Crafting Dimensions


April 7, 2024

Words by: Brandy Belitsky

Photography by: Phebe Melan

The artistry of Clay Ellis

The studio of master craftsman, Clay Ellis, sits right in the heart of Edmonton’s lively arts community. His dedication to the craft and years of hard work have produced countless sculptures and canvases with vivid colours and complex patterns.  

Born and raised in Medicine Hat, and eventually finding his way to Edmonton, Ellis’s interest in art began in his early twenties. Initially dabbling in ceramics, his art evolved through his experiences at influential workshops such as the Emma Lake Workshop in Saskatchewan, and the Triangle France Workshop, an international artists’ workshop held at the l’Ecole d’Art de Marseille-Luminy. These experiences enriched his approach and allowed him to work alongside icons such as Clement Greenberg, Karen Wilkin, and Michael Fried. 

At age 40, Ellis transitioned from creating massive steel sculptures to working with resins, enabling him to create vibrant and dynamic “skins” or “tarps” that transcended the traditional boundaries of sculpture. By layering transparent colours and incorporating geometric patterns, Ellis blurred the line between two-dimensional surfaces and volumetric masses. His meticulous process of manipulation, stretching, and draping these tarps on steel frames resulted in sculptures that exuded a sense of disembodied physicality, inviting viewers to question their perception of space and form.

Finding his inspiration in a cyclical nature, Ellis cites that “work usually springs from work,” emphasizing the importance of continual creative evolution. For him, creation is a never-ending journey. Each project he completes is built on the foundation laid by its predecessors. His art, with striking melanges of colours and patterns, emerged from years of exploration and experimentation. Although he acknowledges the influences in his work from artists like Sir Anthony Caro, he is emphatic that the first loyalty an artist has is to his creative vision. 

To view his artwork, a portion of Ellis’s work is currently on display at the Peter Robertson Gallery. More pieces are at the Edmonton Convention Centre, MacEwan University, and the Edmonton Public Library in Capilano. Ellis’s artistic footprint also extends beyond Alberta’s borders, gracing galleries across the globe from the cultural hubs of England, France and Spain, to artistic meccas across the United States and Canada.

At age 65, Ellis finds a sense of accomplishment in navigating the path of an artist, be it in completing commissions or maintaining his studio practice, he finds solace and fulfillment in the act of creation in itself. “Maintaining the studio,” he says, “getting up every morning, working…that’s obviously the biggest feat.”


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