COLLECTOR PROFILE: Ellie Higham and Tony Trinh

We recently chatted with Vibrancy Coach Ellie Higham and Infectious Disease Doctor Tony Trinh about their approach to art collecting as a couple.

Ellie and Tony in their kitchen

Thinking in terms of collecting, I feel like it’s very natural. I guess that’s one of the keys to collecting, it doesn’t feel like collecting, it just feels like living.

We’ve always talked about collecting like we’re world building, putting all the pieces of the ecosystem that we want together; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but we have fun doing it.

– Tony Trinh

“Our wee pack of three was completed when we adopted our dog Dottie (…Full name Dorothy Mae Angela Nue Shelton Buckets Bolo Buxton Trinh Barclay Higham Angela Nue Shelton)… in 2017.”

– Ellie Higham

Ellie and Tony’s dog – Dottie

Q & A

Q: Okay – first what is this amazing color on your wall? It’s not red it’s not orange – it’s the best of both.

A: Ellie: It’s called “Spiritual Warrior” isn’t it good!

Q: When did you meet and how long have you been together?

A: Ellie: We met in 2013 at a friends leaving dinner in Nairobi. Tony had been in Nairobi for 6-weeks and was supposed to be on a date that night, and it was my second weekend in Nairobi and I knew almost no one.

It’s a total surprise that we met. We’ve been together ever since, three years of which were long distance (Tony was here and I was in Kenya). We got married in 2017 and I relocated here later that year.

Q: What was the first piece you collected?

A: Ellie: These two large works on canvas – they were the first big money we ever spent on art, they were like $1,000 or something.  When I relocated it took about 18 months for them to get here. Some of my stuff went missing. But thankfully they arrived finally. That was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done.

Q: How many pieces do you estimate to be in your art collection?

A: Oh gosh! Hmmmmm 40-50 pieces (honestly it could be more)? I love prints, oils and acrylic paintings, and textiles. We’ve collected from all over the world, with an emphasis on places that mean something special to us like Nairobi, Seattle, Scotland (where I’m from), and Philly (where Tony’s from), and fav travel spots like Cape Town, Mumbai, and Mexico City. I lean toward abstract, intersectional feminist pieces with some humour and wit thrown in, and straight up beauty. We have a lot of my mum’s old off-cuts of fabric framed up to round out our collection.

MAGIC HANDS WITH MOON by Jennifer Ament installed in the Higham  / Trinh home.

Q: So how do you go about collecting?

A: Tony: We have executive roles – and Ellie – one of hers is Chief Design Officer (laughing).

A: Ellie: Yeah – that’s a new title we just made up today.

A: Tony: Everything really is kind of collaborative. Ellie says – “We’re going to get this” – and I say – “Okay” (laughing).

Vibrancy Coach Ellie Higham in her office full of inspiring color.

Color was always big for me – my mother is an artist –  but I think when I moved to Seattle – I was like color is going to be my thing since it’s so gray here.”

– Ellie Higham

Q: What do you do with works you are no longer interested in? 

A: Ellie: Ha! They get stacked for a while and then rearranged with a new paint colour. I sometimes give pieces away if I’m over something but a friend loves it. 

A: Tony: …I always had a lot of prints and posters that I would put up and frame and they would just sort of disappear as life went on… They’re all conserved.

On their tattoos –

“It’s the thing that’s most akin to collecting art before actually having a place to put it in.”

– Tony Trinh

“My Mom was an artist and a sewer, and I grew up near the Singer sewing machine factory. One of the local train stations was also called Singer, and so I grew up with this just everywhere. And it seemed right.”

– Ellie Higham


LydiaBassis_Permission Slip_30x22__acrylic on paper


Gabe Brown

20 X 16″ oil on linen on wood panel


Jennifer Ament

60 X 84″ oil on canvas
6 Betz Bernhard_Flounce_ZINC


Betz Bernhard

36 X 31.5″ sewn vintage fabric and kimonos


In direct response to the imbalance in the art world, ZINC contemporary
is committed to the mission of making female artists VISIBLE AND SUCCESSFUL,
while making art collecting an adventure of curiosity, connection and fun!

ZINC contemporary is an art gallery known for curating compelling exhibitions, and championing
highly-talented artists.


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