Timothy Ely was born in the Snohomish General Hospital in 1949. Truman was president. On the site of the hospital now stands the new version of the Snohomish Public Library. He became a voracious reader at a young age. A sympathetic teacher (who taught him to draw) would often lead him back into that public Library (a fine old Carnegie building) where tales of pirates, Tesla coils, maps, flying saucers and back issues of Scientific American and Popular Mechanics would begin to tarnish the goals set for him by the rest of the family. In this library he began to explore images in the worlds of science fiction and comic books.
Following high school and tenure in several local area rock bands, Ely enrolled at Everett Community College following luminaries such as Chuck Close and Donn Trethewey by several years. This was just after the summer of love (1967) and a time of extraordinary fertility in painting. Ely was perfectly placed.
Painting was a primary interest and with an awareness that design was the grounding language, Ely pursued a degree in fine art. A number of chance remarks by teachers began to gradually orient Ely towards the inherent duality in the forms of the book. There were no opportunities for study in that area, but the pull of the idea of the book as aesthetic carrier was a potent and inspiring image. Following graduate school (1975 MFA Design) Ely began a self-motivated study of bookbinding. He began to fabricate the work he is known for today, a fusion of largely English style binding techniques with visionary drawings of an unknowable future.
He has received numerous awards. With an NEA grant (1982) he traveled to Japan, Italy, and England studying bookbinding and paper making. Following this he moved to New York where he established a studio and also taught at the Center for Book Arts. During a decade in New York, he traveled to Europe, Central America, and Scandinavia lecturing, exhibiting and teaching. He has had numerous solos exhibitions and has participated in many group exhibitions. His two most recent exhibitions were at the Jundt Museum of Art and The Northwest Museum of Art and Culture. His work is collected planet wide and is held in public, private, and secret collections.
He currently lives in Eastern Washington near the Colfax river.