An Interview with Ellie Portillo, Founder of Ella Roe Jewelry
I have honored creativity all my life. I grew up dancing (modern, ballet, jazz), playing classical piano and voice and appreciating the arts. Growing up, I always loved experimenting with color and making collages. I would cut out ads or striking spreads in magazines and collage my bedroom doors. I also have always been drawn to nature and how beautiful it can be. During the 2020 COVID pandemic, I found myself stuck working from home and looking for a more hands on creative outlet. I began experimenting with decorating my house with flowers from my garden and the local farmers market. I noticed how beautifully the flowers would dry out and wondered how I could preserve them- I was so sad to throw them away! From there, I began playing with preserving flowers in epoxy resin and using earring molds to do so. I loved the outcome and wanted to share my earring creations with friends and family.
It is difficult not to compare yourself to other creators making similar products. Social media is a huge factor when it comes to successfully marketing your brand and products. I have always found this to be a challenge because I enjoy creating more than posting about it on social media.
The most beautiful thing I have encountered about being a creator is making a positive connection with a customer. When someone comes up to me and tells me a story about how they got compliments on the pair of earrings they bought or how their daughter loved a pair they received because the flower had a special meaning to them, I can see their confidence and spirit light up - that is really a beautiful moment.
How would you describe your creative process; your creative style/aesthetic?
I enjoy taking ordinary objects and making something long lasting out of them. It is also exciting to not quite know how things may turn out. The ability to experiment and push boundaries to try something new is what keeps me creative.
I design my pieces as close to the natural object I use as possible. I want people to be able to clearly see the objects cast in the resin without any frills. I also want the pieces to be versatile so that they go with many styles and tastes. I feel inspired by the natural objects that I use- flowers, river quartz and beach shells - by nature that I encounter around me. The colors, texture and shapes of them fuel my designs and pieces. I also love clothing and functional design so I am inspired by local and sustainable designers.
Ellie foraging for seashells.
What is your favorite day trip?
My favorite day trip would be going to Crescent Beach in Florida- about an hour from where I grew up. I love driving to a secluded parking spot and spending all day on usually an empty beach with white sand and warm water. In the afternoon, I would drive up the coast about 15 minutes to St. Augustine’s old town. It is fun to walk around the shops and main street, there are lots of local artists and eateries. My favorite spot to eat is The Floridian, a fun local oasis that has locally sourced foods. My favorite meal is a summertime salad with tempeh and lots of veggies!
Where are you based? What do you love about your community? And if we were to visit - what are your top recommendations for food, coffee, things to do, etc?
I am based in Fredericksburg, VA- a historical town between Washington DC and Richmond VA. I love that my community is located right next to the Rappahannock River. I pretty much visit the river weekly! I love taking my dog swimming and going to secluded spots where I can also swim and bring a good book. There is so much wildlife to see, it doesn't feel like there is a town there at all. My favorite coffee spot is 25 30, they have amazing dirty chais and the best barista in town! I also love Agora coffee shop that has a great backyard area to hang out at during a nice day. For food, Eileen’s Bakery has the best baked goods in town, Umi has amazing sushi, Soup Taco has great mexican fare and Blue Cow has yummy locally made ice cream! If I am going out to celebrate I would go to Farenheit for a steak and cocktails. I love to shop at Phosphene - they always have amazing women’s clothing that is sustainable and the owner, Rachel, is the sweetest!
How do you ‘slow down’ and bring presence and mindfulness into your life? How do you enjoy a day off?
I like to spend a lot of time outdoors to slow down and remind myself to be more mindful. Being in nature and away from screens and distractions really helps me be present and bring peace into my life.
On my days off, I like to go on a morning run on Lee’s road, a historical area with lots of shady trees and wildlife. I then like to stop by Eileen’s for a breakfast sandwich and baked goods and then pick up a coffee from Agora. During the day I may go to the Rappahannock river to swim and relax or walk along the historical main street downtown and look at shops.
In such a chaotic world, what are your favorite ways to de-stress?
I am adamant about exercise to de-stress! I love running outside or practicing yoga. I also take CrossFit classes that make me feel empowered as a woman to work on my strength. I also now am trying to spend more time with friends and loved ones. During the pandemic this was more difficult, but now I am enjoying making new friends and spending time with old ones.
What is your hope for the present? What is your dream for the future?
For the present, I am hopeful that people will continue to come together and share happiness, love and peace, but also give people the space they need to return to a semi-normal day-to-day life. I dream of a future where everyone respects and loves one another no matter their backgrounds and we can work towards being our best selves while preserving mother earth.