Work by more than 100 Artisans inside new Carmel more

Indiana Artisan Lee Ellis
Hardwood bowls, vases and platters
Lee Ellis

“Many skills are needed to make individual pieces. With wood, there are endless possibilities of pieces.”

It is often said that some people fail to see the forest for the trees.  Indiana Artisan woodworker Lee Ellis puts a twist on that when he says, “I start with an Indiana tree and make pieces to show the beauty of the figure.”

For more than 20 years, the retiree from Eli Lilly Research Labs has seen the forest and THE trees that have grown into an impressive body of work. “Tree trimmers take down many trees each year in Indiana, and these are available,” he said of the raw material he begins with.  “Indiana cherry is my favorite.”

Lee began working with wood in high school.  “I started doing furniture repair and turning parts,” he said.  A farm boy from eastern Nebraska, Lee earned two degrees in microbiology – a bachelor’s from Colorado State and a master’s from the University of Nebraska – before serving a two-year stint in the Army.

He began his career in 1959 with Eli Lilly, in agricultural research.  He left to earn a Ph.D. in virology from Michigan State, and returned as head of Lilly’s electron microscope lab, overseeing it for 29 years before retiring in 1993.

In the more than 20 years since, he has taken up gardening, walking and boating, but his focus has been on the repair of antique wood pieces and, increasingly, on creating bowls, platters, vessels and vases from Indiana hardwoods.  With an obvious appreciation for education, for several years he also shared his skills and passion by teaching wood turning at the Indianapolis Art Center.  “Many skills are needed to make individual pieces,” he said.  “With wood, there are endless possibilities of pieces.”

And in this state of abundant hardwood, there almost is an endless number of woodworkers learning and honing their craft.  Among that group, Lee and his work stand out.  “Indiana Artisan promotes the best artists in our state, and I wanted to be part of this group,” he said.  “I am happy to have my work recognized as high quality work, on par with the other exceptional artists.”

Lee’s work is available at the Center for Creative Arts in Zionsville, or at his shop in Fishers, Indiana.