Ellene of Fortress answers questions for our latest Gifted Omaha feature. She is half of the husband-and-wife team who call the Harvester building in Council Bluffs home to their handmade goods. Visit their space, or catch them along with other Omaha artists this weekend at the Handmade Omaha “Modern Makers” Spring Bazaar, April 20-21, at the Bancroft Market.


Unique creations by Fortress using reclaimed wood.

Describe what you create.

Fortress is a husband-wife collaboration that includes Kevin’s reclaimed wood items and Ellene’s fashion accessories, as well as reimagined vintage finds.

Their inspiration …

We believe mass produced goods lack the character and beauty found in handmade objects. Kevin finds inspiration in the wood he salvages from deconstructed barns and buildings throughout Nebraska and Iowa.

Ellene is a collector of fabric and textiles, and has been designing and sewing since childhood. She enjoys experimenting with bleaching and dyeing techniques to create unique results.

What’s the story of Fortress?

Ellene has been a designer and an entrepreneur for several years, and after getting married she wanted to combine her creative efforts with Kevin’s work. While looking for a workspace for woodworking, they came across the Harvester building in Council Bluffs, which is a renovated warehouse designed by Artspace that includes artists’ lofts and retail bays. They decided it would be a great place to work and display their goods.

Ellene’s art teaching experience also spurred the idea to hold sewing classes and DIY workshops in the space.

What’s been your favorite piece and why?

Fortress mosaic wood box

Mosaic wood box by Fortress.

Kevin enjoys creating “wood art” where he puzzles together offcuts of wood to create designs — both functional and decorative objects.

Bleached denim tote bag

Bleached denim tote bag by Fortress.

Ellene’s recent favorite is a bleached denim tote bag.

What is the future of Fortress?

Our long-term goals are to continue making items that people will cherish for years to come, and to have more of our items in boutiques and stores around the world. We also enjoy getting the public involved in our classes, and helping others experience the joy of making things.

Where is your work available?

Our retail shop is located in the Harvester Artspace building at 1010 South Main St., Suite 200, in Council Bluffs. Or, you can visit our online etsy shop.


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