INDIVIDUAL PASSIONS DRIVE ELYS
Being bored is not a feeling the Elys feel often, if at all.
Tami and Mike Ely fill their days not only with their jobs, but also the occasional project here and there, as well as road trips.
Tami’s business, Ely & Co., will reach 30 years old this year. What started out as a love for working with her hands and delving into architectural drawing and woods classes, soon grew into the busy operation it is today.
When in school, Tami made head and foot boards for beds, and then eventually moved on to entertainment centers. Always serving as a go-getter and moving toward hands-on projects, Tami eventually started doing wallpaper.
“Wallpaper was everything back in the 80s,” she said.
This was a time when every wall in a person’s house was covered in some vibrant wallpaper, instead of paint as it’s often seen today. It was also during this time when she drafted one of her friends to start wallpapering houses. When she began this avenue of home improvement, Tami was working around her kids, doing what she could here and there.
Besides what she learned in school, Tami is mostly self-taught in her craft. Throughout the years, Tami’s education hasn’t stopped.
“If you don’t learn something every day, you’re not paying attention,” she said.
Tami firmly believes that to keep learning, a person must stay attentive to the areas around them. This includes learning new techniques from others or just in general.
It wasn’t soon before her talent turned into a well-known business and grew more and more each year, earning more clients and employees. One employee Tami specified was a neighbor girl named Jen Smith. Smith, as Tami explained, worked for Ely & Co. for several years each summer, and eventually attended college for that type of work. She added that when the time comes that she wants to step aside, Smith will take over her business, acquiring her clientele and continuing to push the business forward and grow it even more. For the time being, however, Tami said she’s still going strong.
Besides wallpapering in the 80s, Tami and her employees cover anything a person might think of when it comes to the decorative side of home improvement. The group does everything from painting fire places, to the outside of houses, and everything in between. This often means standing on tall ladders against three story houses or running a motorized lift around a house so that all the walls are reached. While she said she still enjoys it, ceilings are one of the hardest parts of her job.
“It’s a lot of physical work and you’re working above your head,” Tami added.
But despite the hard physical work they encounter, Tami said the job is fun and they make it as fun as possible, saying if a person goes into the job with a bad attitude, the entire experience is going to be difficult to get through.
“I love it so much, it’s not really a job,” she said. “There’s something new to do every day; I never get bored.”
Moving along at the same pace, Mike’s job, although it’s still hands-on, shy to a different area. Back in the 90s, he received a knife kit from Tami as a birthday gift—this is where his interests in knife making really took off.
From there, he bought a piece of steel and started forging in his shed. At this time, knife making wasn’t as popular as it is now, so in order to know how to make knives and the best ways to go about doing so, Mike read books, magazines, and watched videos. While on a trip to Wyoming, Mike took an hour trip to visit with Ed Fowler, a man famous for knife making, and spent time with him, increasing his education on the subject even more. However, during this time, knife making was more of a hobby as he was still busy with farming.
About 10 years later, when the business shifted and the kids were grown and farming on their own, Mike focused his time more on his hobby. He accelerated his education even more when he became a member of the American Blade Smith Society (a group he’s been a member of for the past six years). Mike said in this group, most guys had a leg up in knife making because they’ve spent so much time and years on perfecting their skill, while he was just getting into the swing of things.
If there’s one thing he’s learned is that repetition is key. Consistently working on a project increases a person’s skill, which is exactly what he continued doing over the years. While he still farms, spending 40-50 percent of his time doing so, the rest of the time is spent knife making and learning new, better ways to create a well-made product.
Fast forward to 2011 in Denver, CO. Mike, with a lot of insisting from Tami, began taking classes from the Denver School of Metal Arts, specifically focusing on silver smith classes (Metal Smithing I, II and III). With his newly-learned skills, Mike found himself making jewelry, occasionally asking Tami for help with color coordinating.
In 2013, he started donating knives to the Pheasants Forever Banquet, which also served as a good advertising outlet. Since then, jewelry and knives aren’t the only items he’s delved into. Shortly after, Mike began learning how to make straight razors—more specifically for Ballehan Straight Razors. It would be in 2015 when Bob Carter showed Mike what he had to work with and what the razors needed to look like before he was let loose to figure out how to make the razors. Since then, he’s got a good handle on how the razors should be made to come out the way he likes them, before they are sent to the company in Medina, OH.
“I feel like I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can make good razors,” he said.
But through his troubles and tribulations, Mike hasn’t been alone. In the knife community, there’s always someone to help a person out, all they have to do is seek said person out.
Together, their passions for what they do keep them busy, but it’s easy to see that the busy schedules they have don’t bother them at all.