Meet the Maker: Elena Skidmore
A quintessential San Diegan roars in the foodie/maker space
After the sudden loss of a job and a difficult pregnancy, Elena Skidmore took stock and took control to create her best life. She rose phoenix-like and launched her own business, Aroara Industries, making artful, eco-conscious cutting and serving boards. Even though she had no woodworking background, she carved a niche in the foodie/maker space by blending her obsession with cooking, a love of tools, and a desire to make something she’d want in her own kitchen. A native San Diegan, she also splits her time as an engineer, while laying the groundwork for a bucket-list trip that could find Elena, her husband and 4-year-old son traveling the world for months.
What was your first concert?
Elena took a deep dive into punk and indie rock when she was younger but she can’t escape the fact her first concert was NSYNC. “It’s so embarrassing but it is what it is; it’s where I was in life.”
She’s all about podcasts these days, particularly those of Tim Ferriss, the author/entrepreneur who penned the bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek. “Every time I listen, I’m just mind blown,” she says. “His whole focus is having takeaways for people, so he interviews guests who are at the top of their game and they have takeaways you can try at home. It’s almost cultish how much I like Tim Ferriss.”
Where do you go for inspiration?
Sunset Cliffs is her favorite place on earth, hands down, she says, but she gives a special shout-out to MakerPlace, a DIY workshop offering everything from lathes to 3D printers (and the classes on how to use them). “Without MakerPlace I wouldn’t have had access to all the machines necessary to create the products I had envisioned or met all the rad, inspiring people I feel fortunate to know today.”
Who is your style/design crush?
The “electric realism” of painter Sarah Stieber is a current obsession, along with the bold work of French illustrator Malika Favre. She’s also crushing on Micro Modula, the minimalist lifestyle brand of jewelry/furniture designer and tiny-house evangelist Mariah Hoffman; OB-based abstract artist Samantha Louise Marett; the live-edge furniture of the woodworker known as the Bearded Bowtie; and the stylish hats created by Kin the Label.
Do you have a special place you take your son?
“The New Children’s Museum is the best,” Elena enthuses. “That place is incredible.” In particular she loves the Wes Sam-Bruce installation, The Wonder Sound, an interactive experience inspired by treehouses, canyons and imaginary spaces—“It makes me feel like a little kid,” she says.
What summer activity are you looking forward to?
“I’m super excited to go camping,” Elena says. “I’m going to Big Sur for the first time, which apparently is like a sacrilege that I haven’t gone there before.” She’s also determined to give surfing another shot. “I tried learning a couple of years ago and the board hit me in the wrong place so I decided I didn’t want to do this for a while.”
Where do you like to take out-of-towners when they come to visit?
Breakfast at the beach is how Elena introduces guests to San Diego, taking them to Kono’s Cafe along the Pacific Beach boardwalk at the foot of Crystal Pier. Breakfast burritos, fantastic people-watching, killer beach views—welcome to San Diego.
What are some of your favorite restaurants?
For a special-occasion splurge, it’s the Sushi Ota omakase tasting; for date night or to meet up with a friend, she recommends the vegan fare and kombucha with a view at La Jolla’s rooftop eatery Trilogy Sanctuary (above); and she satisfies her sweet tooth at Azucar in Ocean Beach. Need a hangover cure? Elena has a spot for you: Palominos Mexican and Seafood in Kearny Mesa. “Get the red chilaquiles and either menudo or birria soup. You won’t regret it.”
What’s the most San Diego thing about you?
“My background,” Elena says. “My mom’s side of the family is here because my grandpa moved to San Diego from Wisconsin for the Navy and my dad’s an immigrant from Mexico, so I’m a quintessential San Diegan on so many different fronts.”