Lillian Elliott studied at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Cranbrook Academy of Art, earning a master of fine arts degree in ceramics and painting in 1955. With her husband, she settled in northern California in the early 1960s, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1966 to 1971. When her position was phased out, the artist turned to studio work and became an influential figure in San Francisco’s fiber arts community. According to Pat Hickman, her longtime collaborator, Elliott began working with textiles in the 1960s, using the fibers as a painter uses color and line. Eventually, she began creating baskets out of innovative materials such as cloth, bark, paper, twine, and zippers.