What’s happening with that memoir??

Update: June 2015

Skeletal repair of my left thumb is done, but not my memoir, by any means! Turns out writing personal stuff is a far more difficult task than ever I imagined.

Still, for those who’d like to read my Intro, I’ll post it here, in bits. Adding more from time to time.

Btw, that’s me in 1975, on the VW that carried me across the country and began my craft adventures!


Cynthia (I’m the “C” in WOODbyC)


The summer of ‘75, I took a casual drive out west. I wasn’t intending to stay, but did so – for three-plus decades. My life turned away from corporate office jobs, and instead, along the handcrafted path of creativity.

After graduating in Creative Arts ~ Interdisciplinary from San Francisco State University (1978), I drew on my independence, inspired by dad’s skill and mom’s art, and began my career as a “Street Artist” in Berkeley, California. Many fine art and craft fairs followed.

In 2008, I returned to NH to care for my elderly parents, coincidentally finding a niche for my handcrafted tools within the local fiber arts community and the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. My work (especially seam ripper, scissor pendant, and edge presser tool) has been recognized for its style and uniqueness in several magazines of the trade! I’m thrilled that in some small way my work supports the creative expression of others.

Using composites of dyed Northern Birch (ideally suited to my craft), I also take a tiny stand in defense of Mother Nature’s rainforest.

Now, my hands have called a “time out” by developing severe CMC basal joint arthritis. Surgery was performed on one thumb (just before Thanksgiving) and the other will follow suit eventually. During the ~8-month recovery, I’ll be starting my craft artist memoir – “Turnings” (with wood turning projects). So, stay tuned…


A Craft Artist’s Memoir

(with woodturning projects)

by Cynthia Ellis


Sunday, June 29, 2014 – 5:15 PM

Transmission fluid
pouring onto pavement
signals yet another sea change in my life.

My third year selling wood turnings at the Vermont Quilt Festival finished with a twist. Heading home in record time (under an hour to pack out the booth and start driving), my setup is the envy of many vendors, as everything stacks neatly into one load; a tall and efficient system that took years to perfect. It makes me chuckle.

Of course, I’m not pitching 350-lb. long-arm quilting machines to the attendees, nor bolts or yards of fabric, or racks and stacks of notions and sundries. Instead, every item I sell, I make by hand. Which means usually fewer than 80 thumb-sized turnings over a four-day show, from a snug selection in a 5’x8’ display. It’s no surprise I’m a sprinter out the gate and gone!

This show is one of a handful that reaches my standard of “good to excellent” for sales. Which justifies the move to a motel a state away from home and a stone’s throw from Canada for the better part of a week. With humble gratitude and a little pride I can say I’ve aroused some very steadfast fans of my hand-crafted woodwork, and delight in the times when a new design debuts to an appreciative audience, or someone proclaims “This year I’ll treat myself to one of Cynthia’s tools!”

So after gassing up in Burlington I began what was normally a four-hour journey, in the summer sun of 2014, expecting to reach my southern New Hampshire driveway well before the start of “60 Minutes.”

Forty miles later the van was churning up a long, steep grade, overtaking a slower car, and pressing on toward the crest. A quick check in the rear view mirror, I spotted a cloud. When a little station wagon passed with a girl in the window pointing, eyes wide, mouthing the word “Smoke!” realization struck. That cloud belonged to me alone!

It’s been many moons since my vehicle’s trusty performance took such a daunting detour, and I’ve always feared breaking down on a road trip to a distant show. Although four hours is still close to home in the larger scheme of quilt shows. In January, the flight to a big one in California was followed by a grueling ten-hour drive! But that’s another chapter.

I pulled off the highway to investigate. Got faulty reassurance from some guys at a gas station and headed back out, but only briefly, before smoke poured forth again with a vengeance. Clearly, serious help was needed…

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