Spotlight: Ellie Richards

Playful objects

“As an adult, how often do we actually engage in the act of play? What does it mean to play? Who has the ability to do so? Ellie’s PlayHard series investigates these questions using the tradition of readymade and assemblage style work. In doing so, she explores and addresses the distinct psychological shifts between objects and behaviors associated with childhood memory, labor, and learning”

Image above: Sweep Shot | Old broom, handmade slingshot, bondo, rocks, and wideopen space
All photos: Myles Pettengill

“This pencil is stretchy – kind of like that character in Toy Story; this pencil has captured air in it – kind of like those Nike shoes that you could pump up. This pencil can write and erase at the same time – it can write forwards and backwards – it is curvaceous, twisted, convex, concave, right handed, left handed, loose, and light. This pencil is aimless, single use, yet multidirectional – it bounces around from page to space and can withstand a lot of pressure”

“I wonder how much time in life I’ll spend untangling cord/rope/wire and then … wait for it … wrapping them back up … Feels futile.”

“If this were a refrigerator would it make any more sense? Would it be any more legible? What an immense amount of labor each day holds just rearranging letters to say simple things. I’m glad all of this mental sorting stopped feeling like work but I wonder when did that happen and how does that happen”

“I wonder about bubbles and what is inside them that makes them so round, I wonder about vacuums and if they are empty voids where does all the stuff go? Interesting to think that they both store a certain kind of space but can they store each other? I wonder, I bubble, I vacuum”


As a furniture designer and sculptor, Ellie Richards is interested in the role the furniture and domestic objects play in creating opportunities for a deeper connection between people and their sense of place. Ellie looks to the tradition of both woodworking and the readymade to create eclectic assemblage, installation, and objects exploring intersections of labor, leisure, community, and culture. She has traveled extensively to investigate the role play and improvisation have on the artistic process. Her work, both furniture and sculpture, has been included in exhibitions at the Mint Museum; Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design; SOFA Chicago; and the Society of Contemporary Craft. Currently, Ellie is in the three year residency program at Penland School of Craft.