See how South Portland’s Ellen Thayer shows off her love for Maine. A Down East Shop maker spotlight.
Ellen Thayer’s knack for finding heart shapes in her daily life is astounding. In addition to her ever-growing collection of more than 700 “love rocks,” mostly found on the beaches of southern Maine, she also documents on social media the hearts she finds in snow, tree branches, hydrangeas, grapefruits — you name it. “Maybe it’s from the years of collecting heart rocks that my eye is trained to see that shape,” she says, “but I see hearts everywhere, and usually in the most unexpected places.”
Though she was always an artist, Thayer spent 23 years as a TV meteorologist before starting Love Rocks Me in 2010. The company “began as a tribute to Maine,” she says, as her original design is in the shape of the state she fell in love with when she first moved here, in 1986. In the ’90s, her job took her to Boston, but she moved back again in 2001. Skills from her former career come in surprisingly handy these days: Thayer waits for ideal light to head into her South Portland backyard, where she lays out rocks from her collection, arranging them into letters, shapes, and other designs, and then photographs them from above. She’s photographed more than 230 designs, many of which feature classic symbols of Maine, such as lobsters, moose, and lighthouses.
In March 2019, Thayer teamed up with Sea Love Candles, in Kennebunkport, to create a line of hand-poured, soy-wax candles featuring her designs on the label. Though the candles are poured only a half hour from her home, this is actually farther away than most of her products are made: all of her matted prints and notecards are printed in Portland, as they have been since the start of her business, and Thayer’s proud of keeping it local. “It’s fun to think the entire product has evolved from the beach to the art prints within a distance of 5 miles,” she says.
Interested in finding heart-shaped rocks of your own? In addition to “training your eye,” Thayer has some more advice. “I’m often asked if I have any tips for finding love rocks,” she says, “and I always answer the same way: first step, get a dog!” Her pal Winston, the adorable Westie always at her side, is her most frequent beach-combing companion and often reminds her to walk the shore she loves so much, even when she’s absorbed in other aspects of running her business. Each time she finds a new heart-shaped rock, it’s just as meaningful as the first. “I believe each is a blessing and a gift,” she says, “and I love to be able to share these gifts in my art.”