 'art of a dress' can inspire.

Ever since I can remember I have loved the indigenous folklore tales and mythologies. Being a person who lives through synchronicity and thrives on metaphor, I truly love the way art can be the delivering medium of wisdom. I recently came upon some folklore from the Yoruba people of West Africa which was presented in an article entitled "Keys to Feminine Empowerment"
In their mythology they find the importance of wearing the "Sacred Cloth", referring to "the cloth as the symbol for the materials" of the psyche utilized to gain wisdom from the feminine inner knowing". The 'knowing' is an insignia for power and legacy. The acquisition of the cloth represents the power of perspective gained when one aligns one's self  to the inner knowing.In this folklore there is that connection between the outer fabric giving access to the inner self, and the kind of prosperity that promotes when coming from a place of self development  and soulful empowerment. When the dress connects with a woman in that tonal way, it becomes sacred, it tends to stay embedded not only in her heart, but those who see her in it.
Future  / written 2018

My creative future lies in the synthesis of my past, present and future artwork. Collaborations of the many different aspects of myself, artwork that contains the language of my external life through the images of my subconscious, woven together to create in depth projects of mixed mediums. My dream is to digitally record the imagery, manipulate it into new visions/versions that express the energy of the present day through color and style, reinventing the past so it can be added to new synergetic compositions that include my ideas about community values, social awareness and involvement, and are boundary breaking in their fusion.

The language of my future lies in the idea of creative collabora- tion. In my future I see the inkjet printing of my artwork onto fabric and then sewn into garments. I see the imagery produced in the photo shoots of these garments, manipulated into expanded images where other artwork has been edited in, and I see poetic stories of wisdom and inspiration applied to these compositions. For me its like the storytelling of our ancestors, their use of creativity to internalize the growth promoting lessons of their lives, in a modern day assimilation that can be shared by a melting pot of cultures and can reach the younger generations in their place of technological advancement.

To help facilitate creative collaborations in the community would be my ultimate dream. I see that in this day there is an intense longing for many people to take back creativity into their lives. I say 'take back' because creativity is an inherent quality in all of  humanity, creativity is our birthright. In these days when the idea of sustainability is being forged into new ways of living on this planet, that requires the development of self sufficiency in each person, and that requires the resourcefulness of creativity. Artists can inspire people to make that transition by sharing their wisdom, expanding the concepts of  it into everyday life, and taking 'ART' off its egocentric pedestal and making it more accessible. Take away the value judgments made about artwork and replace them with an expanded, truthful way of enjoying art, where the attraction is based in a soulful connection of understanding and inspiration.

Sometime in 2013 I began learning about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD): the global environmental crisis affecting honeybees. I soon saw the connection to bees and what happened to the Seattle art community after 911. Displacement and disintegration were common themes. With the continuing changes in Seattle, the cost of living is further exhausting the ability for the artists to sustain themselves in this city. Bees are iconic masters of creativity, cross pollinators that dance to communicate their needs to each other. Learning more about bees and their hive behavior opened a gateway to new symbolic metaphors concerning lifestyle choices, healing, community and collaboration. My insights progressed from the situation of the artist to the planetary condition of all humanity. As a multi-disciplined artist, I was experiencing a great need to merge my creative mediums and give voice to something absolutely vital in our world, and the bee just flew right into it all. Technology became the bridge to merge painting, drawing, and fashion, as I was able to transition my artwork to be printed onto fabric through digital editing and printing. Silk-screening became an amalgamate medium, putting the imagery onto other fabric forms. Both allowed me to put the art, story and symbolism, right onto the human canvas to tell the much-needed lessons of the glorious bee and of her hive collaboration.

For a very long time there has been a contentious relationship between art and fashion. Fashion loses its integrity through too many exploitative practices, and art claiming superiority. Looking at the origins and traditions of clothing the body I saw very profound creative expressions across time and cultures. I am inspired by the tribal and indigenous peoples' way of adorning the body with symbols, storytelling and self-worth. When I progressed  to combine my visual art practice with creating a garment, there was a huge sense of fulfillment and a largely redefined sense of purpose. As an artist who has developed many mediums, dress making was the most expensive, required the most patients and had the most challenging learning curve. We are wanting to target the fashion world for its superficial qualities, but clothing is mandatory, and it is  the 'fast and cheap manufacturing' that is causing some of the most damaging, negative impact on the planet. Creating a well fitted dress or coat is very timely and quite exclusive to who can wear it due to sizing. The art of the dress has truly won my heart in its creative challenge of purpose and artistry.

Moving my art into more accessible and / or utilitarian mediums has been my great pleasure while steadfastly confronting issues based on giving art greater value by limiting its availability to a wealthier economic client / patron. I love the idea of the bee art going out into the world carrying messages of love and connection through the 'bee art' card. I love the 'bee art' gracing the universal t-shirt and the re-usable canvas tote.  I am seeing the 'bee art' imagery as a deck of tarot cards!

Every now and then I create a little hand-made warrior doll from a combination of colorful art printed and silk-screened fabrics. Each face is hand painted, while the dresses are also made from the art printed fabrics. These little rag doll deities have become a very significant creative tradition in my ever evolving life as an artist.
Cheri A Ellis copyright 2022  /  All Rights Reserved