What Knots

Biography of Roy & Mary Ellerman

R&M What Knots


Having grown up in a lumber camp, wood and lumber has been in Roy's background from an early age. His interest in higher education with an aptitude for designing and construction, led him to study engineering and graduate as a Civil Engineer. Roy worked for the US Government for several different agencies until his retirement.
Mary's growing up years were spent on a farm during years when one made do with what was available. When a stool needed a facelift, it was usual for Mary to give it a fresh coat of paint and perhaps decorate it with a stencil design. This kind of activity was of much more interest to Mary than some of the farm work. Her training after high school was in the secretarial field.

After Roy and Mary were married, they raised four children. There were years during that time when it was necessary to find a way to have household or furniture items at a minimal cost. Roy's first manufactured item for the home was a cutting board made from pine which is still being used in Mary's kitchen, 51 years later. Many pieces followed such as youth chairs, chests of drawers, headboards, toys and a variety of other things. Mary would paint or decorate these items.

While living in Portland, Oregon, Mary had the opportunity to begin to learn the art of decorative painting and Roy would make items for Mary to decorate. Mary had opportunities to study with Norwegian Rosemalers, to take classes in Switzerland in Bauernmalerei (the folk art of the German speaking countries), to travel and study the lovely Zhostovo tray painting in Russia, as well as taking seminars from many of the well-known American teachers.

Mary has taught decorative painting for 28 years in her home studio, in a shop she operated with three partners, across the United States, and at painting conventions.

Ultimately, Roy and Mary moved to Seattle, Washington, where they now live. They established R&M What Knots in 1973 and it was a part-time business for Roy. After retirement in 1982, it became a full-time decorative painting business. As members of The Society of Decorative Painters, an international organization of nearly 20,000 decorative painters, they have exhibited their products at 21 National conventions and Mary has taught classes at 20 of those conventions.