Two artists met by chance at an International Decorative Artisans League (IDAL) event a few years ago, and a deep friendship blossomed between them. Ellie Ellis of Elite Artistry LLC in Happy Valley, Oregon, and Eva Gallant of Y-Knot Creations LLC in Hurst, Texas, share a bond stronger than the one-ton concrete art piece they produced together in Indianapolis during this year’s Concrete Decor Show.
The pair teamed up to create “Ocean of Life,” an 8-by-8-foot vertical concrete relief piece entered in the show’s Brawl in the Fall decorative concrete competition. The piece ultimately went on to win the third place prize.
The women wanted to create an ocean-themed scene using diamond mesh, concrete, various metallic paints and more. Ellis made more than 60 molds for all of the unique elements in the project, such as shells and starfish. While the two were discussing the scene, they realized the imagery and fairy tale origins had parallels to an abused woman’s life journey. The original tale “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Anderson is much different than the Disney version — in her desperate quest for love she agrees to trade her tongue for legs, although she experiences excruciating pain with every step. The deal causes her to lose her identity and her ability to speak for herself. The deal doesn’t work out in her favor and she dies without the love she longed for.
“After this realization, the piece took on its own being and soul and with it, a purpose to the project,” says Ellis. Adding to their original concept were features such as a bright, full moon behind the mermaid’s head and a ship with full sails in the background.
According to Gallant, the moon represents the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for women in turmoil and the ship depicts vigor, life and a fresh start.
This awareness resonated with both women because each of them had found strength to leave abusive relationships in their past. “‘Ocean of Life’ is about new beginnings and following your dreams,” Ellis says.
Ellis is no stranger to the Concrete Decor Show competition. On a whim, she entered the competition in 2014 because she was going to be at the same venue at the same time for the IDAL Convention. Her relief of a medieval scene made for a fireplace won first place at the competition. Gallant was her behind-the-scenes helper.
Ellis has owned and operated Elite Artistry LLC since 2000. She specializes in hand-sculpted plaster relief wall finishes and is an IDAL Certified Master Stenciler, one of only two people worldwide to have achieved those credentials. She also conducts week-long classes in the art of relief and mold-making. Happily married to her second husband, and a grandmother to three children from her two daughters, Ellis now lives her favorite saying: “It is what it is!” “We are dealt a hand of cards and it’s up to us to define our game. Do I let life define me or do I define my life?”
Gallant has owned and operated Y-Knot-Creations LLC since 2006, specializing in decorative finishes, and is one of a few elite IDAL Certified Stencil Artisans. She is trained and certified in many other faux and decorative painting techniques and has created her own unique line of wall finishes inspired by real-life events, people and places.
Creative even as a child growing up in Germany, Gallant says she originally wanted to be a fashion designer, but her parents didn’t consider that to be a “real job.” Gallant has visited all seven continents—most recently Antarctica, for a milestone birthday last December — which was a life-changing experience. She has plans to create a new collection of painted apparel and art based on that experience.
Ellis and Gallant’s appearance at the Brawl in the Fall was sponsored by Deco-Crete Supply, which provided the cement products; Polytek Development Corp., which donated more than 80 percent of the silicone rubber for molds; Modern Masters for its paints; Brick in the Yard Mold Supply, Flex-C-Ment, Kirtbag Carving Mix and private sponsors Ted Grant and David Kriel. Ellis is planning to return to next year’s Concrete Decor show as an instructor, and has just launched her new online mold catalog offering the public her private pieces of relief in the form of plastic molds.— Debby Canto Davis, with additional reporting by Vanessa Salvia