All in the Family: The Ellisons

In the first installment of an ongoing series, All in the Family, we meet the four Ellison siblings, who give us some insight into how a woodworker, a photographer, a metalworker, and a chef (all with side-projects to spare) can emerge—so successfully—from under one roof.

Most families typically have a tagline for each child—"The Musical One," 'The Sporty One," "The Brainy One"—but in the Ellison's case all four are "The Artsy One." This is a close-knit family that builds 12-foot-tall teepees out of found materials on family holidays, after all. ("We are not good at relaxing on vacation," Lydia, the oldest, jokes.) Here, we find out what makes the four California-native siblings so inclined to create, and what drew them to their respective fields of photography, woodworking, metalworking, and cooking. As their mother Jane points out, their chinese animal elements correlate to the materials they work with: Lydia is Earth, Wyatt is metal, Bob is Wood, and Buck is fire. How's that for creative destiny?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Buck Ellison, 28

Photographer and founder of Deck Towel

Los Angeles, California.,

"In a Weak Moment" by Buck Ellison, 2013

Buck Ellison, the youngest of the four, never thought there was anything especially unusual about his family. "My dad paints and my mom studied interior design when we were growing up," he says, "so cutting colored glass or pouring plaster was as normal as buying groceries or cooking dinner." Buck is now a photographer, investigating the habits and culture of white, upper-middle-class America. He's also the founder of Deck Towel, a company he started a week before graduating from Columbia University composed of colorful printed beach towels made of durable European linens. "I don't think creativity is genetic, but I do think it's fostered," says Buck. "Our parents encouraged us to make mistakes and not be perfect, which is the best definition of 'creative' I can think of."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Bob Ellison, 31


Novato, California

Hand-Carved Cedar Bowl by Bob Ellison

Bob Ellison's earliest creative influence came from the very roof over his head. "Our house in Novato was beautifully designed and built by my parents—it was the most unique house on the street," he says. From there, his parents continued to impress upon him the wonders of architecture. "The first time I was excited about building was after watching my mom design and my dad build a steel arbor for our patio," Bob says. Soon after, he became a construction worker, and later worked in a cabinet shop where he fell in love with woodworking. From there, Bob started a small business on the side making wood panels for artists to paint on before branching into making furniture from reclaimed heritage boards that he had collected for years. Now Bob specializes in hand-carved bowls and furniture made from old-growth redwood. "I love discovering the beauty in each piece of wood and watching things progress," says Bob. "At the end of the day, I'm able to see what I've done."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Wyatt Ellison, 33


Novato, California

Metal Sculpture by Wyatt Ellison

Wyatt Ellison has been hands-on from the very beginning: "I made tree forts as a kid and was always fascinated by construction," he explains, "but I became interested in welding when I worked for my father's thrift store after high school." Wyatt and his dad would weld the store fixtures together, which led him to experiment with creating furniture after hours, which he eventually started to sell. He now owns his own metal-working business, Wyatt Studios, which specializes in sculptural installations. "I like knowing that all my siblings share some kind of similar drive in life," says Wyatt, "which is to produce something, and then find a way to sell it in our own unique way."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Lydia Ellison Howerton, 36

Private chef, napkin maker

Los Angeles, California,

H&H Collective Napkins

"We didn't get cable television until I was 12 years old," says Lydia Ellison Howerton, "so we spent most of our free time growing up outside—drawing and playing with clay and wood." But in a house full of builders, Lydia, the eldest of the four, was drawn to mastering the culinary arts by her mother's love of entertaining and her father's Dutch baby pancakes. "The times we spent in the kitchen making meals as a family are my most sacred childhood memories," Lydia says. Her family's creative adventures continue to shape her path. "My brother Buck's success with Deck Towel introduced me to the magic that is linen," Lydia explains, "which inspired me to create a cocktail napkin line with my friend Sarah Hendrix—H&H Collective. Everything I love to do now I had a taste of doing alongside my family, and when the six of us are together there is this unspoken communication."

More from sweet: