A major perk of hosting our Unexpected Philadelphia website is that we get to run happily amok – with cameras in hand – through the homes and studios of our fellow Philadelphia Dumpster Divers, that merry band of artists who have played, exhibited and produced witty, found-object art together since 1992.
So when “Dumpster Diva” Ellen Sall invited us to photograph her South Jersey home last August, we had our beach clothes packed before the phone call ended.
“You expect us to drive all the way to the Jersey shore? Can we come today??”
Ellen and her mom, Bernice Rosenfeld, began making beaded jewelry together in the early 1980s, under the name “By Bernel”. By the mid-1990s, Ellen had struck out on her own, making Fimo clay earrings and pendants that incorporated objects like beads and her own watercolor drawings.
Ellen and husband Robert Sall in the living room of what she calls their “HOE” house – “Heaven on Earth”.
She also manipulated wire to create everything from menorahs to miniature chairs.
BORN AGAIN LAMPS
Then, one day, she fashioned a larger chair from found objects like pots, pans, an electric fan and a light, and christened it her “Electric Chair”. A brand new business – Born Again Lamps – was launched.
Ellen at the entrance of her Born Again Lamps studio in Philadelphia. That’s her “Tea for 2…6, 8, 10” lamp (complete with a hat-box shade) at left, and “Espresso Yourself” at right.
Soon she was exhibiting at the Philadelphia Furniture Show and at the Art Rider holiday craft show at New York’s Park Avenue Armory.
Lamps just wanna’ have fun: At left is a piece from Ellen’s “Phoney” series, shown above a lampshade crafted of jewelry, trinkets and stitches on wire screen. At right is “I Can’t Make Up My Mind”, with her lighted, color-changing hat.
Before long, an Ellen lamp appeared in Elle Decor, Delta Sky magazine did a feature on her, and people like Sally Jessy Raphael, Reem Acra and Christopher Lowell bought her work.
KEEPING US IN STITCHES
For beach days when her studio power tools are not handy, Ellen works with bead collage, embroidery and gel pens on photographs, found objects and old linens – a process she likens to creating stream-of-consciousness graffiti.
At left is an embroidery in progress. And, yes, the beaded rat trap at right is actually worked on a real Victor rat trap.
THE TOUR STARTS HERE
So, click here to join our Unexpected Philadelphia photo tour of Ellen’s art-filled home and studio.
As always, when you arrive at our website, you can click on any thumbnail photo to page through larger versions of all the photos. You’ll also see a scrollable caption under each photo if you’re on a non-mobile device like a PC or laptop.
Ellen in her light- and fun-filled space at the Mill Studios, in Philadelphia’s Manayunk section.
Kate & Dave