Ellen Athens was born in San Jose California in 1958. She studied at San Jose State University as an art major, but an interest in rural living and alternative education, led to a move to coastal Mendocino, California in 1979. She attended the 3 year Mendocino Art Center Textile Apprenticeship Program, graduating in 1982. Ellen created hand woven tapestries for the wall for 15 years, doing commissions and showing in juried exhibits and galleries.

Beginning in 1997, Ellen began taking workshops at the Mendocino Art Center in jewelry techniques. Her curiosity has led to experimentation with a wide variety of materials and techniques within the field. She has participated in workshops with renowned instructors such as Ronda Coryell, Kris Patzlaff, Christopher Hentz, Susan Elizabeth Wood, Nancy Gardner, Coral Shaffer, Irene McGuckin, and others. Some favorite jewelry techniques are glass bead micro-mosaic, cloisonné enamel and kumihimo braiding, processes that foster the marriage of color with structure.

She creates mixed media jewelry in her former weaving studio near Mendocino. She continues to exhibit in select galleries and art festivals in California.