Terri-Jane Yuzda

The Artist, the Engineer and the Social Worker

Calgary Member Sharon Ellingsen, P.Eng., Sculpts an Intriguing and Diverse Life



Welding may be the next artistic direction for Sharon Ellingsen, P.Eng.



Last year's Summit Awards® Gala was a coming out party of sorts for Sharon Ellingsen, P.Eng. Twenty-five-plus years since graduating with her first university degree, the Calgary resident was on the cusp of advancing from engineer-in-training to full professional, and here she was at APEGGA's major awards and social event of the year.

But the Summit Awards® was a coming out party in a second sense, too. Ms. Ellingsen was also demonstrating to her new peer group that she's an artist as well as an engineer, and her head study, a clay sculpture with blue patina, was the first display of her artwork before a large group.

"Each art piece is only one perspective on the truth, and that's a heck of a lot better than none," quips Ms. Ellingsen, who recently began a consulting venture, SLE Test Engineering. "My artistic work is an exploration of form and planes in space, an expression of the three-dimensional and the natural flow of movement, all caught for a moment in solidity."

She and her partner of 22 years, a psychologist, operate their practices from a commercial property in Calgary's Inglewood district, and Ms. Ellingsen plans to add an art studio.

The figure most interests Ms. Ellingsen, the artist, and she's drawn and painted many of them in pencil and in oil. But the medium she enjoys most is clay and sculpture. The electrical engineer has completed fired clay sculptures, as well as cement and Bondo castings. Now that she's finished a welding class, she looks forward to venturing into another style of sculpture.

For the second year in a row, she'll show her work at the Summit Awardsâ. Building on the success of last year's show, APEGGA is again using the gala as a venue for the artwork of Association members and their families. The awards gala takes place April 25 in Calgary in conjunction with the APEGGA Annual Conference.

The Path She Travels
For Ms. Ellingsen, the confirmation that she's an artist is part of what some would consider an unusual journey. In 1975 she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in social psychology with a minor in visual art. "Although the arts faculty was the simplest choice to make, coming straight out of high school with no role models, I will always value this degree. It gave me a matrix of perceiving and analyzing the world we live in, and it gave me the tools to consciously live an examined life," she says.

Her social services work took her to group homes, street shelters and seniors' private homes. She's also been a mechanical draftsperson and a graphic artist.

Two decades in the data telecommunications industry - with Cell-Loc Inc. and Novatel Wireless in Calgary, Harding Instruments in Edmonton and Develcon Electronics in Saskatoon - provided her with an electronics technical background.

In the 1990s she took a leave of absence to earn her bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering, and in 2002 she became a P.Eng. "I'd determined that I should move up from a technical track position to an engineering professional because I needed more challenge, responsibility, autonomy and opportunities to learn," Ms. Ellingsen explains.

"Looking backwards down my career path, I see every step built on the step before. My path is linear, although it walks across conventionally defined boundaries. On the one hand I find myself always positioning myself for change, on the other I am always surprised at the content of that change - and that I've found the bravery to accomplish it."

Two Kinds of Commitment
Professional changes and challenges find a complement in Ms. Ellingsen's art. "Both art and engineering ask for concentration and commitment. But my technical activities involve planning, analysis, compartmentalizing, strategizing, whereas my artistic endeavours draw my focus into the moment. The physical demands of hand-eye coordination pull for a personal clarity, a synthesis of head with heart or gut.

"Working in these two areas gives my personal life balance. Channelling artistic as well technical expression through my brain nurtures crossing conventional boundaries for innovative problem-solving." That enhances "personal participation" in her profession.

The Calgarian found last year's show rewarding and encourages other APEGGA artists to display their work. "I overlapped circles I've normally kept separate, and I received wonderfully positive regard. I had fun, made good connections and left to explore the possibilities of an integrated artist/technical professional."

For those professionals who haven't bridged their lives into the arts, Ms. Ellingsen offers the following two quotes as inspiration:

"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for lack of a little courage."

"Whatever you can do, or dream of doing, begin it. Boldness has magic, power, and genius."

Home | Past PEGGs | PEGG Search | Contact Us