North Bend artist spreads love with heart-shaped rocks

A single parent with two teenagers, Ellen Rowan struggled to find some peaceful time to herself, until she started a long-lasting art project that changed her life.

In 2015, Rowan, a North Bend artist and social media strategist, started going to the Snoqualmie River every morning for some relaxation. During this time, she decided to begin river-related art projects to help relieve stress.

At first she began with building cairns of stacked rocks for a month. As she left the river, Rowan would take home any heart-shaped rocks she found. Because she had so many, she decided that her next project would be to place them around the community to spread the symbol of love and maybe make someone smile. She called them “Love bombs.”

“People don’t recognize heart rocks as heart rocks so I started drawing a (heart) symbol on them,” Rowan said. “I started to write the date and the day on the back of them, and my handle on Instagram and Twitter.”

It was supposed to be a 30-day project, but as she placed the rocks around her community and places she traveled, Rowan got messages through social media from people who had seen them. Since beginning the project on Apr. 1, 2015, she has continued her project almost every day; she has now made more than 660 love bombs.

“Why would I stop?” she said. “As long as I keep finding heart rocks I’m going to keep doing it.”

Rowan recalled the story of one of the first people who contacted her after finding one of her creations.

“In Mukilteo where the ferry goes out, there is a lighthouse with a big wall,” she said, which is where she put the love bomb. “Six weeks later I got a message from a woman walking the beach who found the heart rock after her friend got bad news from a cancer scan,” she said.

The woman contacted Rowan to ask if she could give the rock to her friend.

The love bomb project has also connected Rowan with new friends, including Roslyn-based glass artist Tony Davey, who found one of her rocks at the Rosyln farmer’s market.

”I think it was the anniversary of a loved one’s death. He looked down and saw my love bomb, (it) had his loved one’s birthday which was the day I did it,” she said. “He posted on his Facebook page a really beautiful post on what that meant to him. My friend saw his post and tagged me on Facebook. I connected with Tony and now we are good friends.”

Rowan’s drive to continue is fueled by the response from the people who reach out to her after finding one of her heart shaped rocks.

“What keeps me motivated is when someone contacts me and it improved their day,” she said. “I probably get contacted at least once a week.”

A log of all her works can be found by search zaellen on Twitter and Instagram.

A basket full of Rowan’s heart-shaped rocks for anyone to take and share. (Courtesy Photo)

A basket full of Rowan’s heart-shaped rocks for anyone to take and share. (Courtesy Photo)

Courtesy Photo                                Rowan writes the date on each rock she shares.

Courtesy Photo Rowan writes the date on each rock she shares.