When Ellie Sharman looked at the list of descriptors included in the title to her story — Musician, educator, quilter extraordinaire — she said, “Add adventurer! I’m an adventurer! I thought to myself, “that is the perfect descriptive word for this woman.” Now you can read the article yourself and discover why Ellie defines herself in such a way. She is a woman who has followed dreams.
Ellie was born in 1960 in Pasadena, CA. In 1972, the family moved to Palo Alto, CA. Ellie graduated from high school in 1978, then went to college at the University of California in Davis.
The roots of Ellie’s life passions and her adventurous spirit began with her childhood experiences. She started playing violin in 1967 at age seven. She learned using the Suzuki Violin Method, a teaching method developed by Dr. Suzuki in Japan. This teaching method was new in the United States at the time. The students learned to play by ear. They listened, then played what they heard.
When she was 11 years old, Ellie went to Japan and took a lesson from Dr. Suzuki. She toured Japan with other American students playing violin. They all participated in a big concert in Tokyo. As Dr. Suzuki’s students all learned from the same books, they knew the same songs and could play together.
Ellie’s love of travel also got a start in her youth. Before and after the trip to Japan, she went to Mexico as an exchange student. One trip was for a couple of weeks, and when she returned from Japan, her second trip to Mexico was for a month. After her return, a Mexican student would arrive to stay with her family in California.
Ellie’s parents met through folk dancing, so Ellie and her brother and sister went to all the dances while growing up. When she was older, she discovered contra dancing. Nowadays, if Ellie is at a contra dance, when she is not playing in the band she is dancing.
Ellie has been quilting for about 20 years. She has made bed quilts, but prefers small art quilts. These can be colorful and creative representations of the artist’s talent. The charming art quilt pictured here was inspired by a photo of big-leaf maples that Ellie took when hiking in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.
At the University of California, Davis, Ellie earned a degree in design. It was a broad major, covering interior design, fabric design, ethnic clothing and furniture design. Students made furniture and wearable art items. In fabric design they learned about the qualities of fabric, why a particular fabric could be used for the job, and world clothing design. Ellie wove these strands into her own designs. (An example: including swatches of Guatemalan fabric in contemporary fashions.) Students designed solar houses. A large community of solar houses in Davis gave them design ideas and inspiration. They made chairs, beds, and interior designs for houses. (Much later, after her son, Rowan, was born, Ellie drew house plans for their own home while staying home to care for the baby.) As Ellie had been sewing since she was quite young, she already had valuable sewing skills that were helpful in her chosen major.
While attending U of CA, Davis, Ellie took three winters off and went to school in the summer. During the winter, she worked at a ski area in Tahoe. Continue reading